We are prepared here in SW Florida for the cold front the has covered the country in frigid temperatures, and we thought we would take some time to share with you how we went about protecting our plants from the cold, and give you some tips and advice from bonsai enthusiasts all over the country, so you can adequately protect your plants and bonsai from the dip in cold temperatures.
We began New Years with closing in our open greenhouses with plastic and heat, and moved as many plants as we could inside those units. We then brought our specimen trees, special collections, and the plants we board for customers inside our classroom. If you have been in there before, you will be surprised how many plants we can fit inside!
We also have a heated, covered trailer, and Andrea & Erik take the graveyard shift each night as they stay up watching the weather hour by hour to ensure the temperatures are still ok for the rest of the pre-bonsai nursery crop. If temperatures drop, they immediately start the sprinkler system, and begin the process of soaking the trees over night! (Images below are from 2010)
We also gathered information from other bonsai artists around the the country, and locally to give you some more information for home purposes, so before we get into that, here is a quick list of species that DON’T NEED winter protection as they are already cold hardy and need cold temperatures for dormancy:
Keep reading to hear from our connections around the country and to see more media, images and videos of all of the winter protection happenings around the nursery!
We set out to get answers from bonsai enthusiasts from one side of the country to the other, and here is what they have to say about their cold weather protection methods. Here is what we asked them:
- When do you start your winter protection?
- What is your winter protection plan?
- Have you lost plants in previous winters and if so what did you learn?
- Any quick tips for others about protection their temperate trees from the cold?
These are their answers:
Jason | Port Charlotte, FL
- I start my winter protection when the temperature is forecast to be below 40 due to the possibility for frost.
- Trees are moved into a heated greenhouse covered in plastic or outdoor shed equipped with heaters.
- I have lost trees due to over-watering after leaf drop due to frost or freeze. I’ve learned to protect sensitive plants so there is no leaf drop by moving at any chance of frost. For example: Divi Divi, gmelina, tintillo.
- My only suggestion is if at possible move trees indoors if space permits. Watch for over-watering during times of defoliation due to frost or freeze. The dry, windy cold air dries out shallow pots quickly also, and becoming to dry is bad also.
Nathan | CALIFORNIA
- I start paying attention to the weather in regards to winter protection when the weather starts hitting low 50’s as I start to protect my buttonwoods in the low 50’s-high 40’s.
- My protection for buttonwoods starts by placing heated seedling mats underneath them 24hrs a day when the weather hits low 50’s and then when the weather hits the high 40’s I transfer them (including the seedling mats) onto rolling carts that I wheel in and out of the garage during the day, and they stay inside overnight. If the daytime temps do not exceed 50’s I leave them in the garage only bringing them out every 3 days or so. If/when temps reach close to freezing I cover my less sensitive tropicals with sheets of plastic and blankets overnight.
- Yes, I have lost buttonwoods due to cold. My advice is to remember that they are super sensitive to cold and its better to over do it than under do it with regards to keeping them happy. Ive lost entire growing seasons that were spent just on rehabilitating my trees from not protecting them properly the previous winter.
- Pay close attention to the weather forecast. Check EVERY SINGLE morning and night!
Mike | Englewood, FL
- I try to keep an eye on the possibility of cold weather starting in November. Cold weather for me, means temperatures of low 40’s, high 30’s for my tropicals. I think that sometimes we are too quick to bring in our tropicals, particularly those such as ficus and bougainvillea’s that do not seem to suffer from low 40’s, high 30’s. My biggest concern is with those tropicals that are most cold sensitive – Divi Divi, Bucida Spinosa, Water Jasmine, Neea, Premna.
- No re-potting or defoliation during times of potential cold temperatures. Tropicals are brought into an enclosed lanai stay inside with a roll down storm shutter system and a vornado heater. Temps are kept around the low 50’s. I keep them in this environment until morning temps reach that level. One thing that I try to be careful about is to avoid over watering during cold temperatures. Large tropical trees that are difficult or dangerous to try to move I will put one or even two frost cloths over the foliage to prevent frost burn.
- I do not protect temperate (Evergreen & Deciduous) trees from the cold. In fact, they need cold temperatures to maintain their required dormancy.
Glen | MAINE
- Here in New England, the time to think about your winter strategy is well before the first freeze. You can leave your hardy trees out until the temperatures are freezing or even below as long as the plant thaws out during the day time.
- My trees go into an unheated root cellar where temps are on either side of freezing. It can be completely dark as long as it is cold. They will go in sometime around the end of November to the beginning of December. They will remain in storage until mid March to early April. These are estimates and the weather is the ultimate determining factor.
- I have lost plants during winter storage. There are many reasons trees may die. If a tree has had a stressful growing season it may not have had enough energy stored up to make it through winter and wake up. I have lost trees due to drying out while in winter storage and a few to rodent damage. It is important to check on your plants weekly or at least every other week. Here in New England I toss snow on my plants while in storage so that when it is warm enough for plants to drink the snow will melt and give them water.
- If your trees have had the time to acclimatize to the changing season and temperatures they will be more hardy than you may think. If temperatures are taking a drastic dip then it would be wise to offer some protection if you are unsure.
Keep reading for Media Coverage, Social Media images and videos as well as
advice we shared with local NBC 2 News Station this week!
NBC 2 NEWS:
Here is an article we contributed to in 2015 with local news station NBC 2: A Race Against the Cold
Here is a link to the footage filmed this week: (Pending) Temporary Link
Here is a link to what other homeowners are doing to protect their plants: How to Protect your Plants in the Cold
For LOTS more images of our preparation: Click Here & FOLLOW!
We hope this helps you save some of your precious plants this winter, and we wish you all an incredible New Year!