If you are on practically any Facebook gardening page, you saw the plethora of posts by people preparing for the pockets of freezing temperatures in areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts, as announced by the weather stations for the evening of May 17, 2023, and early morning of May 18, 2023.
Many nurseries also posted warnings to take in your hanging baskets, potted plants, and cover any plants you may have put into your gardens of the ground. They wrote titles such as, “Frost/Freeze” warnings. It was noted to occur in areas of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was important for plant lovers to heed their warnings and take “precautions” depending on where in the state you are located.
Because we have had spectacular weather for the past week or so, and Mother’s Day was just last weekend, many people got their plants started outside and patio pots were probably potted up and hanging baskets of annuals were hanging. Some of these items were probably easy to take in (such as the lightweight pots, and the hangers) while others may have been a real chore to move for some protection.
Even though I know the potential for frost and kept some of my plants in my greenhouse, I still had some out too which I was acclimating to the outdoor environments, and I even moved a few plants up to my deck but most of my pots have been empty because I wait till Memorial Day to plant my tomatoes, peppers, succulents, cacti, agaves, and Alocasias and Colocasia (elephant ears), etc. Anything tropical, cold sensitive, and any warm loving vegetables stay inside. I only take them out to harden off (acclimate) on good days this time of year and wait it out till Memorial Day to plant permanently in their intended locations – but it was rough to wait!
Light sheets were used to cover up the plants I did move out to the deck that I felt would be okay, like some Yucca plants I have in pots. But a lot of the smaller items I had out got moved in. My petunias, a few of the Mandevillas I was acclimating on my driveway, the Alocasias in two pots still small enough to lift, the Mangaves, and some Agaves. Anything with succulent like tender foliage (like the Mangaves, they have foliage similar to Aloe if you crack them open, they have gel inside).
So, we got our exercise last night. I did not cover up my amazing tree Peony as shown below in the photos. Plants which have been growing in my landscape for years, like my gorgeous yellow-blooming Peony, I didn’t bother to cover up. I checked them this morning and they looked okay.
Frost on the windshield of your car or truck is a good indication that yup, it got cold enough to get “frosty” on windshields, but just how long did the drop in temps last? It may have been quick, only an hour or so just above or just below freezing. At 4:30 am, it was reading 35 degrees F on my weather app. So, bear in mind, it was quick and not a drop you would get in winter that would surely completely kill your plants.
While this type of frost may not outright kill some of the plants you risked leaving outside, it will stress them. I didn’t want to subject the Mandevillas I am holding for a client to this quick frosty episode because then the plants’ leaves drop off, the plant gets a bit stressed, and they are temperamental to start with so even those have 5 ft poles in them, I took 3 into my house. The rest of my Mandevilla are still cozy in my greenhouse.
After years of stressing out about plants, I kind of know which are more susceptible and need to be babied in these situations and which are possibly okay risking. As I have noted in my recent posts, I always use May 12th as an estimated last frost date. This year, frost came a bit later (May 17-18, 2023) and I have already marked this on my calendar so that when I get my 2024 calendar to hang on my office wall, I will have already noted that it arrived on May 17-18. Even with me noting May 12th, that is safe because I don’t permanently put the plants out – I am usually hardening them off – by putting them out during the day to get acclimated and taking them in at night if I felt it dropped below 50 degrees.
I do believe that we are safe now – except for tonight – they said this occurrence of a quick drop in temps may fall again tonight, May 18th, for some areas of the state. Massachusetts was colder than CT last night, and my uncle, who has an amazing garden in New Hampshire, posted snow falling yesterday! When I see his posts, I know it is true that frost will hit us. And it did.
I tend to make a note here on my blog to serve as my reminder.
What I took in:
Sky Petunias – which are in tiny pots (they smell so strong; I took them in last cause I’m actually sensitive to the scent).
My Mangaves – because a) not frost tolerant and b) tender succulent foliage is more likely to get damaged.
Mandevilllas – They tend to get stressed, and I don’t like that cause it sets them up for leaf problems. They don’t care for below 50.
Agaves – Those prob would have been fine, but what the heck, if they weren’t too heavy, I took some smaller ones inside.
Alocasias – That were overwintered in the greenhouse, were outside to acclimate for a few days already, and were not too big yet and still in medium pots. They have tender foliage too. If the foliage were to get damaged from the frost, it would probably regrow from the tubers below the soil, but I just figured, take those two in.
Cacti and smaller Succulents – I had some on the deck in small terracotta pots, what the heck I took those into my bedroom, so it would be easy to put them back outside. Cacti can take cold drop, but the succulents cannot.
Houseplant Hanger – I overwintered a houseplant in the greenhouse and had that hanging outside for a few days now, in it came.
I probably will leave most of the smaller pots in today and tonight. I’m taking the Mandevillas out for the day and back in tonight and then finally this routine will be done! Friday night will be plant celebration time! Along with happy hour!
Remember, note the 2023 Frost Dates for reference and reminders next year. And enjoy the rest of your spring and summer planting season. I hope next week’s weather will be as pleasant cause I have lots of plant work to do.
Container Crazy CT Blog
Broad Brook, CT