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How to Cover Plants for Winter

Your garden is a lovely escape in the spring and summer, but come fall, everything changes. Your perennials are browning and the late-summer flowers are drooping their heads. Winter is coming to your garden and if you want to protect it from the coming cold you are going to have to cover your plants for winter. If you live in a USDA zone colder than Zone 8, covering plants in the winter is must for their survival.

Cut back your perennial flowers to about 3 to 4 inches above the ground. This will reduce the amount of pruning you have to do come spring.

Mulch over the cut down perennials after the ground freezes. Make sure the mulch is about 3 to 4 inches thick. Mulch around the base of perennial shrubs as well. Mulch near the base of trees, but keep the mulch about 1 to 2 feet away from the trunk to avoid diseases.

Wrap tarps or blankets around shrubs and trees.

Place stakes in the ground around the shrubs. Wrap the tarp or blanket around the shrub, balancing it on the stakes. Secure it with clips or ties.

Drape traps or blankets over cold sensitive trees. Be sure to completely cover the canopy of the tree. This may take several tarps or blankets, depending on the size of the tree. Wrap the trunk of the tree in blankets or tarps, too. Secure the tarp or blankets with ropes.

Plants From Dying Through The Winter

Care for your plants during the growing season with adequate irrigation, fertilization and pruning. Healthy plants better withstand the cold. Stop fertilizing plants in early fall, at least six weeks before the first frost. Tender new growth late in the season will not harden before cold weather arrives, making the plants vulnerable to winter damage. This helps protect the roots from getting too cold on nights with light freezes. For perennials that die back to the ground, cover the area with 2 inches of mulch. Shelter container plants from cold and wind. Place them grouped together in a garage or covered porch. Cover plants when temperatures are expected to drop below their cold tolerance. Drape a flannel sheet or burlap covering over the foliage until it drops to the ground. Remove the covers in the morning and replace in the evening, if necessary.


Burlap sacks make good plant covers for winter protection.


If you use a tarp, make sure it is breathable so the plants have air circulation.

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