Some plants, such as tomatoes and begonias, die when subjected to freezing temperatures. Some plants, such as turnip greens and petunias, can manage a little frost but will die in extreme cold. Other plants, such as coneflowers and hydrangeas, will die back gradually in the fall and then reemerge in spring from the roots. Elms and maples go dormant, but do not die in winter.

The differences in the way various plants deal with freezing temperatures are rooted in their internal chemistry. If the cells of a plant freeze, the cell walls will burst, killing the plant. If the cells are not frozen, but are surrounded by ice, they can be severely dried. Plants which are evolved to survive winter do so by changing their chemistry to avoid freezing — a sort of natural antifreeze. They adjust their internal liquid content so that some or all of the plant does not freeze.

Newsletter signup for email alerts