How To Protect Your Plants This Winter
Nothing is worse than having to cut back winter kill come spring, or trim broken branches due to snow and ice from favored woody perennials. A little bit of foresight and planning will help you keep your plants protected from the worst of the winter weather, and give you a respite from extra pruning and spring garden clean-up.
Read on for some helpful winter preparation tips to ensure your plants make it through to warmer weather.
- Protecting Potted Plants in the Winter
- Insulate Your Palm Trees
- Overwinter Tropical Plants
- Hydrangea and Winter Protection
- Perennial Vines and How to Protect Them in the Cold
- Keeping Roses From Winter Damage
- Perennial Shrub and Young Trees in Winter
- How to Protect Half-Hardy Perennials in Winter
Protecting Potted Plants in the Winter
Plant stems and branches are developed to withstand some pretty harsh temperatures, but their roots are much more vulnerable, and if placed within a container, are exposed to winter temps not only from the surface of the soil, but from the sides as well. Obviously, the larger the pot, the more insulation you are providing to the main root system, but depending on the zone you live in you’ll want to provide a little bit of extra protection.
Insulate Your Palm Trees
New (within two years), or cold-sensitive palms (opposed to cold hardy palms), need to be protected against temperatures that near or drop below freezing. Extended periods of cold can begin to damage stem tissues and destroy foliage quickly, so it’s imperative that you overwinter your palms correctly to keep them from succumbing to the cold.
If you live in zones 8 or higher be prepared for a sudden frost or freeze as it is wont to do occasionally by having sheets or blankets you can warp around and drape over your plant. Generally these snaps don’t last very long, however the palm should not be left covered for more than four days at a time.
Keeping trees well watered and mulched (especially for smaller palms) can be extremely helpful, since unwatered palm stress easily and will not survive extended freezes well with the added stress.
Overwinter Tropical Plants
Tropical plants are wimps in cold weather, and all it takes is a temperature drop below 40 and you are going to have trouble. If you keep your tropicals outdoors, and you live in a zone that you know will drop below 40 degrees, then you need to keep a close eye on the temps in the spring when you first place them out, and again in the fall.
Tropical plants generally thrive under certain conditions, so don’t expect them to do as well indoors as they did out, unless you have a way to control climate– such as in a greenhouse. But this shouldn’t be of any concern since you shouldn’t expect growth or blooming through the winter anyway. If you can, tropicals ideally can be kept in a state of dormancy between 40 and 50 degrees in a darkened area until spring.
The easiest way to protect your hydrangea is to wrap a wire cage around the plant and fill it with mulch, or simply cover it with burlap or freeze cloth. If you are not worried about long lasting drops below 0 degrees, then you can consider simply mulching around the base of the plant, and wrapping the plant loosely in burlap.
Perennial Vines and How to Protect Them in the Cold
Most perennial vines are hardy enough to do quit well on their own through most climates, including the most severe. However, there are a few popular climbers that have grown in popularity through the last few years that are a bit more delicate in nature. No fear, these vines can be grown regardless with a few easy tips, although they will take a bit more winter prep.
Keeping Roses From Winter Damage
Roses have a variety of hardiness diversities, but one thing is similar between all of them: they love the sun and need at least 5 hours or more each day, they soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5, soils should have good drainage, and fertilization needs to occur regularly to ensure the blooms you love. These are also all factors to consider when prepping for the winter as they will keep the plant from becoming stressed and help get it through the coldest of the winter months in any climate.
Do not protect your plants until AFTER a few good hard freezes. This can be done in a few different ways: the easiest way is to hill, or mound, up loose dirt around the stem of the rose, and then cover with mulch and pine boughs.
For climbers, create a burlap covering over the canes and attached to the structure it is growing upon, although it is prudent to note that most climbers are very hardy and really don’t need any protection. Tree roses can be protected in much the same way. You may want to consider staking the tree as well to keep any root heave from occurring if the ‘canopy’ becomes heavy with snow.
Established woody perennials can be left to their own defenses unless you have any serious winter concerns.
These concerns can show up as winter damage in a variety of ways, especially in harsh winter climates. Sever temps below zero can begin to cause damage to younger shoots and branches, and if sunny days occur in conjunction with a cold snap, sunscald (where tree sap activity is triggered by sun warmth) can also cause tissue damage in both branches and trunk cambium.
If any of the above are a concern, gathering together your plant branches and wrapping with burlap, providing a healthy layer of mulch around the base of the plant, or frost clothes can provide all the protection you need to get through the worst of the weather each winter.
In colder zones adding a good layer of mulch over your plants is a good way to keep living crowns from alternating between freezing and thawing come spring when temperatures are more apt to fluctuate.
Exceptions to perennial hardiness are half-hardy varieties; these are perennials that can survive killing frosts, and with care can generally survive into zones 7, and occasionally 6 with the correct attention. Plenty of mulch and the use of a cloche, or similar structure for larger plants, will generally provide enough protection to keep the roots from being damaged through the winter.
Do Indoor Plants Need Winter Care?
With reduced daylight, drier air conditions, and cooler temperatures, winter is the perfect time to allow your houseplants a chance to rest and rejuvenate.
Water more sparingly, checking moisture depths at two inches every week or so, and allow water to drain before dumping excess.
Avoid fertilization unless necessary, and then dilute it by 50% before use. Fertilization is used for growth, which is not needed if you are allowing your plant to rest. Repotting should also wait until spring as well.
You will also want to keep your plants away from any cold drafts near windows and doors. And since humidity drops in the colder months, if your plants are in need of more humid conditions, consider using a humidifier, or placing your plant over a gravel filled saucer topped with water.
Recap for Winter
For the most part many plants can do just fine through the winter without much, if any preparation or extra care. In the case of delicate vegetation, simple mulching and soil mounding can protect the bulk of your plant, and cloches or other structures can be used through the coldest months.
Burlap and bubble wrap are good to have on hand as well for both pots and certain plants, as well as for a little extra protection.
I hope this was a helpful article and if you have any further suggestions, or questions, please comment below! And as always, share with your friends!