Why Spray Water on Plants During a Frost

Overview

While it may not make sense at first, it is true that spraying water on outdoor plants just before temperatures fall below freezing can help protect the plants from damage caused by cold weather.

Why Cold Damages Plants

One of the reasons plants and fruits are damaged or killed by cold temperatures is that the cold draws essential moisture from inside the plants, effectively freeze-drying them.

Watering the Inside

Spraying plants with water before a frost gives the plants the opportunity to stock up on their supply, becoming more resistant to the effects of dehydration.

Watering the Outside

Spraying or misting your plants also leaves a coating of water on the outside of the plant. When this turns to ice, it can insulate the plant from the cold.

How it Works

The colder it gets on the surface of the leaf, the more damage is done to the plant. A coating of ice keeps the temperature on the surface of the leaf to the freezing point of water or slightly below. The plant will only need to withstand temperatures of 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit even if air temperatures drop further.

Commercial Implications

Citrus growers in Florida have long used a variety of expensive methods to protect crops during a freeze. Many now use a cheaper method of sprinkling with water to achieve the same or better results.

References

  • University of Florida: Microsprinkler Irrigation for Cold Protection of Florida Citrus
  • University of California: Frost Protection in the Garden
Keywords: spray water on plants, winter plant protection, frost protection, plants in winter, ice on plants

About this Author

Lois Lawrence is an attorney and freelance writer living and working in Stonington, Conn. She has written on many subjects including travel, food, consumerism, relationships, insurance and law. Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1976, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979.