Cold Hardy Natives Will Survive A Freeze.

Cold hardy natives that are full of fruit, seed and insects for birds to eat are important after a cold snap.  Beautyberry, marlberry, firebush, Florida elm, red maple, Spanish and white stoppers, strangler fig, and the last slash pine cones bear their fruits and seed for hungry birds during the winter months.   It is a pleasure to watch the hummingbirds feed on the firebush flowers and the other birds eat the variety of native fruits on the property.  Our bird bath is very popular too.

Many of our native plants range from the Florida Keys to Merritt Island.  Florida privet, dahoon holly, wild lime, coontie, Simpson stopper, beautyberry and saw palmetto are very cold hardy and may not show any stress at all after a freeze. Cocoplum, bloodberry, and orange Geiger are the wimps that may die completely if exposed to freezing temperatures for long.  Most other natives can take short periods of below freezing temperatures and only have leaf burn to show for it.

Some of our natives are adapted to being burned by fire or frozen to the ground and look bushier and more beautiful than ever when they grow back.  Beautyberry, necklacepod, firebush, fiddlewood and wild coffee look their best if cut to the ground every few years.  Early March is the best time to do this; just before new growth starts. Or, let a cold snap do it for you.

With the warm air of the Gulf Stream currents just off our shores, we are often spared the colder temperatures that the areas south and north of us endure.  Everglades National Park may have temperatures in the low 20’s in January or February compared with the low 30’s in eastern Palm Beach County.

Cold hardiness is just one of the many reasons that I like our native plants.  Planting a diversity of native plants will ensure that there are berries available all year long and that a cold spell doesn’t wipe out all of the food for our local and migratory birds.  This can happen when the few fruiting exotics are killed to the ground. Look for whistling flocks of cedar wax wings and clucking flocks of robins in our skies in early spring. They have been pushed south by a lack of food in North and Central Florida and will both flock to a native strangler fig if it is in fruit.

If you want to have the yard with all of the birds hanging about after a freeze and be the envy of your neighbors, plant with cold hardy natives that will have fruit in the winter.