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Winter Care for Perennial Plants

By Julie Christensen ; Updated September 21, 2017
Choose hardy perennials suitable for your area.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium (alternative names Common Yarrow, G image by Tamara Kulikova from Fotolia.com

Perennial flowers and plants have few maintenance needs and provide beauty in your garden for years. In cold climates (north of zone 6), perennials need winter protection, especially if you live in an area with repeated freeze and thaw cycles. Don't cut perennials back until late winter. The dead stalks provide shelter and food for birds, as well as insulation for the perennials' roots.

A layer of mulch acts like a blanket, protecting perennials through the winter.
rose bed. image by mdb from Fotolia.com

Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch in late fall before the first freeze to your perennial garden. Mulch protects the roots of your perennials and prevents the plants from being heaved out of the soil by repeated freezes and thaws. Remove the mulch in late spring before new growth emerges.

Roses benefit from extra winter protection.
roses rose, rose.. image by Christophe Hamerlik from Fotolia.com

Wrap burlap around the base of roses, or mound soil 3 to 4 inches up around the plant. Bring tender perennials like dahlias or potted perennials indoors and store in a dark, cool place.

Tulips are among the first plants to emerge in spring.
Tulips image by newbeltane from Fotolia.com

Cut back dead stems in late winter with hand pruning shears as new growth is emerging. Throw away old growth to prevent disease.


Things You Will Need

  • Natural mulch (wood chips, straw or dead leaves)
  • Burlap
  • Hand pruning shears


  • Consult a local nursery expert or county extension office to choose perennial varieties suitable to your area.
  • Add plenty of organic material like compost or manure to your garden beds when you first plant your perennials. Perennials are often killed in winter when their roots sit in frozen water. Well-drained soil prevents this problem.
  • Plant less hardy perennials next to your house or in a place sheltered from freezing winter winds.

About the Author


Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."