Winter Protection


plant bubble

During colder months, plants are vulnerable to frost, low temperatures, chilling winds, and heavy rain. Losing a few plants is inevitable in a very hard winter, but you can reduce the risk with these protective measures.

Tender Plants

A sudden cold snap will take its toll on tender plants, so don't be caught unaware. Wrap up plants well in advance, and prepare them for the worst weather to help them get through the winter unscathed.

While tender bulbs and tubers are best lifted from the ground, vulnerable shrubs, climbers, and other plants can be protected from the elements in situ with burlap, horticultural fabric, and straw. Wrap plants in late fall or before the first frost. Protect branches of shrubs, such as Cestrum, fuchsia, and Clerodendrum, with a sheet of horticultural fabric held in place with twine. Encase the lower stems of tender climbers with dry straw wrapped with burlap.

Sensitive architectural plants need extra care. Place straw in the crown of tree ferns and palms, then gather up the fronds, and wrap in fabric. To protect bananas, cut off the leaves, and encircle the trunks with chicken wire. Stuff this with straw, and cover it all with plastic sheeting to keep out the rain—loosen the covers during milder weather to allow air to circulate.

Plants in containers

Plants in pots are particularly vulnerable to cold weather, and a sudden cold snap or a prolonged period of icy weather can cause damage to roots or tender shoots. Move plants to a cool sunroom, porch, or frost-free greenhouse if possible; dormant plants that don't need light, such as fuchsias, can also be moved into garages and sheds. If you don't have space or the pots are too heavy to move, take other precautions.

Keep the roots protected from frost by wrapping the container with bubble plastic, burlap, or fabric, and tie it securely in place with garden twine. Alternatively, push pots up against the wall of the house, where it is slightly warmer, and pack them together tightly so they help to insulate each other. Protective material can then be wrapped around the whole group. Sheets of fabric can also be wrapped around the tops of plants to protect foliage, buds, or early flowers, particularly on fruit trees.

Excessive moisture caused by winter rain can also cause problems for container-grown plants. Wet compost or puddles at the base of pots can starve roots of oxygen and they may then rot, causing the plant to die. Reduce problems by moving pots into sheltered spot or under an overhang, and raise containers off the ground on pot feet to allow excess moisture to drain and air to circulate around the roots.

Tender Plants

  • Bougainvillea
  • Brugmansia
  • Callistemon (Bottlebrush)
  • Canna (Indian shot plant)
  • Clerodendrum bungei (Glory flower)
  • Cordyline australis (New Zealand cabbage palm)
  • Dahlia
  • Dicksonia antarctica (Tree fern)
  • Eucomis (Pineapple lily)
  • Fuchsia
  • Galtonia
  • Gladiolus
  • Hedychium (Ginger lily)
  • Leonotis leonurus (Lion's tail)
  • Melianthus major (Honey bush)
  • Musa basjoo (Japanese banana)
  • Pelargonium
  • Punica granatum (Pomegranate)
  • Tigridia (Tiger Hower)
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