What Do Plants Need in Winter?

Any region that gets very cold weather and many winter frosts can pose a hazard to plants. While there are some plants that need a winter chill in order to properly produce throughout the rest of the year, they are still susceptible to winter weather damage. Just because you live in a cold weather region doesn't mean that you must let your plants die off each winter. By providing plants with the proper protection, you can help them survive even a deep frost.


Wet, frozen ground can kill plants that might otherwise be able to withstand cold temperatures, because wet ground can cause the plant's roots to freeze. Plants that are planted in well-drained soil stand a much better chance of surviving winter freezes. Provide better drainage for your plants by replacing some of the soil in your garden with potting soil, compost or sand. Any of these fillers improve the drainage around in-ground plants, which will help protect the plant's roots. A garden with a good drainage system will warm up faster in the spring as well, making it possible to start planting earlier.

Protection from Wind

Even if the roots are well-protected, above-ground winds can have a detrimental effect on your plants. Cold winter winds dry out plants and, since the roots of the plant cannot draw moisture from the frozen surrounding ground, this will result in the death of the plant. Setting up windbreaks around your plants can cut down on the amount of cold wind reaching your plants. Mount fabric on poles to shield the plants from the wind. Grow hedges on the outside edges of your garden or yard or put up trellises around the area to offer some wind protection.

Coverage & Warmth

Providing an above-ground layer for your plants can help keep them warm beneath the ground's surface. Instead of cutting away dead above-ground plants at the end of the season, leave the plant to wilt onto the ground where it can provide some protection to the plant roots. Other plant coverings include cloth wrappings, compost, mulch or hay. If plants are in pots, put the containers closely together and cover the plants as one. To prevent damage to tree trunks, use bark wraps. These wraps prevent winter cracking caused by sudden temperature drops. Remove any coverings as soon as frost danger has passed for the season. If the plant gets too warm, it may bloom early, which will ruin the cycle for the season.

Other Considerations

Selecting the right plant type for your location can go a long way toward winterizing your garden. Choose deciduous trees, shrubs and flowers. These are plants that go dormant during the winter and are able to withstand the freezing temperatures. Annuals die off at the end of each season, but the dormant seeds are left behind.

Keywords: winterize plants, protect plants in winter, frost protection

About this Author

Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.