(Graphic by Julia Goulet/National Weather Service)

Plant owners should be ready to protect their plants as a cold front moves through the Midlands. 

The past week, the United States has seen temperatures drop as a cold front sweeps from the west to east coast. While winter isn’t set to start until Dec. 21, the Midwest and Northeast have started seeing snow storms earlier than usual, according to the Farmers Almanac. As for the Midlands, temperatures have dropped this last week.

Thursday night into early Friday morning, temperatures were in the 30s, which is below freezing. Plant owners should be aware that plants need special care during these cold weeks.

“We had a frost event a couple of weeks ago, but this is probably the first hard freeze we’ve had where we have widespread temperatures down into the low and mid-20s,” said Pierce Larkins, a metrologist at the National Weather Service in Columbia. 

The temperatures from the past couple of days are unusual for this time of the year, Larkins said. Midland residents usually see about 66 on average as a high and a low of 41. The Midlands of South Carolina is averaging between 10 and 20 degrees below normal. 

During these cold temperatures, there are different ways that plant owners can help their plants so they aren’t suffering. 

“The most important thing is to remember that your plants need to be well hydrated,” said Carol Isherwood, co-owner of Gardener’s Outpost, a nursery on Woodrow Street near Five Points. “If your plants aren’t watered, then they will actually get freeze damage more readily than if they have been watered.”

Freezing temperatures can affect the cells of the plant, causing them to wilt and then crisp up.

Isherwood suggested that owners water plants during the day before a frost comes through instead of at night. You can also wrap Christmas lights around the plants to help keep them warm during the night. 

Different types of plants need different kinds of care in the winter. 

“Our fruit trees, we bring inside, particularly any of our citrus and bananas that cannot handle the cold,” Isherwood said. “We let a lot of stuff at this point go dormant. Let it run its natural process.” 

The key temperature that home gardeners need to look out for is 40 degrees. Tropical plants should be brought inside, while vegetables need to be covered in the event the weather dips below 40.

Isherwood also suggests using neem oil during the winter to protect against pests and diseases while plants are dormant and also using a general fertilizer that can help the overall health of the plant. 

The Midlands isn’t expected to keep seeing these freezing temperatures in the coming weeks.

But it will get down into the 40s and rain, so plant owners, beware. 

“By Tuesday, Wednesday timeframe we’re expecting a couple of systems … ,” Larkins said. That push “should bring a little bit of a warm-up towards normal values as we approach Thanksgiving.”