How to Protect Fruit Trees from Late Frost

Ah, springtime. The sun’s peeking out more often, the birds are back to singing their morning tunes, and your trees are ever so slowly sprouting new flowers and fruits.

And then…the temperature takes a turn. A late freeze in spring is troublesome for all trees, but fruit trees are especially vulnerable.

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast and take quick action to protect your trees if a spring freeze is expected. Read below to learn how to protect fruit trees from frost.

How to protect fruit trees from late frost

Some fruit trees tolerate the cold better than others, but all need to be shielded from potential frost damage. Here’s how to shelter fruit trees from frost:

  • How to protect citrus trees from a late frost: Citrus trees are certainly the most fragile of the bunch. To protect smaller trees, put stakes in the ground around the tree and drape it with a sheet, burlap, fruit tree frost blanket, plastic, or other cloth during the day before the freeze. Make sure the cover goes all the way to the ground. A cover is used to hold heat around the tree.
  • How to protect peach trees from a late frost: You can also use a sheet or blanket on your peach trees. Just like with citrus, cover during the day so heat can build up before a nighttime freeze.
  • How to protect apple trees from a late frost: Compared to other fruits, apple trees can actually handle the cold quite well. Still, you should shield them with a cover.

According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, you should keep mulch, ground covers, and weeds away from the ground around the trees as much as possible because bare, moist soil radiates more heat than mulched soil. It is also recommended to water trees before a potential freeze because water gives off heat and helps protect the trees. But if a severe freeze is expected, make sure the soil has good drainage and run a sprinkler slowly or furrow-irrigate through the night.

For additional tips and information, contact us. We are here to help and answer your questions.

At what temperature should you cover fruit trees?

Plan to cover your tree whenever the temperature is expected to drop below 32 degrees F.

What fruit trees survive cold weather?

While no fruit trees are made for the cold, your Plant Hardiness Zone can help you determine which ones are best suited to survive the elements in your area.

For example, lemon trees are super sensitive to cold weather, so they need to be planted in zones 9-11, which corresponds with warm areas like Florida, California, or Texas. On the other hand, many pear trees actually need a cooler winter to come out strong in spring, so they’re best suited for cooler planting zones 4-8.

Find out your planting zone to see what fruit trees grow best in your area.

Factors affecting freeze damage to fruit trees

Unfortunately, some fruit trees that are caught off guard by a late frost may lose their fresh blooms and not sprout again until the next spring season. But that depends on a lot, including:

  • The age of the tree. Frost can be much more detrimental to young trees than to mature ones.
  • The stage of growth. Unopened tree buds are often equipped to handle the cold, but once a tree starts blooming, a late freeze becomes more dangerous.
  • The length of the freeze. Some trees will bounce back if there’s just one frost scare in spring, but if freezing weather drags on, it will be harder for the tree to survive.

If you’re concerned about the health of your fruit tree after a late frost, have your local arborist check it out.

Wondering what happens if trees bud too early? Read about it here.


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