How to protect orange tree from freeze

How to Cover a Citrus Tree in Freezing Weather | Home Guides

By Maureen Malone Updated December 26, 2020

Citrus trees (Citrus spp.) in your landscape produce tasty fruits under the right growing conditions, but the trees are not cold hardy. Protecting citrus from frost is important for the survival of these trees that grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11 depending on the species, advises Missouri Botanical Garden.

Frost Protection for Trees

Protecting citrus from frost and freeze is important, as the cold temperatures not only damage the fruit but can kill off the tree. In general, mature citrus trees can withstand temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, advises Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, although some species are not as cold hardy as others. Young citrus trees are more susceptible to cold damage.

Proper care throughout the year will keep the tree healthy and better able to withstand cold conditions. Avoid pruning or fertilizing your tree toward the end of the growing season, as these activities encourage new growth that is more likely to be damaged by cold temperatures, notes the University of California Master Gardeners of Butte County.

When freezing temperatures are expected, prepare by clearing the weeds around your tree and irrigating. This improves the soil's ability to absorb heat, and some of the moisture will evaporate, which will help to warm the air.

Applying Citrus Tree Frost Covers

Select a frost cloth, sheet or blanket that you can use to cover your tree. A frost cloth is made of breathable fabric and is designed for cold protection, advises the University of Florida IFAS Extension. These work by trapping the warm air radiating from the soil, so make sure it is large enough to cover the tree and reach the ground. Plastic is not recommended, as it doesn't hold in heat as well.

Begin by wrapping the tree trunk to provide insulation. You can use burlap, old towels or blankets for this task.

Next, build a frame around the tree using tall stakes, poles or trellises and then cover the tree and drape the cover over the frame. These need to be tall enough that the sheet doesn't touch the leaves, which can cause ice to form in the area of contact, advises the University of California Master Gardeners of Napa County. Use rocks or another weighted object to secure the cloth, advises Tallahassee Nurseries. This helps hold in warmth and prevents the cloth from being blown away on a windy night.

Tips and Considerations

The morning following the frost, wait until temperatures have warmed above freezing before removing the cloth. If you are using a frost cloth, wait until temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer before removing the cloth. Frost cloths have the added benefit of being breathable, so you can leave them on for multiple days if needed.

Covering your citrus trees to protect them from freeze is effective for young trees but may not be feasible for mature trees that are 20 feet or taller depending on the species. For older trees, consider options such as sprinkling them with water throughout the night or stringing old-fashioned lights that emit heat around the tree.

Even with the best preparation, your tree may suffer freeze damage in some cases. Avoid taking immediate action that can further weaken the tree. Instead, wait until spring when temperatures warm and new growth begins to assess the damage and prune out any dead wood.

Things You Will Need
  • Hose or sprinkler

  • Frost cloth, sheet or blanket

  • Burlap or old towels

  • Tall stakes, poles or trellises

  • Rocks or other weighted objects

  • String lights that emit heat (optional)


  • Missouri Botanical Garden: Plant Finder Results: Genus - Citrus
  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service: Citrus
  • University of California Master Gardeners of Butte County: Frost Protection for Citrus
  • University of California Master Gardeners of Napa County: Frost Protection Is For More Than Citrus
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Cold Protection for the Winter Garden
  • Tallahassee Nurseries: Growing Citrus for North Florida


  • To save time covering the tree in the next expected frost, lift the cover up over one side of the tree, roll it up as you slowly uncover the tree, and leave the cloth or fabric on the ground next to the tree. Use the lumber pieces from the side where you lifted the cover to weigh the material down until needed. When frost is expected, you simply need to unroll the covering over the stakes and roll it in the lumber anchors.
  • The full covering is only necessary if you expect a hard frost, but not in periods of light frost. Mature citrus trees can survive light frost without a cover, but you should wrap the trunks with insulation to protect against hard frosts.

Writer Bio

Maureen Malone has been a professional writer since 2010 She is located in Tucson, Arizona where she enjoys hiking, horseback riding and martial arts. She is an outdoor lover who spends her weekends tending her raised garden and small orchard of fruit trees.

How to protect citrus trees from freezes | Home/Garden


To protect a single smaller tree, construct a simple frame and encase the tree with one or two layers of translucent plastic. In southeast Louisiana, such an extreme practice would be needed only on a few severely cold nights.

(John McCusker)

Cold weather is on its way, and many people are concerned about their citrus trees. One of the most common questions I get from gardeners is, "How much cold can citrus trees tolerate?" Because there are a number of variables, it's difficult to pin point a "threshold" temperature at which it becomes necessary to protect your trees.

There are three basic factors in determining freeze susceptibility of citrus trees.

The type and age of the citrus: Satsumas are the most cold hardy of the commonly grown citrus species in Louisiana. Kumquats follow with just a slightly less amount of cold hardiness. The order from most cold hardy to least cold hardy are: satsuma, kumquat, orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime. A citrus tree increases in hardiness as it gets older. Older trees with larger, denser canopies deal with the cold better as they trap more heat than smaller trees or unhealthy trees with thin canopies.

How cold it gets: Threshold temperatures are approximately 20 degrees for satsumas and kumquats and about 25 degrees for all other citrus trees. Trees will be damaged or killed by temperatures in the teens.

The duration of the sub-freezing temperature: If the temperature is below freezing for 24 hours or more, you should expect damage. All ripe fruit should be harvested from trees prior to a significant freeze. Temperatures cold enough to damage the tree also will ruin the fruit. It takes temperatures in the mid- to low 20s for five to 10 hours to freeze the fruit. The most cold hardy parts of the tree are the mature wood of major branches and the trunk.

If a citrus tree is gradually exposed to cooler temperatures, a process called hardening occurs, and trees become more tolerant to freezes. Chilly but above-freezing nights (in the 30s and 40s) that occur during the fall and early winter make the trees better able to handle freezes.

Severe freezes taking place when only mild weather has occurred previously are more likely to cause significant damage. This has been a relatively warm fall so our citrus trees are not well hardened at this point. Still, the temperatures this weekend should not produce severe damage.

The best way to lessen cold damage to citrus is to maintain healthy trees. Cultural practices that tend to induce and maintain dormancy in winter should be used. These methods include avoiding late summer or fall fertilization or pruning. Vigorous trees may recover from cold injury. Weak trees that are showing disease, insect damage or nutritional deficiencies are the ones most severely damaged and are the slowest to recover after freezes.

Steps to reduce freeze damage

To protect a single smaller tree, construct a simple frame and encase the tree with one or two layers of translucent plastic. This is most practical for smaller trees. In southeast Louisiana, such an extreme practice would be needed only on a few severely cold nights.

Before covering, the tree could be generously wrapped with small, outdoor incandescent Christmas lights to provide additional warmth and increase the level of protection. Incandescent Christmas lights will not damage the tree even if they come into contact with it.

The frame and cover could stay in place indefinitely, but will need to be vented. Air temperatures within should not be allowed to go above 85 to 90 degrees. Venting should be provided on sunny warm days to prevent overheating and to maintain a supply of fresh air.

For trees too large to cover, banking the lower trunks of trees with soil or using tree wraps of bubble wrap, foam rubber or Styrofoam will help prevent cold damage to the trunk. This must be done before the first killing freeze and can be left on through the winter. Trunks should be treated with a copper fungicide before wrapping to prevent disease. Or the coverings could be applied during freezes and removed during mild weather.

Although tree tops may still be lost during freezes, a tree can recover if its trunk and root system are intact. Banking or wraps should be removed in the spring.

If the weather has been dry for a week or more in advance of a cold front, water your citrus trees. Trees that are drought stressed may experience more cold damage. This should be done a day or two before the freeze is expected.

Do not prune in the late summer or fall. Late pruning stimulates new growth that may not mature before winter, making it more prone to cold damage. In addition, pruning reduces the size of the canopy going into the winter, and this also reduces cold tolerance.

If pruning is needed, it should be done in early spring. Cuts should be made at branch crotches leaving no stubs. Prune to maintain a full, dense canopy. Trees need good leaf canopies to cut wind speed through the canopy and reduce the rate of cooling.

Leaves radiate heat to each other. Outer leaves may be lost to a freeze, but complete loss of inner leaves is averted by a thick canopy.

Fertilizer should be applied to citrus trees in late January or early February. A general-purpose fertilizer or citrus fertilizer may be used following label directions. Spread the fertilizer around the edge of the branches in the area of the feeder roots. Late summer or fall applications of fertilizer should be avoided as they can reduce the cold hardiness.

Avoid using oil sprays to control insects during the fall and winter. Horticultural oil sprays may decrease cold tolerance.

We potentially have a lot of cold weather yet to come this winter. Cover smaller trees as needed to protect them, and protect the trunks of larger trees if practical.

Keep things in perspective. We generally do not see significant damage if temperatures stay in the mid- to upper 20s and only stay below freezing for a few hours.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

For You, from NOLA

How to shelter trees from frost?. 1001 answers to important questions of the gardener and gardener

How to protect trees from frost?. 1001 answers to important questions of the gardener and gardener


1001 answers to important questions of a gardener and gardener
Kizima Galina Alexandrovna


How to protect trees from frost?

The easiest way is whitewashing. But it is used when the trees are more than three years old. It is better to wrap young trees with synthetic material using nylon tights, synthetic burlap from sugar or cereals, lutrasil or spunbond. (However, lutrasil and spanbond do not protect against rodents.)

The trunks should not be wrapped with roofing felt or other dark material. In spring, it quickly heats up in the sun, and the cambium wakes up during the day, and at night a strong cold snap stops this process. Cambium from such differences in day and night temperatures can die, and this will lead to peeling of the bark.


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How to protect the garden from frost

Saving berry crops

Berry crops can suffer the most from the cold. They are closest to the ground, and there the temperature is always lower than at a height of 1-3 meters. At a temperature of minus 4, flowers and ovaries may die. If there is no wind, and the night is clear already 0 - minus 2 can be dangerous for plants.

Opened strawberry flowers die at a temperature of minus 1-1.5. Therefore, if there is a threat of frost, it must be covered in the evening with film, paper, burlap, matting, hay, straw. If you cover with a film, then it should not touch the flowers, otherwise there will be no benefit - they will freeze anyway. But if you lay a layer of straw or grass between them, it will be just right, you get such a warm blanket.

We remove the coating no earlier than 9 am. In lowlands, deep depressions, on the lower parts of the slope, in clearings in the forest, the danger of frost is greater, therefore, in such places, plants must be covered for several days in a row.

To protect currant and gooseberry bushes, wrap them with burlap, film or paper.

Plants grown in unheated film greenhouses (we talked about how to build them ourselves in the last issue) must also be sheltered from recurrent frosts. We save the planted seedlings of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini with paper caps, burlap or other opaque materials.

Let's also not forget that the plants should be watered abundantly in the evening.

Small-drop irrigation

But what about fruit trees, because their flowers and ovaries are also vulnerable to sudden frosts?

Unfortunately, such a universal coating that can protect an adult apple or pear tree has not yet been invented. Here another effective method is suitable - small-drop sprinkling.

To a person ignorant of horticultural matters, such a method may seem, to put it mildly, barbaric. Douse trees before frost?! No, no, he says, never! And it won't be right. Sprinkler frost protection is based on the fact that each drop of water, when frozen, gives off heat to the environment. If the trees are moistened so that there is always water on the surface of the leaves for freezing, the heat released by the droplets will be enough to compensate for the temperature changes in the environment.

How to do small-drop irrigation? We install nozzles on the hoses with the smallest possible spray - and we begin the careful spraying of tree crowns. At the same time, we try to make sure that intense "rain" covers the surface of flowering or fading trees throughout the entire time of freezing. So we are getting ready for a sleepless night: the thermometer will drop to the lowest mark only at the end of the night. Oversleep - then you will reproach yourself.

Spraying must be completed one hour before sunrise, otherwise the plants will turn black and die when exposed to the sun's rays.

Sprinkling helps to protect flowers and ovaries from frost damage even at air temperatures down to minus 4-5 degrees. Remember that sprinkling should not be carried out in strong winds. Wind increases evaporation and, accordingly, increases the risk of frost damage to plants. If the wind is stronger than 5 m/s, it is better not to sprinkle. And one more thing: if leaves have not yet appeared on your plants, sprinkling against frost will not protect, but, on the contrary, will destroy the trees.

Installing smoke screens

Smoke curtains are an old and proven way to protect trees and shrubs from frost.

Heaps of wood shavings and chips, fallen leaves, peat are laid out between the trees and set on fire. From above we cover the fire with sawdust, grass, we put sod, earth on the flame. The main thing is more smoke.

If frosts are expected at night, then we lay out 6-9 smoke piles on the site and set them on fire a couple of hours after sunset. For greater effect, it is best to negotiate with the neighbors in the area - it is more useful for plants to "smoke" the company.

If, 30 minutes after sunrise, the temperature does not fall below minus 1. 5, we disassemble the piles (but not completely) and extinguish. They may come in handy this spring more than once.

Hilling up

In order to protect, for example, potato seedlings from the cold, they should be covered with a small layer of soil. This is a simple but also effective way to deal with frost.

Feeding plants before testing

Flowering plants are best strengthened from the inside by feeding them before frost. To do this, foliar top dressing should be done from a solution of potash and phosphorus mineral fertilizers (3-4% potassium sulfate and 4-5% superphosphate). Top dressing increases the concentration of cell sap, which increases the resistance of fruit plantations to freezing. Don't forget to spray the plants the night before or 2-3 hours before frost.

After drip irrigation, flowering fruit trees were covered with icicles. But it is not dangerous for them.

by the way

Late? Don't panic

If you haven't kept track of the weather and the plants are frozen, don't rush to pull everything out and throw it away. Thoroughly water the soil around and spray with one of the growth stimulants. Perhaps the plants will get sick and come to life - there have been such cases, and more than once.

little tricks


1. A threaded neck from a small plastic bottle (for shampoo, water) and a cork from it will help to secure the edges of the greenhouse's plastic cover. The jammed film is not damaged.

2. Rubber rings 20-30 mm wide, cut from a car inner tube, and rope extensions with such rings will not allow the plastic film of the greenhouse to sag. The same rings with extensions press the film from above.

3. When arranging a greenhouse, stretch a twine mesh with mesh sizes of approximately 50 by 50 mm over the frames, cover it with a film, and also stretch the mesh from above.

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