The “Arctic Plunge”: What does it mean for your plants?

In November we saw a huge change in temperature in just a few days from the “Arctic Plunge.” Colorado Springs went from 64 degrees Fahrenheit on November 10 to -13 degrees Fahrenheit on November 12, a 77-degree temperature change.

What does this mean for your landscape?

Normally, plants have time to harden and prepare for winter. Since many plants in our area still had green leaves on them when the freeze came, damage may have occurred, especially to newly planted flowers, shrubs, trees, and ground cover. Unfortunately, damage will not be apparent until spring when they come out of dormancy.

Colorado Springs Arctic Plunge

Image c/o National Weather Service

How can you prevent damage from severe winter temperatures?

Colorado’s plants typically need watering throughout the winter. Newly-installed plants are particularly vulnerable to our dry winter weather, but older plants may also need to be watered depending on the amount of moisture we get over the winter. Moisture loss occurs via evaporation from the soil and desiccation from the leaves.

Readings should be taken at least twice a month, and even more frequently if there has been no precipitation. Basic soil moisture meters are available at local nurseries for around $20. Heavy duty commercial moistures meters cost around $150.

Watering should only be done during the day when the temperature is higher than 40 degrees and the ground is not frozen. Be sure to allow time for the water to be absorbed into the soil before the ground freezes again overnight.

Preparing Mulch in Colorado Springs

Wrapping your trees protects young bark throughout the dormant season and can aid in the prevention of sun scald.  Sun scald can appear on the bark of young deciduous trees, usually on the southwest side that gets the most sun. Cells in the bark become active during the day because of the heat from the sun, but they will freeze again that night when the temperatures drop. The bark may change color, shed, or split as a result of the sun scald. We recommend wrapping any tree with smooth bark that is 3 inches or smaller in diameter.

Lastly, consider mulching the areas surrounding your plant materials. Two to three inches of mulch per plant provides the best protection. Gorilla hair mulch is less likely to blow away than other varieties and helps hold in the moisture from your winter watering.

Timberline is Here to Help

As with any time of year, Timberline Landscaping is your resource for all things landscaping. Whether you need advice for prepping for winter weather, or simply more information on plant health – give us a call!