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Frost, Frost Damage

A close up image of an agapanthus plant with frost damage
Cold weather can cause an array of problems in plants. Frost is a particularly complex problem that can be difficult to prevent. Frost related symptoms can be caused by other factors, too, such as winter-cold, glazed frosts, snowfall and hail. Hardy plants tend to not be affected by cold weather, but this depends on the severity of conditions.
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Above parts of plants will quickly turn black in frosty conditions.
Plants may wilt or leaves may shrivel.
Hardy plants may be affected during autumn frosts, but this is rare.
Late spring frosts can cause flowers and new leaves to shrivel.
Sometimes buds can be killed.
Sometimes the leaves are scorched.
Die back of plants likely if the shoots are scorched at the tips.
Recurrent exposure to bad frost spells can result in permanent dwarfing in trees.
In rare cases, trees become more susceptible to branch cankers or begin splitting.
Unhealthy plants or those with disease or virus are most prone to death by frost.
Temperatures below freezing can result in chilling injury in potato tubers.
Frosts may cause roots to break, cutting off the plants rooting system.
Plants or saplings can sometimes be forced out from the ground by frosts.
Frosts in the winter can make plants less able to deal with problems which occur in the spring.
Small buds become brown and sometimes squishy.
Sometimes, flowering plants are worse affected at different flowering stages.
Foligage can turn brown and black, begin to wilt and die back.


A healthy plant is most equipped for dealing with frosty spells. If you are located somewhere prone to regular frosts, it's advised only to purchase hardy plants which are used to growing in cold conditions. Another suggestion, where appropriate, would be to only plant species which flower later in the year. Prevention methods include using cold frames, cloches, earthing-up, covering with straw or using horticultural fleeces to protect young plants. Please note, plastic cloches aren't desirable if you aim to protect plants from frosts.
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