The plant rant

My front yard looks like everyone else's!

My landscape friends, the ones who make their living off all things growing in your yard, seem to be hearing the same question from customers: Why did my plants do so much worse during the last freeze than the big one in February of 2021?? We had plenty of notice on this freeze--10 days out even and beautiful weather leading up to it, so there was plenty of time to gets plants covered and protected. And yet....

Fingers crossed!

Three ‘reasons’ come to mind and there is still the question if any are correct, but they all make sense. First, leading up to the December freeze we had extremely warm temperatures. Look at December highs:

The first half of December offered a 'secondary growing season'

The really cold air settled in over the Christmas weekend. Erik Ruediger of HTXscape says the “relatively mild weather, almost a second growing season, and it being so early of a freeze everything got hit harder.” This makes plenty of sense. Although we did have sweater days in November, we really warmed up the first half of December with five straight days of 82°!

Another reason may have been the wind. Not that plants feel a ‘wind chill’, as they don’t, but that fierce wind that brought those temperatures plummeting blew off a couple of my plant coverings and likely that happened all over the city. So despite some of our best efforts using frost cloth to create a heat dome over the plants, what we covered got uncovered pretty quickly and so did any protection.

A third reason, and this is MY conjecture, is that in February 2021 we actually had a thin layer of ice and snow across the area which may itself have acted as a seal and protected plant roots from the harshest of the cold. Last December the arctic air blasted in dry as a bone.

Most importantly, what is done is done. Erik says what you should NOT do is trim back the dead plants. Just leave them be for now because, if we have another freeze, any trimmed branches would be exposed and likely suffer even worse.

And that is a question I keep getting: will we have another freeze before the end of this winter? Here’s the Climate Prediction Center’s best guess through March which says No:

courtesy the Climate Prediction Center and NOAA

While those general climate forecasts don’t offer a lot of confidence, I can tell you that in my 30+ plus years here I can’t recall ever having a winter with TWO monster freezes. So there’s that! However, meteorologist Anthony Yanez researched and found that only the winter of 1894-95 had two freezes in the teens:

December 1894 hit 15 degrees.

February 1895 got to 10 degrees.

So never say never!! We’re starting the weekend with some beautiful weather. Enjoy!


Email me with ideas, questions and comments!

About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.