Image by John Price
As winter approaches, it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor plants. You have to check their conditions and prepare them for the frosty season. Have in mind that different plants have different needs in the winter season.
In this article, we will provide tips on how you can take care of your trees, perennial shrubs, herbs, and annuals to get the plants through winter.
While trees and perennial shrubs are usually sturdy enough to be left outdoors, there are measures you need to take to avoid irrevocable winter damage.
There are some plants like herbs and annuals that you should move indoors for a better chance of survival. To learn what measures you can take to winterize your plants, follow our 7-step checklist for plant survival in the wintertime.
1. Understand what your plants need
The first step to setting the right conditions for your plants to survive winter is to understand what they need. For a start, some plants can survive wintertime without your help. For example, plants that grow from a bulb, go into the dormancy stage and under the right conditions, they will thrive again.
Others. like hydrangeas, tulips, and irises will survive the coldest winter and bloom again when spring comes.
Therefore, it would be wise to find the conditions suitable for each plant by referring to the USDA plant hardiness zone. For example, if you are in Zone 3, where temperatures can dip to -40°F, plants like foxglove, wood fern, and hydrangea are likely to survive the intense cold.
Whereas in warmer zones like Zone 8, you can plant strawberry trees, hibiscus and pittosporum thriving. Once you know which plants are most suitable for the climate you live in it will be easy to choose the right plants for your garden.
Native plants are always good options to plant since they are accustomed to the climate and will attract native pollinators to your garden.
2. Protect your trees and shrubs
Image by Plato Terentev
The plants that have any hope of surviving winter outdoors would be your trees and perennial shrubs, which are usually expected to live for years. Even though these plants are adapted to survive the cold – you can take an extra step and help them during harsh conditions.
For trees, wrap their trunks with a tree wrap to prevent winter injuries like animal damage or bark splitting due to sunscald. Use a pest-proof tree wrap to wrap the lower trunk of young fruit trees to prevent them from being chomped on by mice.
As for perennial shrubs, you should cut them back to prevent diseases from spreading. Do so when the ground has frozen and the foliage has died. After which, you can mulch with dry leaves or straws, leaving 3 inches of stem above ground.
Perennial shrubs like roses and small trees also need to be protected from heavy snow. Here are two tips on how to do it:
Build a wooden structure to cover them.
Install a wire fence surrounding the trees or shrubs and fill the space with organic mulch, such as chopped leaves, compost, mulch, or dry wood chips.
If you’re able to keep the soil moist, fertile, and well-drained, you may even get to see hardy plants like snowdrops, witch hazel, and hellebore blooming during wintertime!
3. Transplant your herbs and annuals
Generally, herbs and annuals are unlikely to survive the harsh winter temperatures. While some herbs, like sage and thyme, are hardy perennials that may withstand the cold, others, like basil, won’t be able to.
Therefore, for the herbs to grow, it’s highly recommended that you harvest these herbs and transplant them into individual pots to bring indoors.
As for your annuals, you can overwinter them by transplanting the plants into pots to bring indoors. To protect the flower bed, fill the space with mulch or lay a sturdy plastic cover to prevent weeds from growing.
4. Quarantine and acclimatize your plants indoors
Once you’ve decided on the plants to bring in and transplanted them into pots with fresh potting soil containing high plant nutrients, you may wish to quarantine them for a week or so.
This is to ensure they don't bring any pests in along with them and to acclimatize them to their potted indoor environment.
Image by Gustavo Fring
During this period, you can bring them indoors at night, within an area separated from your existing indoor plants, to monitor their condition. You can also give them proper pruning so they can adjust to low indoor light conditions before moving them outdoors during the day.
At the same time, find a designated spot in the house with the optimal conditions for each of your plants. For example, those that require ample sunlight can be placed near the windows, and those that prefer high humidity can be clustered in groups to increase the humidity around them.
5. Adjust the watering schedule to avoid overwatering
With the lack of sunlight, most plants are unable to photosynthesize; hence they may grow slowly or stop growing entirely during wintertime.
As a result, they need less water, so you should space out the timings to water your plants to prevent overwatering and waterlogging.
On the other hand, should your plants continue to grow due to the artificial horticultural lights you’ve installed, you can consider resuming your watering schedule while monitoring their condition. For instance, cacti and succulents can survive arid conditions, so you can water them once every three or four weeks during winter.
Tropical plants, on the other hand, can be watered a few times a month. The best way to prevent overwatering is to make sure the soil is dry to the touch before you water them. Proper watering of plants when they are indoors and proper garden watering is crucial for the health of your plants.
6. Stop fertilizing
Similarly, you can stop fertilizing your plants during winter due to less light available. Without light, plants are unable to grow actively and are less likely to absorb the fertilizer.
The excess nutrients in the soil may cause the roots and leaves to burn, turn yellow, and drop off. However, for plants still growing under artificial horticultural lights, you can continue the weekly feed and assess their reactions.
7. Invest in a smart garden and enjoy fresh greens during wintertime
Image by Click and Grow
If you don’t wish to be beholden to the climate and want to enjoy your greens all year long, there is a solution for that. For example, Click and Grow builds smart gardens for growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables all year long. One of the best things about it is that their smart indoor gardens care for themselves, your only task will be to harvest fresh produce.
Another great thing about this solution is that it comes in biodegradable plant pods that have seeds and nutrients inside - so you are not producing any waste.
Also, by growing your pesticide-free fresh food and flowers with the help of Click & Grow, you are reducing your carbon footprint and helping the environment.
Winter can be a difficult time for plants, but there are many things you can do to help them survive and thrive. Besides the mentioned tips, it would be great if you install bird feeders in your backyard to help them survive the winter too.
One more thing you could do is to give some TLC to your garden equipment. Clean the tools properly and disinfect them to remove any bacteria or fungus. Dry them and store them in a dry place until next spring. In the meantime…
Enjoy your indoor plants and think about setting up a smart indoor garden - and enjoy the gardening season all year long.
Annie Morton is an avid nature lover from rural Australia. After some international adventures, she settled in New York City. If you have some questions about Garden Hose Reels she is the person to talk to.