How to Protect Garden Plants In Winter

November 8, 2023


“Protecting garden plants from winter temperatures is crucial to make sure plants survive during the cold season”, states Tammy Sons of TN Nursery. Winter can be harsh on plants, as freezing temperatures, frost, and snow can damage or even kill them. With adequate planning and attentive management, it is possible to achieve the desired outcome. Here are some ways to help your garden plants withstand the winter chill. This article discusses Methods and strategies to protect your garden plants from winter temperatures.

Choose Cold-Hardy Plants:

One of the easiest ways to protect your garden plants from winter temperatures is to select cold-hardy plants that suit your climate. Cold-hardy plants are adapted to withstand freezing temperatures and harsh winter conditions. When planning your garden, research which plants are hardy and native to your particular zone and can thrive in your specific climate zone. Choosing the right plants is a proactive step in winter plant protection.

A plant growing in a plastic dome

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Mulching is an effective way to insulate the soil and protect the roots of your garden plants from extreme cold. Apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plants, covering the root zone. Mulch is critical for various materials, such as straw, wood chips, leaves, or compost. A thick layer of mulch (usually 2-4 inches) helps maintain a more stable soil temperature and prevents the soil from freezing and thawing repeatedly, which can damage plant roots.

Wrap Vulnerable Plants:

Consider wrapping them with protective materials for more tender or less cold-hardy plants. Use burlap, frost blankets, or specialized plant covers to create a barrier around your plants. Cover the entire portion of the plant, including the leaves and branches, for maximum insulation. Wrapping can help shield plants from freezing winds and temperature fluctuations.

Build Windbreaks:

Strong winter winds can exacerbate cold damage to your garden plants. Constructing windbreaks can help reduce the impact of wind on your garden. Windbreaks can be made from various materials, including wooden fences, burlap screens, or natural barriers like shrubs and trees. Position the windbreak on the windward side of your garden to block the cold air and wind, creating a more sheltered microclimate for your fragile perennials and other type plants.


Proper watering is essential for winter plant protection. While watering in cold weather is counterintuitive, it can help insulate plant roots. Water the soil thoroughly before the ground freezes. Moist and humid soil retain heat better than dry soil, so it can help protect the sources from extreme cold. However, be cautious not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot in some plants.

Provide Shade:

Surprisingly, providing some shade during winter can protect your plants from temperature extremes. When temperatures fluctuate rapidly between day and night, it can cause stress to the plants. You can use shade cloth or create temporary shade structures to shield your plants from direct sunlight during the day. This can help prevent temperature swings and reduce the risk of frost damage.

Use Heat Sources:

You can employ heat sources for susceptible plants to raise the temperature around them slightly. Some options include:

    • Electric heaters or heat lamps: These can be placed strategically to provide gentle warmth to specific areas of your garden.
    • Heat cables or mats: These can be buried in the soil or laid on the ground to provide consistent, low-level heat to the root zone.
    • Thermal blankets: Covering your plants with thermal blankets or row covers can trap heat and create a warmer environment around them.

Be cautious when using heat sources, as they can be a fire hazard and should be monitored carefully.

Prune and Remove Dead Growth:

Before winter sets in, take the time to prune and remove any dead or diseased branches from your plants. This promotes overall plant health, reduces the risk of disease, and prevents weak or damaged branches from dam under the weight of snow or ice. Pruning also helps improve air circulation, preventing fungal issues during winter.

Container Plants:

If you have container plants that can't be moved indoors, consider relocating them to a sheltered spot, such as a garage or a covered porch. This provides some protection from freezing temperatures and reduces exposure to cold winds. You can also place insulating materials like bubble wrap or straw around the containers to further insulate the plant roots.

Monitor and Adjust:

Throughout the winter months, monitor the condition of your garden plants regularly. Be prepared to make adjustments to your protective measures as needed. If you experience extreme cold spells or heavy snowfall, check on your plants to ensure they are adequately protected. You may need to add more mulch, adjust the covers, or provide additional insulation to prevent damage.

Consider Planting in Raised Beds:

Planting plants in raised beds can help improve drainage and reduce the risk of waterlogged soil, which is particularly damaging during winter. Elevated beds also tend to warm up faster in the spring, allowing you to plant earlier. However, remember that raised beds can freeze more quickly in winter, so it's essential to apply extra mulch and insulation to protect your plants.

Snow Management:

While snow can provide insulation to some extent, heavy snowfall can cause risk to your garden. The weight of snow can break branches and even uproot smaller plants. Use a broom or a gentle shake to remove excess snow from the components of your shrubs and trees, mainly if they are still young or flexible.


Avoid fertilizing your plants in late fall or early winter. Fertilization can stimulate new growth, which is more susceptible to cold damage. Instead, focus on fertilizing in the spring when plants are actively growing and better able to use nutrients.

Protect Potted Plants:

Potted plants are the most vulnerable to freezing temperatures because their roots are exposed to the cold. To protect them, consider placing the pots together in a sheltered location, like against a wall. You can also wrap the pots with insulation, such as bubble wrap or blankets, to provide an extra layer of protection.

Plant Selection and Placement:

When planning your garden, think about the placement of your plants in relation to their cold tolerance. Place more cold-sensitive plants in areas that receive some natural protection from structures, walls, or other plants. This can create slightly warmer microclimates and shield them from harsh winter conditions.

Prune Evergreens Carefully:

Evergreen shrubs and trees can be susceptible to winter damage, especially if they have a lot of foliage that can catch snow and ice. Prune evergreens with a light touch, avoiding drastic cuts that can weaken the plant. Removing some of the lower branches can help prevent snow accumulation.

Avoid Salt Damage:

Be cautious about salt runoff if you use de-icing salts on driveways or walkways near your garden. Salt can harm plants by interfering with water uptake and causing soil salinity. Try to keep salt away from your garden, and consider using alternative de-icing methods, such as sand or calcium chloride, which are less harmful to plants.

Monitor for Pests:

Some pests, such as deer and rodents, may become more active in search of food during winter. Protect your garden from these pests by using appropriate fencing or repellents. Check for signs of pest damage regularly and take action to deter them.

Be Patient in Spring:

Once winter has passed and temperatures begin to rise, resist the urge to rush into spring and think your plants have died; it takes Mother Nature a few weeks to start green them out again.


Urban Splatter

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