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Freeze Fate - February 2021


Just how tender is tender?

In my five years of gardening in Houston's gulf coast climate, our garden has endured two significant freezing episodes. In January 2018, the temperature dipped to about 15°F for a few hours, with freezing rain to compound the damage. Then in February 2021, winter storm Uri swept through the state and produced temperatures as low as 12°F, this time lasting for a good five days. The freeze of 2018 was noted at the time as the most severe one in recent times, while Uri produced conditions not seen around here in over a century. In most other winters, freezes are much milder, with temperatures not dipping below the mid-twenties and lows only held for a few hours overnight.

Since most Houston-area gardens are decked out in plants native to subtropical and tropical climates, those severe freezes can inflict some serious damage. Following the 2018 freeze, I kept track of which plants made it through (using the icon on my plant portrait pages), and in the aftermath of the 2021 event, I noted both which plants did and didn't make it. Lists of these plants organized by whether they survived one or both of the freezes are on the page below. Hopefully they can help fellow and future gulf coast gardeners curious about pushing hardiness zones in our climate.

For the most part, I didn't mark up plant species that I would expect to be fully hardy even in these freezes – that typically means those with lower hardiness zone ratings of 7 or below), although you'll find a few exceptions in the lists below. Note that I count a plant as having survived a freeze if at least one of the plants in my garden survived; seedlings popping up after the freeze don't count, but regrowth from the roots after all of the top growth was killed does. For example, all above-ground parts of our lemon eucalyptus, a 30-foot-tall tree, were killed in the 2021 freeze, but new growth came back near the trunk a couple months later. I wouldn't call the tree hardy (most gardeners wouldn't want to lose their tree every few years, even if it eventually grows back), yet for the purposes of this page, it's in the survivor list. For many plants, you can find more information about how it fared in the freezes on the portrait page; if no information is provided, chances are the plant sailed through the freeze without much trouble.

The lists below are sorted in order of botanical name. Click on the plant's name to go to page for that plant. Plant portraits (where I have photos on the page) are indicated with the symbol.

Plants that survived 2018 but not 2021

Botanical name Common name Life cycle/hardiness
Citrus reticulata 'Owari' and 'Okitsu-Wase' satsumatree (Z8-11)
Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' ornamental sagetender perennial (Z9-11)
Sansevieria concinna snake plantperennial

All other plants that did not survive 2021

Botanical name Common name Life cycle/hardiness
Cassia nemophila desert cassiashrub (Z7)
Clappertonia ficifolia bolo bolotender shrub (Z9-11)
Clitoria ternatea butterfly pea; blue peatender perennial (Z10-11)
Conradina canescens wild rosemary; scrub mintshrub (Z7b-10)
Dalea greggii trailing indigo bush, Gregg's prairie cloverperennial
Euphorbia pulcherrima poinsettiatender perennial/shrub (Z9-11)
Hibiscus boryanus Chinese hibiscusshrub (Z9b-11)
Kalanchoe humilis 'Desert Surprise' perennial
Nashia inaguensis moujean tea; Bahama berryshrub (Z9-11)
Senecio crassissimus vertical-leaf senecioperennial (Z9b)
Senecio vitalis narrow-leaf chalk sticksperennial (Z9-11)
Turnera ulmifolia yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rosetender perennial/shrub (Z9-11)

Plants that survived 2021

Botanical name Common name Life cycle/hardiness
Acacia farnesiana huisache; sweet acaciatree (Z9-11)
Agapanthus africanus lily of the Nileperennial (Z8-11)
Aloe 'Blue Elf' and 'Hedgehog' aloetender perennial (Z9-11)
Aloysia virgata almond verbenashrub (Z8-11)
Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' variegated shell gingertender perennial (Z8-11)
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii flame acanthus,hummingbird bush, Wright's desert honeysuckleshrub (Z7-10)
Aristolochia fimbriata white-veined pipevineperennial (Z7-9)
Aristolochia watsonii Watson's pipevineperennial (Z8)
Bauhinia lunarioides Anacacho orchidtree (Z8-11)
Bergeranthus vespertinus perennial (Z7)
Bulbine frutescens perennial (Z9-11)
Caesalpinia pulcherrima pride of Barbadostender shrub (Z8-11)
Calliandra emarginata dwarf red powderpuffshrub (Z9-11)
Callistemon salignus willow bottle brushshrub/tree (Z7-11)
Cestrum aurantiacum yellow cestrum; orange cestrumperennial/shrub (Z8b-11)
Chlorophytum saundersiae shooting star lilyperennial (Z8-10)
Citrus limon lemontree (Z9-10)
Citrus x aurantiifolia Key lime; mexican limetree (Z10)
Combretum indicum Rangoon creeper; Chinese honeysucklewoody vine (Z9-11)
Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' firecracker planttender perennial (Z8-11)
Cuphea hyssopifolia Mexican heathertender perennial (Z9-11)
Curcuma australasica 'Aussie Plume' Aussie plume gingerperennial (Z8-11)
Curcuma elata hidden cone gingerperennial (Z7b-11)
Cycas revoluta sago palmevergreen shrub/tree (Z9-10)
Dalea frutescens black prairie cloverperennial
Diospyros texana Texas persimmon; black persimmontree (Z8b-11)
Duranta erecta golden dewdrop, pigeonberryshrub (Z9-11)
Dyckia sp. perennial
Dyschoriste linearis snake herbperennial (Z7-10)
Ebenopsis ebano Texas ebonytree (Z9-10)
Erythrina crista-galli coral beanshrub/tree (Z9-11)
Eucalyptus cinerea silver dollar eucalyptus; argyle appletree (Z8-11)
Freesia laxa 'Joan Evans' perennial (Z8-10)
Galphimia glauca thryallisshrub (Z8-10)
Globba winitii dancing ladies gingerperennial (Z8-11)
Gloriosa superba gloriosa lily; glory lilyperennial (Z8b-10)
Gomphrena decumbens 'Little Grapes' globe amaranth; airy bachelor's buttonsperennial (Z8b-11)
Gynura bicolor Okinawan spinachperennial (Z8-10)
Haworthia fasciata zebra plantperennial (Z9b-10)
Hedychium 'Vi' ginger lilyperennial (Z8-11)
Hesperoxiphion peruvianum perennial
Hippeastrum hybrids amaryllisperennial
Iochroma cyaneum blue trumpet flowershrub (Z9-11)
Ixora coccinea flame of the woodsshrub (Z9-11)
Jasminum nitidum star jasmine; confederate jasmineshrub (Z9-11)
Jasminum sambac 'Maid of Orleans' Arabian jasminevine/shrub (Z9-11)
Justicia brandegeeana shrimp planttender perennial (Z8-11)
Justicia spicigera firecracker plant, Mexican honeysuckletender shrub (Z8-11)
Kalanchoe tetraphylla paddle plant, flapjacksperennial (Z10-12)
Lantana montevidensis trailing lantanaperennial (Z8-11)
Ledebouria 'Gary Hammer' false squillperennial (Z7-10)
Lespedeza liukiuensis 'Little Volcano' bush clovershrub (Z6-9)
Manettia cordifolia 'John Elsley' firecracker vineperennial (Z7b-10)
Manihot grahamii hardy tapioca treeshrub/small tree (Z7-11)
Melochia tomentosa shrub
Nymphaea (tropical hybrids) tropical waterlilyperennial (Z10-11)
Odontonema strictum firespikeshrub (Z9-11)
Olea europaea 'Arbequina' olivetree (Z8-10)
Osmanthus fragrans f. aurantiacus 'Apricot Echo' sweet oliveshrub (Z7b-9)
Oxalis regnellii lucky shamrockperennial
Passiflora 'Victoria' passionflowerperennial (Z9-11)
Pelargonium 'Citrosum' citronella, mosquito plantperennial (Z9b-11)
Pennisetum species/cultivars fountain grassperennial
Plumbago auriculata plumbagotender shrub (Z8-11)
Punica granatum pomegranatetree/shrub (Z7b-11)
Rotheca myricoides blue butterflytender shrub (Z9-11)
Ruellia simplex (low-growing variety) Mexican petuniaperennial (Z8-11)
Russelia equisetiformis scarlet firecracker plant; coral plantperennial (Z8-11)
Salvia 'Love and Wishes' ornamental sagetender perennial (Z9-11)
Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' ornamental sageperennial (Z8-10)
Salvia texana Texas sageperennial
Scadoxus multiflorus African blood lily; powderpuff lilyperennial (Z8-11)
Senecio mandraliscae blue chalk stickstender perennial (Z9-11)
Senna splendida showy senna; golden wondershrub/tree (Z9-11)
Serissa japonica 'Kowloon' tree of a thousand stars; snow-roseshrub (Z8-11)
Sophora secundiflora Texas mountain laureltree (Z7b-10)
Tecoma stans 'Sparklette' esperanza; yellow bellsshrub (Z9-11)
Tecomaria capensis 'Sunset' cape honeysuckleshrub (Z8-11)
Thunbergia grandiflora blue sky vineperennial (Z8-11)
Tibouchina urvilleana princess flowertender perennial (Z8-12)
Viguiera stenoloba skeleton-leaf goldeneye; resinbushperennial
Vitex agnus-castus chaste treeshrub (Z6-10)
Zanthoxylum clava-herculis Hercules club; southern prickly ashtree (Z7b-9)
Zingiber zerumbet red pinecone ginger; shampoo gingerperennial (Z8-10)


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Last modified: April 24, 2021
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