University of Florida

Cold Weather Plants

Winter weather can easily ruin a garden. But you can take the work and the worry out of freeze protection by growing cold-hardy plants.

Annuals

Once your summer annuals start to fade, replace them with flowers that can withstand freezing temperatures. Examples include the following:

  • Pansies
  • Violets
  • Snapdragons
  • Nemesia
  • Diascia
  • Petunias—for hardy varieties try ‘Pretty Much Picasso,’ ‘Phantom’ (a black petunia), or ‘Supertunia’ (which grows from November to May)

Make sure you place these plants in a spot where they will receive full sun. Remember that this location may be different than in the summer because of the lower winter sun. You can also add color to your garden by incorporating ornamental cabbages and kale in flower beds and containers.

For more information on growing annuals in Florida, as well as other cold-hardy variety suggestions, read Gardening with Annuals in Florida.

Vegetables

For winter vegetable gardens, cole crops are reliable cool-weather producers. Cole crops are members of the Brassicaceae family, which includes broccoli, cabbage, collards, turnips, and kale, among others. Use some of these varieties:

  • Broccoli—‘Waltham,’ ‘De Cicco,’ ‘Packman’
  • Cabbage—‘Rio Verde,’ ‘Savoy,’ ‘Flat Dutch’ (also try Chinese Cabbages, such as ‘Bok Choy’ or ‘Napa’)
  • Collards—‘Vates,’ ‘Top Bunch,’ ‘Georgia’
  • Kale—‘Redbor,’ ‘Winterbor,’ ‘Dwarf Blue Curled’
  • Turnips—‘Purple Top,’ ‘White Globe’

Other winter hardy vegetables include carrots and spinach; try ‘Nantes’ and ‘Bloomsdale,’ respectively.

To view planting dates and recommendations for these and other winter crops, look in the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.

Cold Protection

Even cold-hardy plants that can withstand freezing temperatures aren’t invincible. During a hard freeze, make sure you properly protect your plants.

  • Never wrap plants with plastic. If plastic touches plant foliage, it can conduct heat away from the plant and increase cold damage. If you use plastic covers, make sure they are supported by frames or hoops, and are not directly on the plants.
  • Lay or wrap lightweight fabrics, such as blankets or garden row covers, over plants and beds. In order to provide protection, covers must reach all the way to the ground and be anchored.
  • Bury perennials and root crops under mulch to trap soil heat.

For more advice on cold protection methods and winter plant selection talk with your local county Extension agent.

Adapted and Excerpted From:

S. Park Brown, et al, Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, Horticultural Sciences Department
(rev. 02/2009).

"Cold Protection Strategies for Landscape Plants" (1.51MB pdf), UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County (accessed 11/2012.)

 L. Wolf, "Growing Gardens: Winter Proof Plants," WCJB-TV 20 (11/2010).

Pansies

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