How To Protect Your Plants from Frost

The nights are longer and the days are colder. It can only mean one thing – Winter is on its way!

Winter is the most challenging time for a gardener. Somehow going against the elements, you must protect your plants from frost. 

This seems an almost impossible task with different plants, shrubs, and trees to think about, especially those perennial plants you hope will survive to grow another year.

But it doesn’t have to be!

Here we have put together a list of ways for you to protect your plants from frost and ensure they survive for the following spring.

Implementing these methods will help your plants through the heavy rain, hard winds, and frosty nights.

how to protect plants from frost

When To Begin Protecting Your Plants?

To protect your plants from frost, it is important to have methods in place before the first frost is due.

If you live in an area that has set seasons, it can be easy to estimate when the first frost might occur. In places with four seasons, quite often frost can begin at the end of November through till March.

If you leave protecting your plants until after the first frost, then it might be too late to save them all. 

Plan ahead of time and ensure to continue reading for ideas on how to protect your plants from frost.

Why Plants Need Protecting From Frost?

Most plants are not designed to withstand freezing temperatures, especially if they originated in a country with temperate to tropical temperatures.

If left with no protection in the frost, they will freeze, and die. Frost does not just affect a plant’s flowers and leaves, but can impact the soil around them and even kill off their roots.

Plants freeze and die at different temperatures, which you can find through their hardiness rating.

These ratings tell you what temperatures your plants can survive in and where they are best grown e.g. indoors, a greenhouse, or outside.

If you are based in the UK, you can find the RHS hardiness rating here, or if you are based in the US, you can use the USDA zone map here.

How To Protect Your Plants From Frost

Even though not all plants are designed to survive in colder weather, there are things you can do to help protect them. Take a look at these ways in which you can protect your plants from frost:

Plan Ahead Of Time

If you are planting perennials that you would like to regrow year after year, you need to plan ahead of winter where to plant them in your garden.

Find an area in your garden that will shelter your plants during the colder months. A sheltered area helps to protect your plants from cold, strong winds that could otherwise snap their stems and cause them to uproot.

It is also important to make sure your plants are not in direct sunlight. The sunlight can encourage blackening to occur on your plants.

Bring Pots Indoors

A huge benefit of container gardens or potted plants is that they are often easy to move. Before the first frost, consider bringing your potted plants indoors. 

move plants indoors

Inside, it is warmer and your plants are not exposed to frost, heavy rain, or strong winds. 

If you do bring your plants indoors, make sure to provide them with an area that has access to sunlight and good airflow. 

Water Plants In The Afternoon

Plants are extremely susceptible to cold temperatures but they still require water all year round to survive. 

Watering your plants during the winter too early in the morning or too late at night, can lead to the water freezing before your plants have had time to drink. The extra frozen moisture then impacts the health of your plant.

For this reason, it is best to water your plant during the mildest part of the day which is usually in the early afternoon. Temperatures are coldest in the mornings, evenings, and late at night, so make sure to water your plants once each afternoon.

If there is a particularly cold day, avoid watering your plant till the following day.

Wrap Your Trees

Wrapping your trees in hessian or burlap material can help protect them during the winter months, especially your younger, less established trees.

Wrapping your trees, especially the bottom trunks and lower branches, helps to retain moisture and protect them from strong winds and icy storms.

Without a wrap, your trees can become deformed from winds and branches may break during cold frosts.

They can also help to deter wildlife such as deer from feeding on your trees during the winter when food is scarce, causing damage to your trees.

However, do make sure that the trees you have are not native to cold habitats. These trees prefer to stay dry during the winter and are hardier than those native to warmer environments. If you have one of these trees it is best to avoid covering them.

Protect Your Soil

To protect your plants from frost, you also need to take into account protecting your soil.

The soil is essential for your plant’s survival as it is how they gain the nutrients they need.

During the winter, try to cover your soil and the plants with a thick layer of mulch and a cover such as horticultural fleece.

Both of these will help to minimize the potential soil erosion from heavy rain along with soil compaction limiting drainage.

By using a cover, it helps to limit the amount of exposure to frost, strong winds, and cold weather, which ultimately leaches nutrients from the soil.

When you cover the soil, you are ultimately protecting your plant’s roots too. Even if the frost has affected your plant’s leaves and stems, quite often it can recover the following season if the roots have survived.

protect plants from frost

These protective measures help ensure your plants are protected from the upcoming frost. They help to protect your trees, plants, and soil so that they survive through the winter to thrive the following spring.

Make sure to plan ahead of time so that these methods can be put in place before the first frost.

For more seasonal top tips for protecting your plants during the winter months, take a look at these posts: