What to do if a House Plant Gets Frozen?

House plants are as vulnerable to cold winter months as scorching summers. The trick is to learn about your plant type and how it responds to frost.

Most house plants in the United States are tropical and thrive in the summer. They don’t do well in the winter.

If the winter months are frigid, things may get worse for tropical house plants. All it takes is a chilly draft or frost to undo months of hard work.

So, what can you do if your house plants in Michigan get frozen? This article takes an in-depth look.

Things You Can Do to Revive Frozen House Plants

There are a few things you can do if your houseplants have frozen. Not all tips will work with your specific house plant. Some tips may work, while others may fail.

At the end of the day, it’s an experimental process.

Most houseplants are very sensitive to temperatures under 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) and may freeze. It is not uncommon for some plants to die as soon as the temperature plummets.

Others may still have a chance to revive, provided their roots are still healthy.

Take the Plant to Warmer Temperatures

The first thing is to take the plant to a warmer place in the house. Don’t do damage control just yet. Simply try to keep the plant warm.

Try to replant it so that you can use the house as a wind barrier. Some houseplants like tomatoes simply can’t survive being frozen. The safest thing is to move them to your garage or basement.

This should protect the plant from chilly drafts but won’t be effective against the cold.

If the houseplant is too small, you can invert a bucket over it. Remove the bucket when the sun is up, and the temperature returns to normal.

The plant will start recovery as soon as it finds warmer temperatures. Recovery duration depends on how long it was exposed to the cold.

It is very important that you don’t expose the plant to extreme heat to compensate. Do not place the plant near a radiator or heater. Let the plant find warmth naturally.

A sudden rise in temperature is bad in any case.

Cover Houseplants with a Cloche

A cloche is a translucent bell-shaped cover for protecting outdoor houseplants from cold weather.

You can find cloches made out of plastic from any store near you. Amazon is a good place to look for cloches. Try to stock up on several cloches well ahead of the winter months.

The best thing about cloches is that they can last forever. You can reuse them during chilly months throughout the year.

If you’re in a hurry, you could use anything around the home as a cloche. As we mentioned earlier, an inverted bucket would also do the trick.

Another popular idea is to cut the bottom portion of milk jugs. This can be used as a cloche.

Some people like to use their clothes to protect their house plants. Place them over your houseplants before nightfall and remove them when the sun is up.

It will ensure that they can harness the warmth and energy of the sun.

Cover them with a Blanket – Literally

Using cloches as a cover may not be feasible if you have plenty of houseplants. To protect a larger group of house plants, cover them with blankets.

You can use blankets, drop cloths, towels, and bed sheets. Allow them to drape over the plants to cover the soil line.

Don’t tie them around the stem because it could isolate them from heat. In cases of extreme cold, add a second layer of blanket.

You could use an old shower curtain or tarp to act as a cover. If you use plastic covering, ensure they don’t directly contact the plants.

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Directly contacting the plastic covering with the plant can damage them. You can weigh down the corners of the blanket with heavy stones.

Doing so prevents them from blowing away by harsh winds.

It may be wise to invest in a breathable blanket in case of frequent first. Another effective option is to buy a mini hoop house kit with steel hoops.

The fleece conserves warmth and insulates the houseplants from the cold.

Mylar thermal blankets are popular products to protect outdoor houseplants. Make sure the aluminized side faces toward the outdoor house plant.

This will reflect 99% of the heat toward the plant.

Wrap Your Trees

Saplings in their ‘juvenile’ or ‘teenage’ phases are extremely vulnerable to cold. In some cases, getting frozen will kill them right away. This is especially true for houseplants like citrus trees.

Similarly, the stunted growth of your trees will affect your overall harvest.

To protect trees from the freezing cold, wrap their trunks with insulation. Use towels, rags, cardboard, pipe insulation, or blankets.

Consider using felted tree protector wraps if you have many trees in your garden.

Start at the base of the trunk and slowly begin wrapping it.

Make sure to overlap the layers by a few inches. Keep wrapping until you reach the lowest branch of the trees.

Use weatherproof tape to secure the wrapping.

You can add a layer of plastic sheeting over the wrap during extreme temperatures.

Group Outdoor Plants in Sheltered Area

Can’t bring outdoor perennials indoors? An alternative strategy is to group them in a sheltered area. This grouping allows the plants to insulate each other from the cold.

In other words, they provide warmth to each other. This also makes it easier to protect your plants when they’re close together.

Water Your Plant Right Away

Extreme winter and frost often draw out moisture away from the plant. Lack of hydration is a major problem for your plant that could kill it.

This is why you should water your plant once you’ve isolated it from the winter.

You can resume the normal watering schedule once the plant starts its journey to recovery.

Don’t Apply Fertilizer

Now is not the time to apply any fertilizer.

This is because the cold has made the plant’s tissues extremely frail and weak. Applying fertilizer will damage the plant tissues in their recovery phase.

Instead, maintain regular care of your plant with a reduced quantity and frequency of water.

The best course of action is to allow your plants to recover after they’re watered. Let nature take its course once you’ve done all you can.

Add a Layer of Mulch to Outdoor Houseplants

Think of a layer of mulch as putting on a sweater. It will act as a barrier against cold spells and prevent sudden temperature changes.

Use leaf mold, wood chips, a head of leaves, or even straw for isolation. Mulch in cold weather is essential for the survival of root systems below ground.

Be generous with the mulch because it will act as a good barrier. Don’t be afraid of going to depths of 3 to 6 inches.

You will want to pull the layer of mulch once the cold spell is over.

Clear Out the Dead Foliage – for Later

You should allow your plant at least one full month of recovery before pruning it.

Review all of your indoor and outdoor house plants for signs of damage. Your goal is to look for dormant stems, dead leaves, and anything that looks brown.

It is important to be careful when clearing out dead foliage from the plant. You can use your hands to pluck the dead leaves – but don’t tug too hard.

For tougher stems, you’re better off using pruning shears or scissors. Make sure to disinfect the shears before you use them on a new plant.

This prevents transferring any pets or diseases from one plant to another. You can also pluck off flowers with spent blooms.

Inspect the Roots for their Health

If the roots are healthy, the plant can survive even if it is completely frozen. In the case of a Ficus tree, check its bark. The bark may be dead if it has a black hue and is shriveled up.

When inspecting the roots, make sure to check both the top and the base thoroughly.

Carry out a thorough inspection to look for the following signs:

  • Leggy stems
  • Strange smells
  • Discoloration

Read How to Keep a Cat Away from a Potted House Plant?

The Impact of Frost on House Plants in Michigan

House plants are especially vulnerable to extreme cold and frost. Prolonged exposure to cold can kill plants for the following reasons:

  • Extreme cold directly damages plant cells.
  • The ambient humidity drops to dangerous levels during cold months. This increases the transpiration rate of plants. Transpiration is when water is removed from the plants. As a result, they begin to wilt and fall.
  • Cold also starts to damage the plant’s tissues. This is why they appear so pale and weak.
  • Growth hormones like Gibberellin and Auxin play a critical role in plant development. These growth hormones are inactive in cold months.
  • The enzymes in a plant are designed to operate at a moderate temperature. A sudden temperature change can disrupt their catalysts.

This will render them inactive and disable their physiological functions. As a result, the plant will not grow properly.

Easy Precautionary Measures to Keep the Cold Away

The best way to protect houseplants in the cold winter months is to isolate them. This means sealing the windows, so unexpected cold drafts don’t make their way to them.

Make sure all your plants are kept away from window panes, especially if it’s cold. This also applies to houseplants kept near door entrances.

Note that the effect of temperature varies widely depending on the plant type. You should try to optimize other factors such as:

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Moisture content
  • Elevation
  • Difference between temperatures during the day and night
  • Thermal heat mass

The Duration of Exposure to the Cold is a Major Factor

An important criterion for survival is the duration of exposure to the cold. Some plants can barely survive a few minutes of exposure to chilly temperatures.

Others can withstand cold temperatures for up to 24 hours.

You must know which type you are dealing with to implement the best strategy. For the most part, average tropical plants don’t survive exposure to cold for 24 hours.

A quick test to tell if your plants can survive is to test their roots. If the roots are firm and white, the plant can survive. On the other hand, dead plants will have mushier roots.

In some cases, the roots may be in poor health and barely holding on. This means you can try to revive the plant by trying various strategies discussed below.

What to do if a House Plant Gets Frozen
What to do if a House Plant Gets Frozen

Symptoms of Cold Shock

The symptoms of a frozen plant are easy to detect. First, make sure that the temperature is cold enough to freeze the plants.

Depending on the houseplant, this may start happening near 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) or below. You should also look for other problems such as diseases and insects.

Symptom #1: Droopy Leaves

Frozen plants will have droopy or curly leaves. This is due to cellular damage. Cells tend to lose their rigidity when they are damaged due to cold. This results in droopy leaves.

Symptom #2: Discoloration

Look for discoloration such as white, red, or yellow marks on the leaves. These are prominent near the veins of the leaves. The discoloration is a sign of dead cells killed by the cold.

Not all cells will die right away. Frozen areas will turn these colors and the cells will eventually die.

Wrapping Up: Choose Your House Plants Carefully

The choices you make when selecting house plants will determine their vulnerability to winter months. Make sure to check the hardiness rating of your plants before selecting them.

Try to find plants that are rated for your grow zone. This will ensure that your plants have the best chances of survival. Let plants native to your region be the backbone of your indoor garden.

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