Preparing Plants for Winter
Roses are delicate flowers, and during the winter months their skeletons need protection from wind, frost and heavy rains or snow. Rose plants, according to Iowa State University, usually become dormant in late October to early November and need special care from this point forward. Covering roses for the winter protects the plant from cold weather, but there are several preparatory measures to perform to keep the canes from breaking under the pressure of snow before covering.
Prune the canes gently to remove any dead or broken branches, and to reduce the height before covering, notes the University of Illinois Extension. Cut roses back to a uniform height, between 12 and 24 inches, at nodes.
Tie the rose canes together with twine to keep winds from breaking them during the winter months.
Pile a loose, well draining compost mix over the rose bush to a height of 10 to 12 inches to cover most of the canes.
Cover the soil mound once it has frozen with another 10 to 12 inches of straw or leaves to keep the pile isolated and frozen throughout the winter, protecting the plant.
The Chinese juniper bush is a cold-tolerant shrub that produces delicate, small yellow blossoms. It is an evergreen plant that also comes in creeping ground cover varieties. It has bluish green leaves and blooms in moderate hardiness zones during the winter and early spring.
Hellebore grows from autumn to early spring in temperate climates; they prefer moist, dark soil with plenty of compost for nourishment. If properly cared for, hellebore flowers will bloom throughout the winter months with blooms that resemble small, multicolored passion flowers.
Wintersweet is a highly fragrant shrub that is very cold tolerant. It takes 3 years for a wintersweet bush to grow to full maturity and produce a series of delicate, bell-shaped yellow flowers.
Winter aconite thrives in the colder months of many differing climates and is identifiable by its thick, stout waxy foliage and its plump yellow blossoms. It is a perennial bulb and is easily naturalized in home gardens.
A cold-tolerant plant, witch hazel thrives in loamy soil near companion plants like holly and juniper. Witch hazel produces its red and yellow tassel-like flowers during the winter when there are no leaves on the plant.
Mow the yard less often. The grass will not grow as quickly in the fall and winter, and mowing too often might add stress. Keep it slightly shorter than you did during the summer months. In the winter, the soil won't dry out as quickly on the surface, which could result in mold. Keeping it shorter will expose more of it to light and keep mold at bay.
Overseed the lawn with a grass such as rye that stays green in cooler weather. This will keep the yard looking green through the cooler months.
Apply a fall and winter fertilizer to keep your lawn healthy and green. Adding nutrients back into the soil helps your lawn retain its green color.
Add a sprinkling of nitrogen to the lawn if you are not adding a fertilizer. Nitrogen increases the green color of plants.
Prepare plants for winter before the snow starts falling, but after the first hard frost. Even hardy plants are susceptible to winter damage.
Cut back plants that are in water gardens, such as water lilies. Wait until the foliage turns brown and then cut it off with pruning shears. Lower the plant into the deepest part of the water, to protect it from freezing.
Trim off all the foliage on plants that had an insect infestation or disease with your shears. Bag the trimmings with your trash or, better yet, compost them.
Winterize plants that don't bloom or show color of any kind in the winter. Cut them down to the ground, leaving the rootballs in the ground. This includes geraniums and veronicas. They turn black and become mushy when it becomes cold outside.
Prune reseeding plants, such as coreopsis, down to the ground when preparing for winter. If not, they will take over the planting bed the following season.
Leave grasses in place until the spring, when they can be cut down.
Wear gloves when cutting back plants.
Don't cut back tender perennials or those that aren't hardy such as ferns and mums.
Don't cut back plants for winter too early or you'll encourage growth and keep the plant from coming back in the spring.
Some barberry cultivars babretain their leaves throughout winter. The wintergreen barberry's leaves turn bronze or red in color, and remain on the shrub during the winter months. Mentor and Japanese varieties lose their foliage in colder weather.
Clear away fallen leaves and other garden debris in the fall before the first frost. Beard tongue prefers no extra winter mulching and disease organisms may live in the mulch and infest the plant.
Cut back the entire plant with pruning clippers after the first hard frost in fall kills the foliage. Cut back each stem to within 2 inches of the soil and dispose of or compost the clippings.
Water beard tongue throughout winter when the ground isn't frozen and when there isn't any natural precipitation. Water enough to moisten the top 3 inches of soil every six weeks during dry thaw periods.
While beard tongue tolerates frost, the roots may be damaged in areas where the ground remains frozen for much of winter. Plant beard tongue in containers in these areas and bring them inside to a protected area, such as a garage, in winter.
Apply compost around beard tongue plants in spring as soon as new growth begins. Follow this with a 2-inch layer of mulch. Compost replenishes the nutrients in the soil and is the only fertilization these plants require.
Do not plant beard tongue in areas that are prone to standing water, particularly after snow melt. Beard tongue is a drought-tolerant plant and too much soil moisture causes the roots to rot.