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How to Get Plants Ready for Winter

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

In winter the garden sleeps, waiting patiently for spring to burst out in new life. Ensuring that your garden survives the winter in good health with proper preparation helps it start off the next year on the right foot, and saves you work in spring. Preparing plants to overwinter leads to less damage to the beds and less loss of plants to disease and damage. Fall is the time to get plants ready for the winter. Then you can forget about your garden until the snow begins to melt.

Clean out the garden beds. Remove old mulch from perennial flowers and dispose of it. Pull up and compost annual flowers. Remove leaves, dead plant matter and fallen branches from the beds.

Cut perennial flower plants down to 3 inches in height once the foliage begins to die back, usually after the first fall frost. Dispose of the trimmings or compost them.

Dig up tender bulbs and roots such as dahlias and calla lilies. Store in dry peat moss in a cool, dark area until spring replanting.

Add a 2-inch layer of compost to both perennial and annual beds. Work it into the soil with a hand cultivator, taking care not to damage the roots of perennial plants.

Apply winter mulch to rosebushes and other tender shrubs before the first hard freeze in fall. Cover the main trunk and crown with a 6-inch layer of leaves and soil or use pine needles.

Mulch over perennial beds once the ground begins to freeze to protect the plant crowns from winter damage. Use a 3- to 4-inch layer of straw, pine boughs or leaves.


Things You Will Need

  • Shears
  • Trowel
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Mulch


  • Work the soil and add fertilizer to new garden beds in fall so they are ready for planting in spring.
  • Remove winter mulches once the temperature begins to warm in spring so the beds can begin to dry out any winter sogginess.


  • Botryllis blight is a winter concern with certain perennial flowers such as hardy begonias or peonies. Removal and disposal of summer mulches and old plant matter prevents the spread of the disease.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.