Mother Nature's Freezing My Assets.

Temperatures here in Jacksonville are expected to reach 21 degrees Fahrenheit tonight, with hard freezes through Thursday.  WTF, La Nina?  Not willing to let the plants be caught off guard by this over-eager arctic air mass, I did the humane thing and brought most of the plants in from the balcony with the exception of the unhealthy ones.  Then I took a trip to my parent's house to protect some plants.

(Please pardon the cell phone pics)

Last winter I wanted to protect everything humanly possible, but this time things are different, somehow.  Its not that I'm apathetic to the fate of my tender plants, I'm just more selective. The ones I see as worthwhile candidates for my efforts are showered with sycamore leaves and pine straw to provide some excellent insulation, as well as some fall flair.

For example, I'm proud to say that I overwintered monstera deliciosa and ficus decora through our record breaking winter last year, though this time I gave them minimal protection compared to my rarer heliconia "costa flores" and my picabeen palm.  The entada gigas liana that I started from a sea bean also got some special treatment, and I took a bunch of cuttings, trimming the vine all the way to the ground before tucking the remaining stem under mulch and dousing it with leaves. I don't expect it to live, but I can at least say I tried.

I had a wealth of insulating material at my disposal thanks to my neighbor's large sycamore tree, whose leaves blanketed the ground into our yard.  I raked up what I could, piling them with a crackle onto a tarp, and then dispensing them around the bases of ti plants, over ginger and heliconia rhizomes. and into the crown of my picabeen palm.

My most valued plants are of course, the bromeliads.  I collected even the hardiest species, corralling each and every one into a protected spot on the courtyard where I covered them with some leaves and tucked them in under a big and cozy canvas tarp.  Once they were tucked in nicely, I moved on to the papaya.

I know papayas aren't the rarest plants around, but if I'm ever going to get fruit I'll have to overwinter it.  I piled leaves around it, and then slipped a big cardboard box over the top, weighing down the flaps with tiles.  I plan on seeing a lot of damage, but at least it will be more protected at the base.

I provided a dyckia with its very own box as well, and I even granted the agave desmettiana one for being well behaved.  A ti plant (cordyline "red sister") was dressed in cardboard too, but only after I took cuttings to propogate and use in an arrangement.  She's getting fried to the ground by the freeze anyways, so I might as well start new plants!  

I ended up bringing in only three plants, simply because they were in bloom.  Aechmea gamosepala was about to show its blue and pink matchstick-like flowerspike, a cryptbergia hybrid was sharing its teal flowers, and the epidendrum orchid began to push out a couple of flowerspikes.  I am NOT missing these blooms.

I completed one more important task before the day was over, and made the most of my blooms before the withered away like boiled spinach.  Tropical Texana shared a couple beautiful bouquets a week ago in anticipation of frost, and I thought I would copy that idea using the doomed heliconia and firespike.

Thrilled at the Devastation
Hardiness List and Damage Report
My Bromeliad Garden is Oblivious to the Season


  1. Hope they all come through relatively unscathed.

    With your heliconias maybe dig up a couple of roots and plant them in a pot for over winter - then at least you have a start next year if the rest turn up their toes.

  2. Missy:
    I was planning on doing that, but if I damage the rhizome with this cold weather I'm worried I'll create an entry for disease. If only I had more time...

  3. Hmmmm....this seems to be a common theme with Florida bloggers today. But a hard freeze...that would be hard to swallow! We will be doing this routine tomorrow night. Can't wait. :-/

    Let's hope the forecast was a little off.

    Love the heliconia/firespike arrangement! That would seriously cost a fortune in a florist shop. I'm torn whether or not to cut budding stems tomorrow, as we have a "watch," not yet a "warning." Guess I'm a bit of a gambler.

  4. Oh dear. I'm covering plants and bringing in pots too. I had already brought in the orchids and tillandsia. Wishing your garden the best! This is too early for all this fuss isn't it?

  5. RFG: Hope your garden go through this freeze fine with your protection effort. Oh, I need to do something for my plants too. Even I live in the south, but the forcast also says it could go as low as 33F.

  6. My garden receives a lot of rain lately due to the monsoon season, but that's about all. Most of the flowers are damaged, but I realize I shouldn't complain, considering zero protection work ever is needed. My parent's house on the north part of the country, always gets flooded this time of year, and most of their plants survive the yearly ordeal without any protection. We are lucky in that sense. Whatever it is, we only can do the best we can. I hope all your plants make it through. Wish you the best.

  7. I feel your pain Steve, and am busy bringing plants inside and covering others up, too. Yuck! This is way too early. Good luck!

  8. wow, I thought you wouldnt get such a cold winter again this year. Hope everything survives - you seem to have it all nicely tucked in and insulated.

  9. Yikes! This sounds eerily familiar. May your protection efforts be handsomely rewarded.

  10. p.s. lovely arrangement! I am still enjoying the Melianthus leaves I cut off before our freeze.

  11. We can only do so much when nature strikes. Hopefully winter this year will be kinder to your garden than last year's.

  12. Any chance you could post your ultimate lows when this is all said and done?

    BTW, I mentioned to you before how I was testing orchids for cold tolerance, well about 2 weeks ago squirrels decided orchids made good snacks and ate almost all of them off the tree!

  13. Floridagirl:
    Luckily the forecast was a bit off, but we did get right below freezing last night. Oh, and heliconias are ridiculously expensive in florist arrangements!

    It really is too early for this stuff, and I regret that I only got to see my sleepy hibiscus bloom for a couple weeks. :( Oh well.

    Well if it only ended up getting to 31 degrees here I'm sure you're in the clear! :)

    Well, there are much worse problems than cold to contend with! I deal with flooding and drought too, and I've lost far more bromeliads to vase rot than I have to the cold.

    Hope it didn't freeze there!

    Luckily it didn't get nearly as cold as they predicted, but its still way too early...

    Danger Garden:
    I guess I can count myself lucky that it only got to 31 degrees here!

    Solitude Rising:
    Everything always seems to bounce back, and anything that doesn't return was too tender anyways.

    Everything made it, but they did get some frost so they're wimpy looking.

    It only got to 31 degrees last night, but I'll continue to keep you posted on how things do at various temps. Oh, and those squirrels are crazy! They like to eat ginger rhizomes too.

  14. I didnt need the squirrels to do that, my sisters dog came to visit and put my hedeychiums into "dormancy"...


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