Placing Plants in the Refrigerator: What You Should Know


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Although there are some plants that can tolerate low temperatures, keeping a plant inside a refrigerator can do more harm than good.

Placing a plant in a refrigerator will subject it to abnormally low temperatures which can range below 40° Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 65%. These conditions coupled with low light cause the plant to go into a state of irreparable shock. The water in the plant and soil will also freeze which eventually kills the plant.

Keeping plants in the refrigerator can seem like an easy way of keeping them fresh for longer periods but there are some things you should consider before attempting such a feat. 

In this article, I have outlined everything you need to know when it comes to keeping plants in the fridge and what to look out for if you choose to do so.

Can Plants Stay Alive longer in a Refrigerator?

Plants inside refrigerator

Keeping plants in the refrigerator will eventually kill them. This is because plants in nature, undergo physiological changes to prepare them for long cold winter weather, and just placing one into a fridge will introduce cold conditions quickly without the plant having time to adjust or adapt.

Firstly for a plant to be placed in the refrigerator it has to be potted which means that the plant itself is small. 

The Lower temperatures in a refrigerator retards both bacterial metabolism and ripening processes inside fruits and vegetables that make sugars available and speed spoilage.

This is because all the processes within the cells of fruits & vegetables and the microbes that would spoil them (cause them to rot and take on unpleasant or dangerous qualities) are biochemical processes. 

Additionally, every one of these processes slows down tremendously as cell temperature approaches water’s freezing point.

The majority of volume in a plant cell is water; it typically comprises 80 to 90 percent of the plant’s total weight. [Source]

When it comes to plants they too have cells, the only difference is that they are alive. What this means is that the very low temperature will also retard cell activity, bringing it down to a point where the plant can’t go on any longer.

The crippling temperatures are also coupled with other factors which the plant will be subjected to inside the fridge which we will discuss later on.

How Much Coldness Can plants Tolerate?

Freeze ConditionTemperatureEffect on Plants
Light freeze39° to 32° FahrenheitWill kill tender plants. 
Moderate freeze 25° to 28° Fahrenheit Destructive to most vegetation. 
Severe or hard freeze<25° Fahrenheit Causes heavy damage to most plants.

Normally refrigerator temperature can be somewhere around 40° Fahrenheit, This is relative, and depending on where the plant is placed inside the fridge the temperature it is subjected to will be much lower.

At a temperature of 40° Fahrenheit, the plant will tend to survive, but for a period of time before other environmental factors set in such as 

  • Light
  • Humidity
  • Temperature

A plant that is placed directly in the pathway of the vent, which blows cold air into the fridge compartment, can be subjected to cold enough temperatures that can definitely send it into shock.

These temperatures can be as low as 25° to 28° Fahrenheit, which can mimic a moderate freeze.

This freeze will tend to freeze the water molecules within the leaves and stems. If this happens and you remove the plant from the fridge when it finally thaws it will become limp and its chances of survival will be slim.

How Long Can a Plant Survive in a Fridge?

The length of time a plant can survive inside a fridge will be dependent on the intensity of the environmental factors it is subjected to.

Generally what we have found is that a plant will survive two days in a fridge before it starts showing signs of dehydration phototropism.

Light

The length of time a plant can survive without light can be between 4 to 20 days depending on the amount of light the plant is normally subjected to. 

Low-light plants can go from 12 to 20 days, whereas light-loving plants can merely last between 4 to 10 days before they die. Without light plants will die from chlorosis.

The only light a plant will be subjected to the inside of a refrigerator is the door light which comes on when the door is open and whatever light that enters. When the door is closed there is absolutely no light at all.

A lack of light also propels the plant to a state of dormancy. Instead of exerting energy in an attempt to grow, they know to stop growing and conserve energy until growing conditions are returned to normal.

See our detailed post on how long can a plant survive without light.

Humidity

Humidity is actually a measurement of how much moisture is in the atmosphere compared to how much moisture there could possibly be at that temperature.

Additionally, humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air, and 50% humidity at 35° F is actually a lot less moisture than 50% humidity at 70° F.

Refrigerators provide cold and dry conditions (32-40 degrees Fahrenheit and 65 percent relative humidity)

The relative humidity inside a refrigerator can fluctuate depending on the contents and the amount of time the door is opened and closed.

Regardless of these factors, the humidity inside a fridge is generally too low for a plant to retain moisture for an extended period of time.

Transpiration is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation from aerial parts, such as leaves, stems, and flowers, and with very low humidity the plant will tend to lose a great deal of moisture, quickly.

This dehydration can cause the plant to go into a state of shock and wilt without a chance of revival.

Transpiration

Temperature

The FDA (Food and Drug Association) suggests that the temperature inside of a refrigerator is set at 40° Fahrenheit.

However, this temperature can be set to be regulated at temperatures much higher or lower than the suggested 40°.

As previously stated, temperatures below 25° Fahrenheit can be destructive to most vegetation and the plant will not be able to survive for long.

The Geniani portable humidifier from amazon provides the ideal environmental humidity for healthy plant growth. You can find it by clicking here.

geniani portable humidifier

Keeping Roses in the Fridge

Roses can be kept in the fridge for longevity, as the cold temperature slows down the activity of bacteria. Additionally, the biological activity within the flower slows with lower temperatures which send it into a state of dormancy.

Usually plucked out fresh petals will retain freshness for up to 3 days but if kept in a refrigerator it can last much longer. (up to a week)

To keep roses in the fridge:

  1. Place the rose or roses in a vase with water, covering at least 3 inches of the stem.
  2. Ensure that the temperature control is set to 40° Fahrenheit.
  3. Remove fruits from the fridge. (fruits release ethylene gas which accelerates ripening)
  4. Roses should be removed after twelve hours.  

The Rose can be left for longer periods, but you should keep a keen eye on its health and remove it if it starts to deteriorate.

Can you Put Plants in the Freezer?

Different plants freeze and die at different temperatures and can adapt to changing seasons to ensure they survive cold, harsh winters.

Plants are rated by their hardiness. 

The hardiness of plants describes their ability to survive adverse growing conditions. Thus a plant’s ability to tolerate cold, heat, drought, flooding, or wind are typically considered measurements of hardiness and are a function of their environment. [Source]

Putting a plant in a refrigerator will kill it after some time. Different plants will survive longer than others depending on the species and maturity.

The temperature inside a freezer is usually 0° Celcius. This is the freezing point of water and all water molecules will quickly freeze. Since plants are comprised of 80 to 90 % water they will quickly freeze to death long after other factors such as lack of light and moisture kick in.

Placing Plants on Top a Refrigerator

Plant on top of refrigerator

A plant can be a great place to place a plant. Vines plants will have enough height for the vines to hang freely without touching the floor.

Smaller plants such as succulents, air plants, aloe vera, and Chinese money plants can have enough space without touching the ceiling while staying safe from animals such as dogs and cats.

Larger ones are not suited for the top of a refrigerator because they might touch the ceiling which may stunt their growth. 

Additionally, larger plants in large pots can pose a safety risk because they stand the risk of being toppled over and causing damage to floors and lower furniture as well as personnel.

See the 7 safe places to keep plants at home.

The Takeaway

Putting a plant in a refrigerator will cause a plant to eventually die. Low temperatures, low humidity, and minimal lighting significantly reduce a plant’s chances for survival even if the plant is adapted to cold conditions.

The average refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit and provides cold and dry conditions with 65 percent relative humidity.

These conditions will cause any living plants to go into a state of shock shortly after placing them inside a fridge.

After removal, the frozen parts will thaw and will become soft and limp often leading to the death of that part of the plant.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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