Do I need to protect my young (mostly tropical) trees from cold?

wardog25November 8, 2012

I have several young trees, all planted this year and they range from 2-6 feet in height.

I have a glenn mango, brewster lychee, hirado buntan pomelo, floridaprince peach, lula avocado, and an ice cream banana.

I live a half hour south of Orlando. Loads of my neighbors have papaya trees, which was surprising to me, because in Orlando (where we used to live), hardly anybody did.

We haven't lived here long, but seeing all the local papaya trees made me think the freezes would be very minimal (they are reasonably minimal in Orlando, to be honest), but the cool weather so far this year has me concerned. Do you think my young trees need protection, even ones that are supposed to be cold hardy when they are mature?

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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake

I'm in 9a and after visiting the Lake County Extension Office of UF for suggestions on what to plant on the north side of my house, I was informed that I would want to be particularly careful this winter with any new plantings as 'they' were forecasting a particularly 'cold and wet' winter for this year. I do not know who 'they' are and I have been trying to find more information to bolster this warning, but suffice to say, I have been stocking up and getting ready to have to fight the freezes. At the very least, I would suggest that you might want to get some sacks or blankets or... something to have on hand in case your local forecast calls for temps to dip below 40. I don't know if you will need to get lights for heat or not.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 7:10PM
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slopfrog

Just because you see papayas doesn't mean everything is honky dory. We had a very warm winter last year, which may not represent the winter and growth characteristics for this coming year. And even if they did freeze they can grow back pretty quickly. So much so that even a year old papaya can look pretty impressive.

Better to be safe than sorry. I wouldn't worry about the peach as they are deciduous, and many avocados are quite cold hardy if they have Mexican genes in them... although if it's small you probably should protect it too. The others I think will need protection at some point this year.

The only thing that's going to save you is very close proximity to large bodies of water, or very close proximity to a lot of concrete. Just being south of Orlando ain't gonna do it. That cold air funnels right down the middle of the state. Be ready to deal with any frost warnings, and take them seriously. After awhile you'll learn what the temperature at your house is relative to the forecast... My house is always 2-3 degrees colder than the low forecast for my city.

Frost can form at 36 degrees "air temp" (which is officially taken 3' above ground level, which is always colder than the air). Calm nights are always colder than windy nights. Clear nights are always colder than cloudy nights. Depressions always get colder than hills. Any over hanging branches stop the loss of heat through radiation, so rarely will you get frost under trees. That's the basic premise of covering plants, btw.

On real cold nights use c9 Christmas lights under a blanket. It'll keep them good down to the low 20s IME.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:32PM
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zackey(GA 8b)

slopfrog. I was told any temp below 40 degrees it could frost....Mmmmm.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:29PM
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slopfrog

Hmm... I started looking into it, and apparently it depends on the dew point of the air! Dry air will form frost at a higher air temperature than wet air. Supposedly there was a frost and freeze protection workshop put on by UF and SWFWMD and there were a lot of good seminars in it.... The documents are available online but the website is down right now. I got to see some of it through googles HTML cache, but it doesn't work worth a crap,

You may be right, with the 40 degrees, but it will have to be very very dry air.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 11:08AM
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wardog25

C9 Christmas lights under a blanket, eh? Any suggestions for what kind of blanket? Something cheap, preferrably.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:20AM
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slopfrog

I use whatever I can find at a thrift store cheap.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 5:17PM
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wardog25

ok, thanks!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:30PM
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