Three Frozen Kings


When I was young, every spring, my mother would mention the Three Frozen Kings. All I knew is we had to wait for the three frozen kings to pass before we could plant anything. Who or what were the three frozen kings?

Czech legend reveals the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13, and Bonifac
on May 14) were frozen when the temperatures dropped while they were fishing at sea. On May 15,
St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings. This legend traveled
to Iowa with the immigrants who found the Iowa climate similar to their Czech homeland. To translate the story into Iowa’s Spring planting season, we basically need to wait to plant anything tender which could be damaged or killed by a frost or freeze until we have had three consecutive overnight lows below the freezing temperature mark.

As Master Gardeners, we are aware of Iowa’s average last frost date, which is typically May 15. Often times, it is safe to put tender plants outside and in the ground after Mother’s Day or May 15. This year, Iowa experienced three continuous nights of below freezing temps on April 20, 21, and 22 (overnight low temps of 27º, 25º, and 29º F respectively). By the time you read this, most of you will have all of your spring planting done, and safely so as to not have to worry about the Three Frozen Kings. Keep them in mind each year as part of your Spring gardening plans.