Media Advisory: Sudden Temperature Drop’s Impact on Gardens


Editor: Two Ohio State University experts are available to discuss the potential impact of the anticipated sudden drop in temperatures forecast for tonight on home gardens. Denise Ellsworth, director of the Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education Program, can be reached at 330-495-1284 or Dan Herms, professor and department chair of entomology at Ohio State, can be reached at 330-202-3506 or

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Just when Ohioans finally experienced springtime warmth with temperatures in the 80s in some areas on Sunday, winter’s long reach is back in the headlines with cold temperatures and snow showers forecast Tuesday.

Experts with Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences can offer insight what to expect in the garden with the sudden drop in temperatures.

Early temperatures were forecast for a high of 70 degrees in central Ohio April 14 with temperatures forecast to drop to 34 degrees overnight, with snow showers forecast into Tuesday, April 15, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

Denise Ellsworth, director of the Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education Program at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and the college’s Department of Entomology, says there really isn’t much that can or should be done to plants to prepare.

“Early bulbs that are in bloom could be cut to enjoy inside, but they’re pretty tough,” she said. “Bulbs still in bud will often survive a cold snap with little or no effect. Daffodil flower stalks often bend over with snow, for example, but the flowers may continue blooming.”

Ellsworth said covering perennials or other plants starting to green isn’t really necessary.

“Cold temperatures may cause browning on tender tissue, but it’s anyone’s guess which plants will be affected,” she said. “Some early flower buds such as crabapple flowers have started to push out, but again, there is nothing that can be done to prevent possible damage.

“My philosophy is that every year Mother Nature plans a show with a different set and cast of characters. It’s best to enjoy watching the show unfold, instead of trying to change the next act.”

Another thing to consider is that many areas of the state have already seen landscape damage from the cold winter, such as roses killed or killed back severely, blackberries killed to the ground or completely, damaged flower buds on grapes or peaches and marginally hardy plants that died completely, Ellsworth said.

“Most gardeners haven’t even had a chance to assess what survived and didn’t from the winter,” she said.

Dan Herms, professor and department chair of entomology at Ohio State, said it is not unusual to get this kind of weather swing this time of year. In fact, the region experienced similar weather conditions this time in 2013 and 2011, said Herms, who also has an appointment with Ohio State University Extension. Herms is an expert on phenology, or how climate affects the seasonal progression of plant and animal life cycles. 

“Generally, it will have no impact, but some intolerant early flowers will get nipped -- for example, magnolias, but that happens almost every year,” Herms said. “Most will be just fine and are adapted to the freezing temps at this time of year.

“The frost fee date for this area is not until May 15, so we have some more cold days ahead. The biggest reminder is for folks not to jump the gun on spring.”

OSU Extension and OARDC are the college’s statewide outreach and research arm, respectively.

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Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Denise Ellsworth

Dan Herms