In southern states winter occurs in January and February and is unpredictable with its varying temperatures, winds and wintry mix of rain, sleet, ice and snow. Some winters there is no snow or ice. Those are the months we love.
Getting a cold spell is to be welcomed not only by southern residents but many plants as well. The many varieties of spring blooming bulbs need the ground to cool for proper blooming. Shrubs like the Camellia need the cold air to form buds and begin to bloom. Even winter planted gardens need the cold to produce vegetable plants like Kale. Seeds of Kale and other leafy vegetable plants are sown late in August and early September which gives the seed time to sprout before the first freeze.
Trees like the dogwood need some cold weather to ripen the berries and keep the buds nice and tight until spring bloom time. Fruit producing trees also need some cold weather.
It is the unexpected frigid weather front bringing freezing rain, icy roadways and temperatures below freezing into the southern states that cause problems for plants and people. Pipes freeze and burst, heat pumps never cycle, our spring blooming plants suffer bud burn which means spring will not be as colorful in those years.
In the south, plants like the Azalea will put out a flower or two if we do not get any below freezing temps during the late fall and early winter. A late freeze causes browning of buds and flowers even on the hardiest traditional Dogwood tree.