Does snow help to insulate plants against cold?

bedford8a(8a)February 1, 2011

When I was growing up in Wisconsin, my mom was always glad when there was a snow cover when the bitter cold arrived. She always talked about how it protected her roses from the cold. Is this true? Does snow act as an insulator? I sure hope so! My sweet peas, allysum and snaps are all covered with snow right now, and the temp around DFW is supposed to be about 10 degrees.

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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

As I understand it a blanket of snow is about 90 percent trapped air and 10 percent water and only has to stay slightly below freezing to remain while the atmosphere can be 40 below, or 10 degrees in your case. The ground below the snow reseases heat stored from summer so keeps the air trapped in the snow warmer than the atmosphere. So naturally the plants beneath the snow are warmer than if they were exposed to the colder atmosphere.

It's always amazes me how the plants you mention snap back after the cold spell. BTW, it's 'only' supposed get down to the mid teens in San Antonio. The wind really felt bitter when I was out covering a few plants in blankets since I don't have the benefit of snow :-) Everything out there will survive from the roots without covering, but won't take so long to start blooming again if I can keep the tops of things like shrimp plants, plumbagos, and asparagus fern from freezing to the ground. Sometimes covering works, but if it gets as cold as last winter it doesn't.

Stay warm everybody! Keep the pets warm too, especially provide a shelter for the outside ones. My dad used to warm bricks in the oven and put them in the dog house for his outside dog.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 8:14PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I need some of warm bricks in my bed. Yes snow is a good insulator. My sister in alaska prays for snow before the really cold weather gets there because it will get to cold to snow and she needs the protection.

if the plants are arid land lovers, the moisture might be an issue and cause rot during their dormancy.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:14AM
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houstonpat(9a)

Snow never seems to protect my bananas or papayas from freezing :O

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 5:04PM
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greenleaf_organic(8, TX)

I am quite certain my papaya bit the dust. My bananas should sprout back up in the spring with no problem though. As for a blanket of snow in San Antonio, we may get our wish on Thursday night. Oh wait, that would be a few days too late! :)

The warm brick idea- What if you set a few large black stones around your plants in winter to soak up sun and put off heat at night creating a bit of a microclimate? Here in Texas you would have to move them in the summer, that is for sure. (or paint them white) .

It is my avocadoes and citrus trees I am most concerned about. I covered them and placed heat bulbs under each tree. If they don't make it I am considering only replanting more adapted fruit trees. Too much drama!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 11:23PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Houstonpat -- same here ... LOL!

Greenleaf, the fruit loaded papapya here bit the dust several weeks ago. A quilt was thrown over the Satsuma, but no light. It's next to a brick wall so hoping that'll be help enough.

At least there's no worries about the roses. They can take it. They don't even lose their leaves.

Most of the rest will come back from the roots if the tops freeze under the covers.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:32PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I'm from CA and have seen quite a few avocado trees. I would recommend a dwarf, cold hardy avocado. The avocado trees I saw in LA were freaking huge and fruit was a real mess. The kind folks (boyfriend of my sister) invited us to take as much fruit as we could carry. Avocados don't store well and get overwhelming quickly. As much as we appreciated the fresh fruit and lovely tree, the owners weren't quite so thrilled. It kind of reminded me of Magnolia tree owners with the huge flower litter they create only slimy.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 1:56PM
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houstonpat(9a)

Howdy y'all,
No crying over spilt milk. I'll just pick up the pieces after our NEXT freeze. I'll suggest people look for unexpected survivors and not throw them out with the dead ones. Document weather conditions and preserve as a hardier selection. i.e. I know a clump of Hippeastrum 'johnsonii' that should pull through this in good condition. My large collection of tropicals and sub-tropicals may have some surprises amongst the losses.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 10:31AM
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Lin barkingdogwoods

On the bright side, maybe my peonies will have nice blooms again this year :)

Lin

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 8:06PM
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houstonpat(9a)

Cool Peonies Lin. I didn't think they would grow round heya.
I think the stone fruit got plenty of chilling hours this winter.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 11:03PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

I happened across this article on how snow acts as an insulator by actually creating heat! Who would have thunk it :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: How snow insulates plants ...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 1:33PM
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