Several years ago the Houston Chronicle had a great article about plant survival in freezing temperatures.  Here in Houston we rarely have frigid temperatures and for sure not several days in a row. I love all the tropical plants that I’m able to grow in Spring and by using what they said I saved a number of plants over the years.  I also have a winter garden and sure don't want to lose my lettuce.

After reading the article I realized that I had not been going at this correctly. What you want to do is mulch, water and cover. If it has not rained you need to water first which I had to do last year but this year we have had rain. Water and mulch should be enough for certain plants. Those plants would be abelia, azalea, boxwood, eleagnus, Hawthorne, holly, ligustrum, loropetalum, mahonia, nandina, roses, wax myrtle and yaupon. After an extended freeze these shrubs will probably show foliage damage without cover but should put on new leaves in the spring.

We go the extra step covering plants with fiber row covers, sheets & blankets. This will raise the temperature a few degrees depending on the cover. For even extra protection we added a layer of heavy plastic over the cloth covers and secured it with bricks and stones. The article said not to place plastic directly on the plants (This is where I had been going astray). 

Do not wash frost or ice off the plants the morning after the freeze. If you wash the frost off it raises the temperature too fast and can damage the plant’s cell tissue. After the frigid temperatures are over  assess the damage but DO NOT prune. The freeze damaged wood will protect live wood farther down the branch (should we have more frigid temperatures).

In the spring prune to green at your normal pruning time. I have always heard mid February for pruning. When I first got in to real estate I was at a closing on Valentine's Day and learned that was the day to start pruning.  We have two seasons here in the Houston area summer and January (although sometimes January may extend in to February.)