Frost/freeze Damage

By The Old House Web
Plant damage caused by frosts or freezes is the result of ice crystals forming within plant cells and the spaces between the cells. Crystals grow and rupture cell walls, similar to poking a hole in a water-filled balloon. The special "glue" holding cells together is destroyed; plants fail to maintain any shape.

Plants with bacteria, whether beneficial or destructive, inside cells are more prone to frost/freeze injury. Ice crystals form easily around the bacteria.

Plants suffering less frost/freeze damage, such as lettuce, bluegrass, cabbage and spinach, generally have a high salt concentration within cells and less water.

Many plants are capable of withstanding temperatures of 28 degrees Fahrenheit before significant damage occurs. This is particularly true of flower blooms on fruit trees in the spring.

Cold tolerance is a matter of plant genetics, growing conditions, and how fast/slow the temperature is lowered. Plants are able to withstand a gradual reduction in temperature with less injury than a rapid change.

See: Frost; Freeze

(revised 2-94)

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