Gardening in December - Tropical Plants
By: Walt Crowder, Owner of Lawn Ranger Company
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
From the entire staff at Lawn Ranger Company, we wish our readers a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! And we wish you the very best throughout the coming year.
Our offices will close at the end of the day on Friday, December 21st, and will reopen on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019.1
Have fun with family and friends this Christmas season! Make it special!
You’d think it wouldn’t be necessary to worry about “winter protection” of our plants during the relatively mild winters in this part of the country. And it probably wouldn’t be necessary…IF we didn’t have such a love for tropical plants. The fact is that a large number of landscapes in our area include tropicals – either in the ground or in containers. Occasionally we have temperatures that dip cold enough to remind us of just how fragile tender plants can be. Tropicals aren’t exactly “winter hardy” plants.
Here is some good news: while the temperature may drop into the 20’s for a few nights and the tops of the plants may get frost-bitten, the ground generally doesn’t freeze in Southeast Texas. Therefore the roots and bulbs or rhizomes are generally very reliable about coming back. Cannas, gingers, caladiums, and amaryllis are examples of plants that can be left in the ground if the soil drains well. I would be careful about leaving them in the ground in wet or poorly drained soils.
PROTECT YOUR PLANTS
You can help ensure the survival of the below-ground parts of your plants by placing several inches of mulch over the soil in the shrub and flower beds. We recommend a 2”- 3” depth in flower beds, and 3”- 6” around the base of shrubs. Fine shredded pine mulch and pine straw are among the better options. These products stay loose and don’t pack, thereby improving their insulating qualities.
Mulch may help keep the lower stems, crown, and roots alive, but it won’t protect the uncovered upper part of the plant. To protect the upper parts of these plants when temperatures dip into the 20’s, consider covering them with canvas or fabric. Plastic is not recommended. It’s best to build a frame to support the weight of the cover, and provide a heat source under the cover. A light bulb or a heat lamp is most commonly used. If this is impractical, consider covering only those that you value the most.
Another idea is to wrap the plants with miniature Christmas lights. Not enough heat is generated to cause damage to the plant, but it can make a big difference in the plant’s survival. Again, this may not be practical in larger landscapes.
“Can I turn off my sprinkler system now? Unless you’ve over-seeded with rye-grass, lawns are now quite care-free. Cooler weather and frequent rains will reduce the need for watering the turf. However, I suggest you monitor the moisture in the soil – not too dry, not too wet. And remember, flowers and plants might have watering needs that are different from the turf grass.
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