Why do some plants die from a winter freeze and others do not?  I have grown gardens for many years and have never really wondered why this is so.  So, I thought I would check and  find the reason.

It’s Not Frost That Kills, It’s Freeze

What kills the plants is not frost specifically, but is the internal temperature of plant tissue – once it freezes, the plant dies.  Have you ever put a bottle of soda in the freezer to cool it down quickly, and then forgot about it, until you heard a loud crash in the freezer several hours later?  The loud crash is the glass breaking because the liquid inside the bottle expanded as it cooled.  This is essentially what happens to the cells in a plant when it gets cold.

Frost-Tolerant Plants

Deciduous trees, bushes, and vines go dormant in the winter by losing their soft tissue (leaves), and waiting until spring before producing them again.

Root crops (beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips, daikon, rutabagas) store all of the energy from their leaves into their roots as it gets cooler, and the ground gives them protection against the freezes.

Cole crops (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustards, turnips, watercress) can often survive temperatures below 20F.  That means those of us in temperate climates can generally grow them throughout the winter (they don’t grow a whole lot in the winter, but they don’t die and you can continue to pick fresh crop), where others can often grow them with a row cover for protection.  These biennial plants are made to last through the winter, so that they can bloom and produce seed in the spring.

Alliums (leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, chives) can survive very low temperatures (-30F).  These perennials are generally planted 2-3 weeks before first frost, and rely on the spring warmth to start putting their energy into bulbs.  Garlic in particular can benefit from a layer of mulch over the winter, to keep them protected through cooler temperatures.

Plants that thrive in warm climates have different cell structure than those in cold climates.  Plants that live through the winter produce a chemical in their cells that acts just like the anti-freeze we put in our automobile radiators.  Plants that are not frost-tolerant do not have this anti-freeze, so when they are exposed to  freezing temperature the cells burst and the plant dies.

Now I know why my onions, swiss chard, and mustard greens are able to grow during the  cold and freezing winter months.

This has been an unusually cold winter and my onions and greens are thriving…a little slow without the sun.  But when we have sunny days I see a sudden growth spurt.  We are eating some of  the green onions and am anxious for the sun to begin producing larger bulbs.  The swiss chard and mustard greens will also be ready to harvest before long.

So, as I now understand it, it depends on the strength of the cell structure in each type of plant.  This may not be interesting to you, but I have discovered over the years that we can learn something by observing plant and animal life.


Why should I be surprised at any of God’s creation.  Just as God created the plant cells for different climates and purposes, he also created all  animal life for their purpose.  God  created the  human body with a void that can only be filled by Him.  The cells of  animal and plant life gave each inner protection from  the outer elements.  We get our protection from the evil forces around us by the void within us that God created for His Spirit.  It is  this  inner strength that allows us, by faith, to deflect the darts thrown at us by Satan.  God promised that He would use all  things for  good for those who love Him.  With  all the problems of this world we can continue to have that inner peace because of The Spirit that lives within us.

Have a great day and be blessed!




  1. Saga Medical Insurance Says:

    Very soon this site will be famous among all blogging users,
    due to it’s pleasant articles or reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: