~ This is for our fellow miniature gardeners in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and any other area down south who are in the midst of shoveling themselves out of a completely catastrophic winter weather event. (I’m pretty sure you have many other words for what is happening right now, but I need to keep this polite.)
AND note that this kind of advice and insight is probably waaaaay down on your list of priorities right now if you are in the middle of a snowstorm, but I wanted to put this out there to at least cross-off a worry or two for you, if and when you are looking for this kind of information for your gardening in miniature.
Your plants should be fine. Your miniature gardens plants if you bought them from us, should be fine as well. We just have a handful of ground covers that we sell that are not too hardy but can be replaced, easily enough. So, please no worries!
I am a transplant from Toronto but I didn’t get serious about gardening until I moved to Seattle and fell in love with the Evergreen State. So, I called upon some friends of course! I polled my guru garden friends that own independent garden centers and they reassured my assumptions: Plants are resilient. If given a choice, plants would prefer to live. It’s their job to grow and reproduce as I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog, How Plants Die.
Note that when I asked the question to the group, one garden center owner from Illinois said, “It’s not up to you to solve what Mother Nature dishes out when she wants to.” Wait. Wha…? However true, this is sooo not how I roll!
By answering these types of questions and being proactive as to what is on the minds of my customers is simply part of my job. And it also makes me so much different than your average retailer because I care about your success, not just sales!!
So, back to the task at hand, here’s some insight into what to expect and what to do about it: :o)
For Container Plants of Any Kind:
- Remember for anything planted in a container, adjust the hardiness by 15 degrees LESS – because the container can’t insulate the plant’s roots from the cold like Mother Earth can.
- If you’ve bought your plants from me, they should be fine as most of the plants we carry are hardy to -20F. Just some of the more-tender ground covers may not make it, like our favorite Baby Tears, for example.
- Keep the pot watered before and during the freeze. The rootball is okay frozen – but not freeze dried. If you can see the top of the soil, that will help to judge the moisture content of the soil: if the soil is looks really dry and shrinking away from the edge of the pot, it needs water.
For the Containers:
- I’m going to assume your plants are going to be okay – but your containers my not be completely freeze-proof simply because you haven’t had to worry about this detail very much living in the South. It’s the “high-fired” ceramic pots that are relatively freeze-proof. (These are usually the big garden pots from Asia. The walls of the pot are usually 1” thick and don’t absorb a lot of moisture. We also recommend putting them up on pot feet, to allow any rainwater to drain through freely, so the water in the soil won’t freeze, expand and break the pot.)
- IF your container has broken in the freeze, AND, knowing you probably have a TON of other things to do right now, just wrap a piece of plastic around the rootball for now. The idea is to keep the roots from drying out completely – so be generous in wrapping it. You can use burlap or cloth but you probably still want to put a layer of plastic over that, to keep the moisture in just in case you forget to water it. Don’t wrap the plants, just the root ball. Don’t wrap the bottom, you want any excess water run through otherwise the roots will rot in standing water. This will give you plenty of time to take care of your other priorities and to find another container. Remember to water it if it’s not getting any rain or melted snow.
- Again, if you bought our Two Green Thumbs’ plants, all should be fine.
- But first and foremost: wait. Wait to see what the plant will do before reacting. A lot of plants won’t even show any damage right away. They might even look fine for a couple of months. Even if you know it is a tender plant, wait to see if it recovers before showing it the compost pile. You just never know and it might come back bigger and better.
Is Your Plant Dead??
- Check to see if the plant is deciduous – meaning it drops it’s leaves for the winter. It may be naturally dormant, waiting for spring.
- Use our handy tip for finding out if the branch/trunk is dead: using your fingernail or a small knife, just scrape off a tiny bit of bark to see the wood underneath. If it’s green, it’s still alive. If it’s brown, check again further down the trunk to be sure – and if the wood under the bark is still brown, the tree is dead.
- And if all else fails and you’ve lost a plant, the good news is that you get to go plant shopping and try something new! And no mourning or regrets either – the plants don’t exactly grow on trees – they ARE trees!
This depends upon what kind of plant you are talking about. For our plants, let us know any questions you may have via our TwoGreenThumbs.com website. Frost damage may appear right away but normally it takes the plant time to show it if it’s not showing yet.
If you didn’t get plants from us, please consult your local independent garden center – these independents are much different than your big box stores with a garden department as the “Ma and Pa” shops are normally run by hard-core, experience gardeners and/or horticulturalists – AND they usually hire people that know about growing and gardening. (The big box stores usually only hire “warm bodies” as employees and are not required to learn or know about gardening.)
For example, my Colleen’s Gold Arborvitae’s foliage turned brown at the tips of all the branches after a sudden hard freeze one year. I waited to see if it would come out of it but she didn’t. So, because it’s an arborvitae, I was able to shear-off the damaged leaves and let the spring growth grow-in and she’ll be looking good in a year or so. Note that I had to wait a year or so for it to recover.
Another example on the other end of the plant kingdom: our favorite ground cover Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) turns black when it freezes but, leave it be and it might come back. Once your weather starts to warm up, you’ll see tiny little leaves peeking out of the black mat. In a couple/few of weeks, it should be back to normal.
Thank you to my friend Sabine of Natural Arts Garden Center in Virginia. Sabine is not only a caring and compassionate person, she is one of those “walking plant encyclopedias” as well. Sabine advised, “Plants are pretty resilient. It takes a lot to kill a plant. Especially ones that go through extreme weather.” Her garden center is in Toms Brook, Virginia, see her website here.
If you’re in the Houston area, my friend in Victor owns Plants for All Seasons, a family-run garden center, since 1973. And yes, he is a walking plant encyclopedia as well as the rest of the family. I would suspect this garden center is totally worth the drive after 48 years in business! Beam me down please! See their website here.
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