Cold May Surprises

The results of a frost or freeze in a spring garden

The month of May can lull gardeners into a false sense of security when it comes to outdoor plants in the northeastern United States. Even though weather has started to warm up in May, and most nights stay above 40-degrees F., there can still be a night or two when temps drop into the low 30's and cause damage to the tender new growth on landscape plants and freshly planted annual flowers.

Brown leaves on top of this Japanese Maple were caused by cold temperatures two weeks earlier
Cold damage showed up as brown leaves on this
Laceleaf Japanese Maple, two weeks after a
couple cold nights in mid-May

Some plants are more susceptible to cold damage than others. Ornamentals like the laceleaf Japanese Maple shown in the photo above, are particularly sensitive to late spring cold snaps.  Therefore, it is best to throw a bed sheet over top of these sensitive plants when they have already leafed-out, and you hear a cold night is in the May forecast.


cold damage to a flowering tree

"Early bird" gardeners, who planted their tomatoes, vegetables or annual flowers before Memorial Day, are often caught by surprise in May. If you do plant early, make sure you have a plan to cover plants (or move them inside) when we get one of these cold May surprises.



Freeze damage to plants

Frost on plants


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