Protecting Garden Plants In Harsh Winter Climates

Protecting Garden Plants In Harsh Winter Climates

Posted by Tammy Sons on 25th Feb 2018

Winter comes with loads of threats from the weather, both within and outside of your house. Outside, you are probably looking at your garden and thinking just how much damage is going to happen to all those beautiful plants you have been growing.

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Gardening is akin to parenting and taking care of your garden plants has both the pleasures and the obligations that one associates with being a parent. Therefore, making sure your plants are safe for any weather condition should be a priority, and winter is the best time to secure your most sensitive and tender plants.

Here are some of the ways that you can ensure that your garden plants are safe from the harsh winter weather:


Mulching is one of the best ways to protect your garden plants. The most commonly used mulching materials are 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 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.

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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 shallow temperatures and dry soil can cause severe freeze damage to garden shrubs and trees.

Bring Your Potted Plants Indoors

One of the most natural 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, just bring them inside your house. You can as well move them to a sunroom 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.

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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 icy outside. Namely, freezing temperature can transfer from the window to the plants if they're touching.


Besides mulching with wood chips, pine 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 unusually 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 useful in protecting against frost rather than low temperatures, as the covering will not raise the temperature too much. It is advisable to take the cover off during the day to allow the plants to get light and air.


You should slowly water the soil around your garden plants before a freeze or a freezing 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 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 pine bark and wood chips.

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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 places. 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.

Additional Measures

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

Structures – Before 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.

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Plant windbreaks – A cold and windy garden requires typically windbreaks of new planting such as hedges. You can as well strategically place temporary woven hurdles, or any other similar materials on deeply embedded sturdy 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 tips above. Protecting your garden plants in winter can help prevent frozen roots, winter scald, foliar damage, and even plant death.