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Protecting Plants During The Winter – 9 (Easy) Steps

Aren’t you just sick and tired of seeing your valuable plants completely destroyed in the winter?

But the great news is there are some simple steps for protecting your plants in the winter.

In this post I am going to show you these steps. And the best thing?

They cost next to nothing.

Not only is winter by far the coldest season of the year, but the freezing weather is often accompanied by heavy snow and frosty winds.

Plants are usually badly exposed to these harsh elements and very few are able to safely endure the winter period. Protecting plants in the winter can be a real struggle.

The truth is:

Plants struggle to make it through winter due to several reasons.

  • To begin with, soil freezes and becomes more compact during winter. This makes it difficult for roots to access nutrients and develop.
  • The cold winter winds also strip moisture from plant leaves causing them to dry up.
  • In regions that get snow, the added weight of snow on leaves and branches can cause some parts to break off, and in extreme cases bring down entire trees.

But you’re in luck:

Plants can be protected against the harsh winter weather using some of the methods listed below.

So let’s dive in…

Above – If you don’t have time to read all of this post the video above gives you three quick ways to protect your plants from cold weather.

Protect Plants During The Winter – The 9 Steps

#1 – Place Potted Plants Indoors

Potted plants are more likely to be affected by the cold winter temperatures compared to those planted directly on the ground.

This is because their roots become exposed to freezing temperature from both the pot and the surface of the soil.

And another thing:

Most potted plants are usually ornamental species native to the warmer tropical climates. They therefore lack the adaptations necessary for them to survive cold winters.

Plants need sunlight to grow and you’ll have to take this into account when choosing a suitable spot to place them inside the house.

What it means is this:

Positioning potted plants near windows will ensure that they receive adequate sunlight throughout the day.

You should however avoid placing the plants near air vents as the cold air circulating through these vents can rob the plants of moisture.

#2 – Cover Outdoor Pots

You can also protect the roots of potted plants during winter by insulating the pots.

I know people often ask can you use bubble wrap to protect plants from frost? The answer is a big yes – bubble wrap is a perfect material for this exercise.

It couldn’t be easier:

Simply wrap the container from the bottom to the top and then tie the bubble wrap to the plant’s stem to cover the open part of the pot.

Doing this will not only insulate the pot but also protect the soil from the winter elements.

#3 – Mulching

Covering the ground surface around a plant with a thick layer of mulch will insulate the ground below and help in maintaining a stable soil temperature.

As the organic material in the mulch undergoes decomposition, heat is produced and this will also provide the roots with extra warmth.

Here’s the secret:

By spreading a layer of mulch to a thickness of about 4 to 6 inches, you will not only protect the roots from suffocation due to fluctuating temperatures but also enrich the soil with nutrients.

You can use pine straw, shredded leaves or wood shavings as mulching material. You can also check out my reviews of the best leaf mulchers and yourself your very own mulcher.

#4- Cover Plants

A cover can be placed over plants that are less than 5 feet tall to protect them from frost, snow and dry winter wind.

You can use a polythene sheet or fabric covers such as blankets or quilts. The basic idea behind this method is to create a cushion of air between the plant and the protective cover.

Most importantly:

This method can only be effective when there is no contact between the cover and the plant.

You will have to erect a supporting cane next to the plant to act as a prop for the cover. This cane has to be slightly taller than the plant to provide sufficient room at the top.

Then:

You can drape the cover over the plant and secure it to the ground using concrete bricks or rocks.

Most fabric covers will block sunlight from reaching the plant. Such covers should therefore be taken off periodically when the weather improves for the plant to access sunlight before being placed back again.

#5 – Knock Off Snow From Tree Branches

Accumulating snow on tree branches puts plenty of extra weight on branches and leaves. This can cause them to sag or even break off.

Here’s the deal:

Young trees, hedges and shrubs are the most vulnerable to injuries arising from heavy snow. You can prevent such damage by using a broom or a long pole to knock off snow from the branches and leaves of such plants before the snow freezes.

Ensure that you do this as gently as possible to ensure that you don’t inadvertently injure the plant in the process.

#6 – Use Anti-Transpirant Spray

Of all the winter plant protection products anti-transpirant spray is my favourite. The leaves of evergreen plants and shrubs can be sprayed with anti-transpirant to prevent them from drying out during winter.

And the best part?

Anti-transpirant can be purchased at any gardening supplies store. A single round of spraying will protect the leaves from drying and frost damage for up to 3 months.

It is advisable to spray your plants before winter begins.

#7 – Build A Temporary Shelter

You can construct a frame to cover small outdoor plants such as flowers and other perennials.

The frame should be able to protect the plants against snow and dry winds without blocking out sunlight.

The great thing is it is a piece of cake:

A simple frame can be constructed by erecting four wooden poles around the plants and placing a transparent sheet of polythene over the poles all the way to the ground.

The polythene sheet can be secured at the bottom with concrete blocks or heavy rocks. You can leave a small gap at one edge of the frame for ventilation.

#8 – Avoid Stepping On Lawn Grass During Winter

Grass cannot be covered or moved to a different location during adverse weather conditions.

Most species of grass will become dormant during the winter months before going through a new growth phase when the weather gets warmer.

In short:

Walking on grass when the ground is frozen will harm the plants even though they might be dormant.

Frozen grass leaves will easily break off when pressure is applied to them. Furthermore, stepping on frozen soil can also lead to further compaction of the soil, causing more problems for the roots below.

This part is easy:

Create a single path for walking across the lawn during winter to avoid disturbing the whole lawn area.

#9 – Water The Soil

Watering the soil during winter might sound like a bad idea but it actually helps. Moist soil retains heat more effectively compared to dry soil.

But remember this:

You should never water the plant when the soil is already frozen as this will cause the soil to harden further and choke the roots.

So there you go it really is that simple to protect your plans during the colder winter months. But if you can think of anything I have left off please let me know.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Want to learn more about making the most of your home and your garden in winter? You can find further information here:

About The Author

Steve Mann

Steve is a one time gardening hater turned into gardening obsessive. This was all thanks to going to University where a two year stint spent transforming the previously horrific garden of the student house he lived in left him addicted to all things horticultural! Now with a new house in tow and due to some fortunate circumstances he is free to test out a whole host of gardening equipment. Find out more about Steve or drop him an email at steve@suaveyards.com.

9 Comments

  1. Bianca

    Great tips, thanks! I never thought about watering plants during winter, didn’t know that could help them. And I have never heard about that anti-transpirant spray before. I wonder if that’s a chemical spray or whether it can be used in a ecological garden too. Could you give me any advice on that?

    Reply
    • Steve Mann

      Thank you Bianca! Anti-transpirant spray is still somewhat of an unknown in the gardening community, but it really is great! The anti-transpirant spray i use is made from pine resin, so I presume you could use it in an ecological garden. It really does work wonders!

      Reply
  2. Holly

    These are awesome tips! This is an area I really need to pay more attention to in order to make sure my plants are well taken care of. I’ve never thought about mulching before winter before, but that makes a lot of sense. I do try to knock off snow and ice from my bushes when I can, but now I know that I need to be even more diligent about that.

    Reply
    • Steve Mann

      Thanks Holly, glad you found this useful. Mulching can make a huge difference to your yard and your plants, many people don’t realise how beneficial it can be.

      Let’s hope this winter isn’t too harsh!

      Steve

      Reply
  3. Shy

    I hate when my plants die during the winter months.  This is a very timely post as winter is just around the corner and it would be great time to start thinking about protecting your plants before the winter weather hits.  I didn’t realize that mulching could help keep the soil warmer for our plants and covering them up is a good idea to keep the snow and ice away from them.  I have never heard of Anti-Transpirant spray before today, so I did learn something new today, thank you.  It is great that it lasts for up to 3 months so you do not have worry about spraying it all the time.

    Reply
    • Steve Mann

      Hey Shy,

      Glad you found this post useful – you are right (unfortunately) winter will be here very soon (in fact I am beginning to think it is here already!). 

      Anti-Transpirant spray is a fantastic thing and mulching has a huge number of benefits – I’d recommend you get into it if you can!

      Any questions please just shout.

      Reply
  4. Adrian

    Hey Steve!  Great insight thank you! Quick question, does the anti-transparent spray have any harmful chemicals?  We have outdoor cats and I am just wondering if there’s anything that we need to be concerned about?

    The stepping on grass part really shocked me to be honest, Id never though that we could be doing harm in that way, great to know!

    Reply
  5. Stella

    Hi Steve, 

    It’s amazing how plants can thrive with a bit of care and attention.  I don’t do gardening but I do have n Aloe Vera plant in my kitchen and a fern in the living room.  The aloe plant is hardier and needs less water.  However I did not know that the cold temperature of the plant pot could harm the plant.

    The fern on the other hand loves being watered.  Besides doing this, I prefer to spray its leaves and have just re-potted the it. My fern feels more at home now and can spread its roots further…

    Plants are very adaptable to the weather, but some are more so than other I’ve learnt.

    Thanks for sharing this article.  I really enjoyed reading it!

    All the best,

    Stella

    Reply
    • Steve Mann

      Thanks Stella!

      Plants are amazing things really and a bit like humans – each one has its own individual traits!

      Sounds like you have the care of your Aloe Vera and Ferns well in hand, but if I can help with anything else please just shout.

      Reply

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About Me

SteveHi, my name is Steve and I am the founder and editor of Suave Yards.

Once upon a time I was a complete gardening newbie, but over the last few years I have learnt a lot about yard care – all stemming from taking over a mess of a garden when I started at university!

My team and I have put together a comprehensive series of reviews and guides to help you create the perfect garden.

So please take a look around!