Helpful Tips To Keep Outdoor Plants Alive In The Winter

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Winter, for those who live in colder climates, is usually a time to give your garden and outdoor spaces a rest. Most plants either disappear under the earth or lay fairly dormant for the winter. But just because your plants aren’t doing much in the winter, doesn’t mean they don’t need attention now and then.

This is especially true for some plants that are vulnerable to very cold temperatures. If you have some plants that are sensitive to cold, you will want to know how to keep these outdoor plants alive during the winter.

To keep outdoor plants alive in the winter, water them before a frost. Skip fertilizing them in the winter, as this could actually hurt your plants. Insulate roots using mulch or hay, and bring in potted outdoor plants during exceptionally cold days. Remember to only plant what will thrive in your temperate zone to help reduce your need to pay close attention to your outdoor plants in the winter.

Keeping outdoor plants alive in the winter, for the most part, is not terribly difficult. There are, however, some steps you might need to take to keep your more vulnerable plants thriving in extra cold weather. Keep reading below to learn all the top tips for keeping your outdoor plants alive and well during winter’s coldest temperatures.

Seven Tips To Keep Your Outdoor Plants Alive When It’s Cold

1. Skip The Fertilizer (For Now)

If your outdoor plants are struggling in the winter, you might be tempted to use fertilizer to inspire growth. Believe it or not, this can actually harm the plants more than help them. In the winter, plants go into conservation and survival mode. Fertilizers will trick the plants into growing when they shouldn’t. This can inspire the wrong kind of growth, and leave the core of the plant more vulnerable than it was previously.

2. Cover Vulnerable Plants On Colder Days

One of the most effective ways to keep your more vulnerable and sensitive plants alive in the winter is to cover them during extra-cold periods. You can use all sorts of good insulating materials to cover them. This acts just like a blanket works for humans. It keeps the warmer air in and the cold air out. This might not keep vulnerable plants alive in temperatures far below freezing, but it will help defend plants to an extent.

3. Water Plants Before A Frost

Believe it or not, watering your plants before temperatures plummet might actually keep them stay warmer. Although water freezes, it takes a lot of energy for it to freeze. Therefore, moist ground is going to freeze much slower than dry ground.

Another reason watering outdoor plants before a frost is a good way to keep them alive in the winter is that dehydration is one of the main causes of winter plant death. Frost sucks out the moisture from your outdoor plants. Giving them ample water before the frost, especially a day or two in advance, is a great way to keep them alive through a frost event.

4. Insulate The Roots With Mulch Or Hay

The part of a plant you can see is only a portion of the living being. In fact, its roots are what is truly crucial for its survival. Therefore, keeping these roots warm and healthy is vital to keeping your outdoor plants alive in the winter.

Mulch and hay are both great ways to keep your plants and their roots well-insulated in the winter. They also keep the garden looking tidy in the winter and will help prevent weeds from growing in the spring.

5. Bring Potted Plants Indoors During Cold Snaps

If you have some plants that are a little tricky to keep alive in the wintertime, consider putting them in pots. This is particularly true for plants like citrus trees, and sub-tropical species that can handle a little frost, but not extended cold snaps. Even if your plants are in large pots, it is nice to have the ability to move them to shelter during unseasonably cold days. Bring these potted plants inside, or at least into a garage, covered area, or greenhouse.

6. Plant The Correct Plant For Your Climate

One of the best ways to have a low-maintenance garden in the wintertime is to only plant species that thrive in your specific climate. While it might be amazing to have a palm tree in your patio area, if you live in Wisconsin, that isn’t realistic.

Do research before purchasing outdoor plants, especially when planting trees and shrubs that you want to keep for many years. Make sure whatever you plant in the ground is capable of handling the worst weather your area has to offer. This is the best way to prevent killing your outdoor plants in the winter.

7. Trim The Dead Leaves And Branches

Another way to keep plants thriving in the winter is to trim the fat. After autumn, there are likely some dead branches and danging leaves that need to be removed. These dead and dying parts of the plant actually take energy away from the thriving parts of the plant. Removing them channels all of the plant’s energy toward the living parts of the plant. Additionally, a trim makes them look more tidy and presentable, which in turn makes your yard look nicer in the winter.

Materials You Can Use To Keep Outdoor Plants Warm In Winter

Break Out The Burlap

Burlap is a great and popular material to use to cover plants in the winter. It is usually quite cheap, earth-toned, and durable. In fact, you might even be able to get some free burlap. It is also something you can use for gardening once it has served its purpose in the winter.

Put Old Blankets To Good Use

If you are in a pinch, you can use some old blankets you have lying around. Keep in mind this is really just for one or two nights. You don’t want to use random man-made fabrics or materials that easily mold, for prolonged periods of time. Old blankets might not look that great, but they can keep your plants alive during an overnight frost.

Purchase A Frost Blanket

If you have a plant that has particular value to you, or if you want to give your yard a universal look while keeping plants alive in the winter, purchase some frost blankets. That’s right, there are blankets that are designed for this exact purpose. You can find them at online retailers and garden or home improvement stores.

Invest In A Greenhouse

If you want to create a sanctuary for your plants and have a decent budget, consider investing in a greenhouse. Greenhouses are stunning outdoor features that help vulnerable plants even in the dead of winter. You can custom-build a greenhouse to fit all your gardening needs or buy a more affordable prefabricated greenhouse.

At What Temperature Should You Cover Outdoor Plants?

As a rule, you should cover any plants you don’t want to freeze as soon as it looks like temperatures will dip below 32 degrees. Many plants can handle temperatures below this, and the methods listed above all help keep plants safer in the low 30s, but 32 is usually a good rule of thumb. After all, weather is getting less and less predictable, and more extreme. Being overly cautious is a good way to guarantee your outdoor plants’ survival during the winter.

Final Thoughts On How To Keep Outdoor Plants Alive In Winter

Plants are often able to keep themselves alive in the winter, but sometimes they need a little extra help. If your outdoor plants need help staying alive in cold weather, consider getting an insulating cover for them. A greenhouse, burlap, or frost blanket is great for insulating plants. You can insulate the roots using mulch or hay. Don’t use fertilizer, but you should give them a bit of water before a cold snap. Remember to only bring plants into your yard that are meant for your temperate zone.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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