What to do when a freeze is in the Arizona forecast

Dec 17, 2015, 1:04 PM

(StockSnap Photo)...

(StockSnap Photo)

(StockSnap Photo)

One of the big myths about Arizona is that you never need to worry about freezing weather and frost once you move here.

That’s not true.

There are many different climate zones in the state, and, if you live north of the Mogollon Rim or at a higher elevation in other parts of the state, you might find yourself shoveling snow again.

Even in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, tender plants can suffer severe frost damage. So when a freeze is forecast, cover up.

Here are tips on how to handle frosty nights:

What to cover

Lantana, bougainvillea, natal plum, hibiscus, most succulents, tomatoes and peppers, basil, and, of course, ficus trees typically need protection. Orange and yellow bells and other plants can be affected, depending on where you live. If you’re in doubt, call a nursery. Here’s a list of frost-tolerant plants.

How to cover

Never use plastic or similar materials that can trap cold air around your plants. Use frost cloth, cotton sheets, burlap and similar coverings. Drape the material down to the soil for maximum protection. However, it will still help if you only lay cloth on top branches of a bush or plant. You can leave frost cloth on plants for a while without any damage. But with sheets or other fabrics, remove them in the morning and cover again at sundown.

Protect your cacti

Most saguaros and prickly pears can survive very cold temperatures. Other, more exotic cacti may need protection, so cover them as well or put foam cups on the tips of their arms.

Don’t prune yet

If your plants do experience some damage, don’t cut off shriveled branches right away. The dead limbs and leaves can help protect the undamaged part of the plant from future frost. Wait until danger of frost has past before pruning. Generally, that is the end of February or beginning of March.

Cover your water pipes

Be careful with any exposed water pipes on the outside of your house or in your yard. Even a blanket or some towels wrapped around the pipes can prevent piping from freezing or bursting during really cold nights.

If a pipe freezes but has not burst, shut off water

Open a couple of faucets as well so steam or water can escape while you thaw the pipe. Heat the frozen pipe slowly. Use a hairdryer and aim it at the blockage, or wrap the frozen section with pipe heating tape and plug it in a while. But do call a plumber if pipes have burst.

For more tips, help and information for your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at, Arizona’s most trusted referral network.

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What to do when a freeze is in the Arizona forecast