How to Care for Plants in the Winter


Many plants suffer frostbite if grown in an area where with no protection from cold weather. Others, such as native species, do just fine when Jack Frost calls because they are adapted to the climate. If you have any plants that are frost-tender, such as citrus trees, palms, orchids or other tropical ornamentals, move them indoors or give them a warmer environment in fall before cold weather sets in.

Step 1

Move potted, frost-tender plants indoors before the first fall frost. Hose them off first to remove insects and dust. If you see any insects, spray the plants thoroughly with an insecticidal soap spray. Keep plants next to a south-facing window to ensure they get plenty of light and continue to water them throughout the winter.

Step 2

Hang Christmas lights or 1 or 2 incandescent lights around and inside plants that live in the ground. The heat these lights generate will protect them from frost and cold temperatures. Turn lights on in late afternoon and off in the morning.

Step 3

Water outdoor frost-tender plants as usual during the winter. Plants growing in dry soil are more susceptible to frost damage than well-watered plants.

Step 4

Build a frost protective frame over plants with 2-by-2-foot boards. Drape clear plastic or a floating row cover over the boards. You can use a tarp or blanket as well, but must remove these types of materials in the morning to ensure your plant gets sufficient light.

Step 5

Run a sprinkler on your plant all night when the forecast calls for freezing weather. Moving water cannot freeze, so it will protect your plant against frost.

Step 6

Spray tender plants with an anti-transpirant product. Follow label directions, applying the product frequently enough to hold its effectiveness.

Things You'll Need

  • Insecticidal soap spray
  • Christmas lights
  • 2-by-2-foot boards
  • Floating row cover
  • Clear plastic sheeting
  • Tarp or blanket
  • Sprinkler system
  • Anti-transpirant spray


  • Redwood Barn: Frost Protection in the Garden
  • New Mexico State University: Protect Fruit Trees from Spring Frost and Wind

Who Can Help

  • Michigan State University Extension: Assessing Frost Damage
Keywords: frost protection, wintering over, tender plants

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.