Burst of cold, spring snow on Tuesday could impact plants, flowers

With snow and freezing temperatures in the Chicago area forecast over the next couple days, your plants could use a little TLC so they don't wind up DOA.

And there are plenty of tips to help you protect your plants from Old Man Winter's last icy breath.

"So this is one of the years where everything‘s starting to flower all at the same time," said Boyce Tankersley of the Chicago Botanic Garden. "It’s really spectacular. But again we worry about these cold snaps."


It’s a sucker punch from Mother Nature: snow on Tuesday and two nights of freezing temperatures, coming just two weeks after the thermometer soared into the 70s and 80s.

"This year it’s kind of tough because Mother Nature has really warmed up everything," Tankersley said.

That is why we saw some garden centers on Monday rolling racks of plants indoors. The cold could play havoc with fruit trees like apples, pears and plums that have already flowered.

"With this freeze coming on, we're kind of taking a wait and see attitude," said Tankersley.

At the Lurvey Garden Center in Des Plaines, customers were already snapping up cold weather annuals. They recommend you move potted plants indoors or into the garage and if it’s already in the ground or too big to move, Tracy Bordic says there are products available to help.

"I would recommend covering them with a frost type of product," Bordic said. "It’s a very lightweight material. It’s important you have something light weight and also breathable."

You can also water your plants just before the freeze. The ice will actually protect the plant from frost.

As for your vegetable garden, cool weather crops like lettuce and cabbage should be fine. But many garden centers are already selling tomatoes and peppers, which won’t survive what’s coming.

"I would dig them up if they’re already in the ground," Tankersley said.

The flowering trees like magnolias and azaleas may lose their blossoms in the next couple days, but experts say the plants themselves should be just fine.