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how to protect garden plants from harsh winter weather

Posted by Tammy Sons on Nov 28th 2016

Tips On Protecting Garden Plants In Winter Indoors and Out

Mulching is one of the best ways to protect your garden plants. The most commonly used mulching materials are pine straw, peat moss, sawdust, leaves, and wood chips. You're advised to remove the weeds before applying the mulch.

According to experts, the mulch should be around 2-inch deep and kept about an inch or two away from your plant's main stem. It is also worth noting that some plants, such as cane berries and roses, require that the mulching material is actually mounted over the canes. After the winter season is over and your plants are out of the danger of frost, you can pull off the mulching materials.

From time to time, check through the mulching material to ensure that moisture is getting to the soil beneath. This is especially crucial for the plants that are found under the house attics or under tall evergreens where there is a high chance of the plants drying out. It's worth noting that combination of very low temperatures and dry soil can cause severe freeze damage to garden shrubs and trees.

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Bring Your Potted Plants Indoors

One of the easiest solutions when it comes to protecting garden plants from harsh winter conditions is to remove the plants from the low temperatures. Namely, if you have any potted plant's outdoors, simply bring them inside your house. You can as well move them to a sun room or the garage, as this will still raise the temperature by at least 10 °F.

If at all possible, the best solution is to place your potted plants around the inside of your house as decoration. They will get the necessary heat without cluttering your extra space. Here's how to go about it:

  • Place your plants near windows depending on their sun requirements. That is, while east and west-facing windows get the highest amount of light, north and south windows get a little less.
  • Do not put your potted plants near vents. This can dry them out, causing them to start drying off.
  • Placing your plants too close to a window can be detrimental if it's extremely cold outside. Namely, freezing temperature can transfer from the window to the plants if they're touching.


Besides mulching with wood chips, pink bark, straw, and other materials, you can as well throw an old blanket, tarp, or drop cloth over your tender plants. If you want to safeguard your plants from a few especially cold nights, a simple shelter like an old blanket could be sufficient.

After choosing your covering, you need to carefully spread it out such that it's not touching any of your plant's leaves or branches. Consider using a few stakes to prop it up, lest it damages your plant. This technique is effective in protecting against frost rather than low temperatures, as the covering will not raise the temperature too much. It is advisable to take the covering off during the day to allow the plants to get light and air.

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You should heavily water the soil around your garden plants prior to a freeze or a very cold night. The soil traps the heat better when it's wet compared to when it's dry. The water evaporates slowly, which warms the air around the plants.

However, you're advised against doing this if you anticipate a hard freeze, since it may backfire. Likewise, avoid watering soil that is frozen – it will not help and can actually worsen the conditions for your plants. Heavily watering the soil around the succulents is also not recommended, as the plants can't stand the moisture levels. You can just stick to mulching with pink bark and wood chips.

Plant in a Sheltered Space

The garden is a microclimate in itself, with warm spots at the base of a south-facing wall and cold spots on the northern side of the house. As such, you need to choose your plants carefully for each of these spots. Site early- flowering plants like magnolias so that they aren't exposed to the morning sun since rapid thawing of frozen buds could lead to blackening, and bud drop.

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Additional Measures

In addition to the aforementioned tips, here are other measures you can take to safeguard your plants in winter:

  • Structures – Prior to the onset of winter, check all your garden structures, and fix loose panels, fences, posts, and roofs. Likewise, replace solid fences with ones that are at least 50% wind permeable to avoid turbulence, shaking, and gusting.
  • Plant windbreaks – A cold and windy garden normally requires windbreaks of extra planting such as hedges. You can as well strategically place temporary woven hurdles, or any other similar materials on deeply embedded strong posts to help in the short-term.
  • Drainage – Address drainage issues promptly, since wet soils can make your young or shallow rooted plants more likely to uproot in the wind.

Final Thoughts

During cold seasons, plants are vulnerable to low temperatures, frost, excessive rain, and biting winds. While losing a few plants is inevitable owing to the harsh winter conditions, you can minimize the risk by implementing the aforementioned tips. Protecting your garden plants in winter can help prevent frozen roots, winter scald, foliar damage, and even plant death.