Freeze ahead—time to dig out the frost blankets

The inevitable is about to happen. Temperatures will drop down to freezing or even below tonight and again on Sunday and Monday. Although the weather folks can’t seem to agree on how cold it will actually get. This is what Accuweather says:



The Weather Channel and Weather Underground are a tad less Debbie Downer:


The Weather Channel


Weather Underground

Obviously it all depends on which weather station the forecast is based on. I suspect Accuweather might use Sacramento International Airport, which is out in the open and often much colder than here. I generally prefer Wunderground because you can select from many different local weather stations. While there’s no forecast for them, the historical data they report is very useful.

In hindsight, we’ll know which of these weather services was right, but I didn’t want to take any chances. In the last couple of year I took a fairly lax stance to frost protection (virtually none). That was a swing in the other direction from being overly cautious (January 2013, November 2013). This year I want to find a good compromise—although I’m still hoping for a generally mild winter where freezing temperatures are a rarity.

This morning I walked around the back and front yard to determine what should be protected. Then I grouped the potted plants into clusters to minimize the number of frost blankets needed. Fortunately, only a few in-ground plants need protection. Here are the plants I identified:


Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ near the slider to the family room. I didn’t protect it last year and it got badly damaged. This year I want to avoid that. I also want to protect the Begonia ‘Little Brother Montgomery’ to the right.


Several Kalanchoe beharensis and tender potted succulents (including Aloidendron ramossimum) on the north side of the house


My mini collection of agaves in the Striatae group (clockwise beginning in the 7 o’clock and ending in the 6 o’clock position): Agave striata ‘Nana’, Agave kavandivi, Agave tenuifolia, Agave petrophila, undescribed agave from Santiago Lachiguiri, Agave rzedowskiana. Many of these are quite tender.


Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’. It’s wimpy and gets unsightly brown spots even at the hint of frost.



Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’ and another Aloidrendron ramossisimum as well as miscellaneous small succulents in the black tray on the ground


A NOID medusoid euphorbia on the right and Huernia zebrina on the left


Cluster of potted plants next to the front door, including Aloidendron dichotomum, Leucadendron argenteum, Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ (should have been OK unprotected but there was room), and Alluaudia procera


Protea cynaroides ‘Mini King’. Hardy to 28°F according to San Marco Growers but I didn’t want to take any chances because there are several flower buds.


Encephalartos horridus. It tolerates light frost so should have been OK but it’s one of my favorite plants so I decided to protect it a bit.

The Encephalartos horridus above was actually the easiest to protect. All I did was put a terracotta pot over it (with a rock on the drain role).


Protecting the other plants involved getting out the frost blankets. Yes, I have quite a few.


Here they are in place:


Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ on the back yard porch


Kalanchoe beharensis and agaves of the Striatae group in the back yard


Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’


Plants next to the front door


Protea ‘Mini King’


Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’ on the front porch

One final photo:


The bucket and the plastic flower pot protect the Banksia grandis and Grevillea ‘Flora Mason’ we planted this morning. Erring on the side of caution here. More about this project in a later post.

Stay warm tonight! I’m keeping my fingers crossed it won’t get quite as cold as the forecast have us believe.


  1. You were busy today! I hope you come through the current cold weather forecasts unscathed.

    1. Last night (Saturday) wasn't too big. Right around freezing. Tonight is supposed to be 29°F.

  2. Comment #1 Is a frost blanket something special or just a sheet?
    Comment #2 NWS Sacramento is forecasting 30 for tonight and 28 tomorrow night for University Airport in Davis and 29 and 27 at Sacto International.
    Comment #3 I covered my tomatoes last night with plastic bags over the cages and then there were gusty winds, but only one blew off. C'est la vie.
    Comment #4 Until the late'50s, Los Angeles County was the top agricultural producer in the United States and KFI was the most powerful radio station in the area. Every winter evening between 1924 and 1956, KFI would deliver a frost report at 8 pm that would tell citrus farmers whether to turn on wind machines or light "smudge pots" to keep their orange and lemon groves from freezing. On dire nights, the reporter always concluded with the words, "Good luck." Good Luck, Gerhard.

    1. Jane:

      #1: The frost cloths I have are a special woven poly fabric. It's light weight but feels warm when you touch it.

      #2: Both airports are in exposed locations and usually a little colder than here.

      #3: The fact you still have tomatoes blows me away!

      #4: I can't even imagine what L.A. County must have been like then. Even in the early 80s I remember seeing a lot more orange groves.

  3. I was out this afternoon doing the same thing. Kind of gives a halloween look to the place. The school's garden is going to have to depend on retained heat given off by the concrete wall behind it. Hope I don't lose my Aloe Moonglow plants, I guess the flower stalks will get nipped, sigh.

    1. I've never covered my 'Moonglow' and have never lost any flowers. Of course now that I've said it, I've probably cursed myself!

  4. That's an enviable frost cloth collection? How did you come to own so much?

    26...yikes. Here's hoping that won't happen. We were predicted to see anywhere between 19 and 15 last night. The low in my garden was 26...thank god! I hope the frosty gods are smiling on you too...

    1. I guess I just added to the collection over the years. They're different weights and colors.

      Right around freezing last night. Salvia discolor (my indicator plant) only has a few fried leaves.

  5. yes, protect that E. horridus! And what a nicely growing potted quiver tree. Mine has no stem yet. It looks like you're ready for plummeting temps, so you've done all you can do. Good job!

    1. There are several large E. horridus out in the open on the UC Davis campus but I'm sure that babies like mine are more sensitive.

  6. Do you bring any of the pots indoors, or is it just cover in place? This time of year always drives home the relativity of "low" temperatures, as it was 4ºF here this morning -- and I'm sure that's nothing to more northern gardeners. Anything that you're hoping to lose? (Something that you don't really like but can't bring yourself to remove)

  7. Oh boy, good luck!

    We had some frost on the roofs this morning a little lower on the hill, and more frost on the roofs at the bottom of the hill, first frost in several years--possibly because due to the Friday rain, there was moisture enough to make actual frost. No plant damage apparent.

    I'm glad you have the blankets and hope they keep your plants safe the next few nights.

  8. Looks like a wrap! I see you've protected most everything I would have. Fortunately it only dropped to 31~32°F at my nursery down the street, and only down to 37°F in my own garden cause I've got much more overhead canopy from trees. I am banking on no need to cover, but hope the buds on Aloe Moonglow and vanbalenii aren't damaged at client's gardens up in the hills.

  9. This is the detail I needed when admiring your plant collection. Frost in paradise.


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