With the low here in Tampa Bay forecast at a ridiculous 29 degrees tonight, we spent the afternoon covering some of the most vulnerable plants in My Florida Backyard with all the spare sheets, blankets, and towels we have on hand.
It's always a little difficult to decide what to cover - we certainly can't cover everything, nor would we want to. Many of our plants are natives that can stand frost or even a freeze, but plenty of our residents, native or not, still can't take the temperatures in the forecast for the next few days.
So, first we cover vulnerable plants that have wildlife value. For instance, Gulf Fritillary butterflies are some of the hardiest of Florida's flyers - they're almost always the first ones you'll see venturing out when the sun warms up the afternoons above 65 degrees or so. So, we wanted to save the passionvine to allow them to continue laying eggs. We also covered some milkweed for the monarchs, and some New Gold lantana to provide nectar plants once the freeze is over.
Then we covered a few plants that just look so happy and healthy right now that we couldn't stand to lose them. The Knockout Rose by the front door is loaded with new growth, buds, and blooms, so we hope the radiant heat from the house and the sheet we covered it with will keep it robust through the cold. The Yellowtop (Flaveria linearis) is budding out again after being cut back a few weeks ago, so we covered that as well. And the pipevine (Aristolochia elegans) by the kitchen window is so green and full, we couldn't help trying to protect it.
Will they survive? Who can say. We covered the plants during the warmest part of the afternoon, when the ground could provide as much radiant heat as possible. All the sheets and blankets are draped down to the ground, keeping the heat inside, and pinned or secured to keep them from blowing away. And that's all we can do. Optimism and old sheets are cheap, so we give our plants all of both that we have, and then hope for the best!