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Protecting Drought Tolerant Plants in Low Temperatures, Because these plants are fine-tuned and they fit into our landscapes. Many California gardens and landscapes have been making the move to drought tolerant and native species plants. California’s dry climate and an urge to conserve limited water resources makes a great case for succulents, native grasses, and other dry-hardy plantings.



Why is Drought Tolerant Plants Good?


There are so many benefits to going with drought friendly and native plants in California. With a plant that is prepared to thrive with very little water, and is genetically adjusted to the seasons and weather here, you can hardly go wrong! These plants take less work, less water, less money and time to keep healthy and flourishing when many other plants would just stay alive.  

Because these plants are fine-tuned to California’s desert-like ways, they fit into our landscapes perfectly. It’s when our weather acts uncharacteristically or reaches its natural extremes that our drought tolerant plants may need some help from us.


Which Plants are Susceptible to Low Temps?


Thicker, spongier succulents are the most susceptible to freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celcius) temperatures. The moisture in the cells of the plants freeze, and when the expanding water bursts cell walls, the tissue is destroyed and collapses into mush when touched. Some “frost tender” succulents may show damage just on leaf tips.


  • The majority of aloes, cacti and agaves can go a few degrees below freezing for short periods
  • Aloes and Agaves are generally good to 26F. Agave attenuata varieties are all frost tender. Not all Aloes and Agaves handle the lower temperatures
  • Crassula generally need to be protected from temps below freezing
  • “Hen and Chicks” or Echeverias vary widely. Some are quite hardy down to the teens while others are sensitive to anything below freezing
  • Sempervivums and Sedums are generally very hardy
  • Crassulas, aeoniums, euphorbias, and kalanchoes are some of the most tender succulents
  • It’s best to find out the names of your plants and do some online research to discover exactly what you can expect from each


How to protect them


Know the upcoming weather. For the most tender plants, a short freeze will burn leaves, but not damage the plants beyond that. A freeze that goes below freezing for long hours and even days is where the most damage occurs. Long freezes can kill some of your plants.


Cover them with Frost Cloth


Start by acquiring something to cover your plants with. You’ll need frost cloth (sometimes called garden cloth, frost blanket or floating row covers), which comes in multiple thicknesses/weights. The heavier frost cloths are said to provide between 4 and 8 degrees of protection. These specialized cloths are better than using bed sheets or tarps because they allow light to go through so the plants continue to photosynthesize and grow. Their light weight doesn’t damage the plant like heavier fabrics, and it’s more insulatory than plastics like visqueen. Store your frost cloth out of the sun when it’s not is use.


When covering your plants, prioritize areas at the bottom of hills or in valleys, because cold air flows down slopes and gathers in low spots. Also prioritize plants that are below the open sky, as the ones covered by trees and other protection don’t need the frost cloth as much as the exposed plants. Anchor the material with rocks, or string and tent stakes.


If any leaves have already been frozen, wait until spring to trim off any damaged tissue. This will help protect the plants from further damage this season.

If you need help planning a landscape that works in your California climate, contact Meadowbrook Design today.