Confused Plants Could Suffer Damage If Weather Changes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohioans may be enjoying the petunias and roses blooming unseasonably in December, but horticulturists are concerned about damage to plants if the weather suddenly turns wintry.

Tim Rhodus, an Ohio State University horticulture professor, said blossoms in December are a sure sign of plants in confusion.

"Plants are responding to the weather," he said on Monday. "They will respond to winter when it comes around as well. Whether there's any permanent damage will vary according to the plants."

Ohio State extension agent Jane Martin said plants gradually tune up for winter.

"In a typical fall, we'd have temperatures cooling and plants acclimating for cold weather, so they harden and survive the winter OK," she said. "We just haven't had that."

A cold December last year damaged a number of plants even with a reasonably cool November, Martin said.

"It's a little worrisome this year," she said. But damage can be averted "if we cool down slowly through December before we get really cold temperatures in January, February."

But if there's a blast of single-digit temperatures this month, "We're probably in trouble," she said.

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