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Dead or Alive? What Plants Need Winter Protection

What's Happening in My Landscape?

Just as we close one year and start the next, the temperatures outdoors nose dive into the mid twenty's New Years Day in New Orleans. Are you suppose to cover your plants? Will my citrus survive?  What should I do once it warms up? Here is where you start. 

Protecting Plants 

When the local weather forecaster instructs everyone to protect your plants, exactly what are you suppose to do?  What gets covered and what is the best way? 

Covering plants for frost truly requires a 2 layer system.  A fleece/cloth type fabric needs to be placed over the entire plant and secure the cloth/fleece with twine or cord.  Then place an outer layer of thick plastic and secure with twine or cord.  This method will make sure that the outer layer of plastic does not touch the foliage directly.  If you use a single layer of plastic, the plastic rest directly on the foliage causing the foliage to wilt.  In addition to the foliage wilting, often a single layer of protection doesn't provide a " greenhouse effect" and the plant materials dies.  

photo credit: Better Homes & Gardens 

Recommended Materials for Covering Plants 

  • 30 mil Plastic Sheeting 
  • Moving Blankets or Fleece Frost Blankets 
  • Heavy twine 
  • Tomato Stakes - helps to create air gaps around plants

What Plants Need To Be Covered? 

In New Orleans, covering plants takes time to protect your favourite plants. 

  • Citrus Fruit Trees 
  • Olive Trees if temps go below 18 degrees 
  • Tropicals- Gingers, Iris, Agapanthus, 
  • Season Color: Petunias, Allysum, Begonias 
  • Ferns 

What Plants Do Not Need to Be Covered? 

  • Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias, Hawthorne 
  • Jasmine- Climbing & Groundcovers 
  • Liriopes, Mondo Grass 
  • Perennials 

 Additional Landscape Care To Provent Freeze Damages

  • Watering- Water Helps with Dehydration 
  • Thick Layer of Mulch - Protects Roots 

Unprotected Plants 

Below is a picture was taken in Uptown New Orleans of a garden that was not protected this weekend.  This bed was filled with Impatiens, diamond frost, and gompherina.  Even with extensive plant protection, a few of these plants would not survive even if they were covered.  


The below-protected plant with a trash bag offers little to no protection with the plastic resting on the foliage, the roots are exposed.  The correct solution would be to use a two-layer protection system and four inches of mulch covering the roots.  

The Petunias pictured below were healthy before the low temperatures New Years Eve.  On Monday, these petunias looked pretty good but after the temperatures dipped to twenty-five degrees last night, they will not recover.  An outside temperature of 26 degrees F or below lasting more than four hours is considered a hard freeze, and this can kill even cold-tolerant plants like petunias. ( reference petunia cold tolerance guide) 

Petunias damaged from Freeze in New Orleans

Protecting plants for freezing temperatures in New Orleans and Metairie can be a difficult task due to the lush nature of the area's landscapes. If you have any questions about protecting plants in freezing temperatures in New Orleans email us at or give us a call at 504-833-6699.