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Problem Solver: Preparing Citrus for a Frost

Many factors, including variety, affect a tree's ability to withstand cold. (See our Citrus Variety Information Chart for specific information by variety.)

Preconditioning helps; trees exposed slowly to cold will fare better than those subjected to a sudden frost. Also, prolonged exposure to cold is more damaging than a brief plunge in temperature. Here are some methods we have used to help protect plants when freezing temperatures may pose a threat.

  • Listen for news of cold fronts, and be prepared to take action!
  • Water all garden plants thoroughly before a freeze, since freezing soil will pull sustaining moisture from the roots.
  • Use anti-transpirant sprays. Common brands: Anti Stress and Cloud Cover.
  • Put old fashioned, heat-producing Christmas lights in the trees or in landscape lighting under the trees. This method often yields excellent results for cold-sensitive lemons and limes. Hot bulbs can scorch leaves, so take care to angle them so that they directly touch foliage as little as possible.
  • Use frost cover blankets, also known as floating row cover or Remay. This is a spun polyester material designed to cover trees and plants. It can be draped directly on the plants and secured at the ground to trap daytime heat. Unlike plastic covers, it can be left on during the day without fear of overheating the plants. Used in combination with lighting, it is a great way to protect cold-sensitive plants.

You can look up predicted frost dates by your zip code here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/

If your tree has already suffered frost damage, here's how to treat the damage.