When the winter weather arrives, its important to know how to protect your plants from cold temperatures, wind, snow and ice. Here are 9 great ways to improve to protect your more tender plants over winter.
1. Know Your Hardiness Zone
The right plant for the right place is the best advice for protecting your plants from winter cold, wind, snow and ice. Every plant has a Hardiness Zone. This range or scale uses numbers and letters to indicate the average winter temperatures that a plant can survive. For example, zone 2, zone 5, zone 7, 7a or 7b.
The lower the number, the tougher and more hardier the plant. The higher the number, the more tender and delicate the plant is when dealing with cold and frost. Plants with high hardiness numbers are heat lovers like tropicals, succulents and desert plants. While there are specific temperature ranges for each zone, in the real world, it is tough to have a zone 8 or higher plant survive outside in our area without some protection.
For the best survivability, choose outdoor plants that are Zone 7 or lower. If you are near the coast, or have a very sheltered location, you might be able to stretch to zone 7a, zone 7b or even (gasp) zone 8!
2. Mulch to Protect The Roots
Cold winter temperatures might damage or even kill the tops of your plants, however, many will regrow from the roots if you can keep them alive over winter. The easiest way to protect the roots is to apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch on top of the soil. Mulch serves as an insulating blanket. It moderates soil temperature, preserves moisture, reduces the likelyhood of weeds and looks good too! Our aged black conditioning mulch has a rich dark colour, while our red fir bark has that classic rusty-red look. Both protect your plants equally well. They are available by the bag or by the tractor scoop.
3. Protecting Potted Plants
Potted plants have their roots above the ground. This makes them more exposed and vulnerable to winter cold. Wrapping the pots in burlap, cloth or even plastic can help. You can also purchase fancy double-walled pots that you can purchase that give your roots a second layer of protection
4. Wind Is The Enemy
Winter winds can be more deadly than our average winter temperatures. Winds are dessicating. In other words, they remove moisture from your plants! This is especially true for broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons, Camellias, Laurels and Privets. If the ground is frozen, your plants can not bring up more water and basically dry out. Adding a windbreak or barrier around or even near your plants can go a long way to protecting your plants over winter.
5. Remember To Water!
As we just mentioned, winter winds can dry out your plants. It may seem counter-intuitive to water your plants in winter, but if we've had a long cold spell, a small watering may replenish yours plants reserves enough to help it make it through the season. Be careful not to over-water as root rot is a very common problem during the cold season. Plant roots do not like to sit in cold, wet, mushy soil.
6. Winter Protection
There are a number of products that you can use to help your plants survive the winter. Most of them work using one simple principle. They reduce the amount of wind, rain, snow and ice that can get to your plants. At the top of the list is any form of greenhouse. A simple sheet of poly-plastic over a frame or a fancy glass greenhouse can make all the difference.
You could also wrap your plants in breathable products like crop-cover or even burlap. The experts say burlap isnt great, but if you can keep it dry, it's better than nothing! Crop cover is available in rolls, it lets light in, provides a little bit of breathability and still protects your plants. Plus it's reusable and quite affordable
7. Protect The Crown
Some plants suffer greatly if ice, snow and water get into the center or crown of the plant. Palm trees and banana plants are perfect examples. If water gets into the top and freezes, it can effectively rot and kill the plant. Many growers either tie-up the plant or cut them off at the top so that they can cover and protect the top of the plant with plastic, crop cover or other product.
8. Heat Sources Can Help
Sometimes you have to make your own heat. One person we know decorates his large outdoor palm trees with the old-school heat-generating christmas lights and then builds a small cover over the tops of the plants to keep out the wind, rain and snow. These little lights might be just enough to get your plants through a cold spell. In warmer climates, some commercial growers use burn barrels in their fields to protect their citrus and other tropical crops on frosty days
9. Bring Them Inside!
One of the last resorts is to bring your potted plants inside. Even a frost free garage can be better than leaving a tender plant outside all winter. Or you can join the legions of dedicated plant parents who store an ark-load of plants in every corner of the house in fall and then reverse the process by bringing them back outside in spring. No you're not the only one that does it!
Be aware that our homes are often very warm and very dry and can be a great breeding ground for pests, bugs and disease. Monitor your plants regularly and try to increase the humidty if the plant is more tropical
Hope these tips help you out and keep your plants looking, happy, healthy and vigorous! If you have any other questions, drop by Art's Nursery, or give us a call at 604.882.1201