Bundle up! How to protect plants and property as Jacksonville area gets freezing temps overnight

People in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia are expected to see the coldest temperatures of the season overnight Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures in some areas forecasted to dip into the 20s.

That means it’s time to protect plants, pets, and people: the three Ps.

Don’t expect any of that white stuff we’ve been seeing across the country here, but that arctic cold is coming our way overnight so it’s time for our annual trip to Liberty Landscape Supply at Trad’s.

“Especially what we want to worry about this evening are the tropical plants, that’s what you’re going to have most problem with,” said Maia Waldroff, a landscape designer at Liberty.

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Green thumbs at this San Jose Boulevard gardening mecca are preparing for a hard freeze and Waldroff said you should too.

“I’m concerned about we have these Robellini palms right here,” she said, explaining the plants that the gardeners are tending to the most. “We bought them in the greenhouse. They’re a little pygmy deep palm. They’re very, very great, but not for the cold. And we also have some orange birds of paradise back here.”

The plants most susceptible to cold damage are: tropicals, citrus, palms and summer flowers. She said 2023 was extra bad for them with several days of freezing temps we hadn’t seen in 33 years. Customers across the area lost a considerable amount of plants.

The Weather Authority says a light freeze just below 32 degrees will kill tender plants.Temperatures between 25 and 28 inland will be destructive for most vegetation.And anything below 25 means your lush leaves will likely be goners.

MORE | City Rescue Mission extends services due to freezing temperatures in the Jacksonville area

It’s advised that people bring in their potted plants, and for those who can’t, frost cloth (purchased at garden and hardware stores) is ideal.

“It’s breathable, so it allows the plants to receive the oxygen that they need,” she said, steering people away from plastic. “But other than that light sheet will really help or a light blanket as well.”

Experts encourage not to tie them off at the bottom. That will defeat the purpose of using the ground to heat them. They also advise to not use plastic since that could suffocate your foliage.

This cold isn’t just dangerous for our plants, it’s risky for people and pets too.

When temperatures drop, local firefighters stay busy. They said their number one concern is a space heater!

“People are going to start using space heaters, space heaters are majority of the problem, whether they’ve got them too close to their furniture, papers, anything that’s ignitable, whether they’re knocked over by a child or an animal, or they’re put on an extension cord or power strip that’s just overloaded and can’t handle it,” said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.

News4JAX talks to him every year as well, yet the fires continue.

“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if multiple fires go out late tonight or early in the morning,” he said. “It’s difficult because, you know, as many times as we give the warnings, they’re not adhered to. They’re thinking, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me.’ That’s the mentality. “

He said other concerns are unattended fireplaces and vacant homes. People living on the streets sometimes break in for warmth and start fires that get out of control. The hope is there’s enough room at the emergency shelters opening up so everyone can be warm and safe.

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