Drought resistant plants at higher risk of frost damage

Friday, December 26, 2014
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Some parts of the Bay Area are expected to dip near freezing over the next few nights as winter begins to settle in.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- Some parts of the Bay Area will be close to freezing early Saturday morning, which is putting some plants and crops in jeopardy. However, this winter, those who switched to drought-resistant landscaping could be more at risk of losing their plants.

John Petty from The People's Garden in Vallejo pointed to some lettuce and said, "You can already see here how it's wilting. It's kind of laying down."

They took quick action to protect The People's Garden where they grow organic vegetables for the homeless. Temperatures in parts of the North Bay are predicted to be at or near freezing.

"The carrots are in the ground so they should be fine," Petty said.

There's a lot more concern from people who recently converted their thirsty lawns into drought-resistant landscapes.

Berkeley resident Kay Wolff said, "There are many succulents that have a temperature tolerance or a lack of temperature tolerance."

Wolff has a garden full of succulents that absorb and store water, but freezing temperatures can form ice crystals in the plant cells causing them to burst.

"In 1990 this bird of paradise froze to the ground... and it was kind of devastating," Wollf said.

Chris Carmichael of the UC Botanical Garden says most native succulents are heartier than non-native species. He said, "These are Echeveria or Hens and Chicks. They're really common in Bay Area and California horticulture. They're from Mexico and they can only take the tiniest bit of frost."

As a rule of thumb, Carmichael says thicker, spongier succulents are more susceptible to a freeze.

We're also keeping an eye on chilly citrus in Central California. Temperatures could drop to 27 degrees there overnight. Growers say it won't stay that cold long enough to do any major damage. In fact, the cold weather tonight should give the oranges more color and extend the harvest season.

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