How to Care for Outdoor Plants in the Winter


Even plants such as fruit trees, which require a winter chill in order to produce fruit during the growing season, can be damaged during a winter freeze if they are not properly protected. However, by taking some simple precautions, it is possible to prepare outdoor plants for the winter months and ensure that they make it through the season unscathed.

Step 1

Prepare plants for winter while doing your spring planting. While tilling the soil, mix compost, sawdust, sand or potting soil in with the ground soil in order to create a soil that will drain more effectively. This will keep water away from the plant roots, which lessens the chance that the roots will freeze during the winter months, a major cause of plant death.

Step 2

Allow dead plants to naturally decompose over time after the growing season has ended. Don't mow or cut them down. While it may not be pretty while the plant is dying, this leftover growth will provide some protection to the living part of the plant that is beneath the soil during the winter months.

Step 3

Place extra layers of warmth over the plants by layering organic materials such as mulch or compost over the top of the plant beds. Once covered in organic matter, cover in-ground plants with plastic or cloth sheets to provide protection from the wind, snow and ice.

Step 4

Shield plants that don't die from freezing winds (such as trees and shrubs) by positioning trellises or evergreen hedges around the outside of your yard or garden.

Step 5

Place bark wrap on your trees. Sudden drops in temperature can cause tree bark to crack if they are not properly covered.

Step 6

Cover potted plants with plastic or cloth covers as well. If you have multiple potted plants, place the pots close together and use one piece of plastic or cloth to cover them all. Move them onto a porch or deck, if you have one, and line the surface beneath them with scrap carpeting to provide an extra source of protection from beneath.

Tips and Warnings

  • Winter coverings should be removed as soon as the threat of frost has passed to prevent mold and early blooming.

Things You'll Need

  • Sawdust, sand or potting soil
  • Plastic or cloth coverings
  • Scrap carpeting
  • Mulch or compost
  • Trellises
  • Evergreen shrubs
  • Bark wraps


  • Best Gardening
  • W and Snider
Keywords: outdoor plants, winter, protect, perennials

About this Author

Alexis Lawrence has been writing professionally for six years and has been published on Associated Content. She is also a freelance filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. Lawrence attended the University of Central Florida where she earned a Bachelor of Science in English.