Winter is near and with it the potential for cold snaps and freezing storms. Many plants, shrubs and trees were devastated by last February’s snow storm. To avoid future damage from extreme cold and drying winds, there are four key ways to protect plants, shrubs and trees: relocate, wrap, water and mulch.
Which plants need protection?
After February’s storm, you gained insight on which plants in your landscape suffered and in which areas north winds did the most damage. Whether plants in those areas survived or were replaced, you have a good idea where to start.
You also want to give special attention to:

  • potted plants
  • sensitive plants – citrus, succulents, palms, and roses
  • newly installed plants and trees
  • plants and trees exposed to harsh, drying northern winds

Relocate: Bring in potted plants
Potted plants always need to be moved to a warmer location. Here are some tips to successfully relocate them.

  • Gradual transition – Reduce stress by leaving them outside during the day and bringing them in only at night. By gradually increasing the time inside, you acclimate plants and prevent leaf drop.
  • Water carefully – While transitioning potted plants, water only when the soil is dry.
  • Protect outdoor planters – For potted plants too large to move indoors, relocate them to a spot where they are protected from northern winds. You can also wrap them for frost protection.

Wrap it up
On cold days. we snuggle in blankets to keep warm. Delicate plants are very similar! This is why it is good to get frost cloths, tree wraps and shrub shelters to protect your most delicate plants.

  • Frost cloths – These gauze-like cloths allow your plants to breath while trapping heat from the sun. One reason February’s storm was so devastating is that plants were just beginning to bloom when the cold hit. Keep frost cloths handy to protect all delicate plants, especially early bloomers. In a pinch, a sheet, burlap or a blanket wrapped below the plant can also be used as long as the plant can still breath. As these will get wet however, they need to be monitored and replaced.
  • Tree wraps – For newly planted trees, palms and citrus, consider a tree wrap on the trunk
  • Windbreaks and shrub shelters – Shrubs can be especially vulnerable to drying winds which damage foliage. For shrubs which are too large to cover, a temporary windbreak or shrub shelter can help. Constructed by wrapping stakes with canvas or burlap (not plastic) you can block the most damaging effects of frigid wind gusts.

It may seem counterintuitive, but before a freeze, you should water your plants.
During a freeze, it is not only the temperature which damages, but the drying effects of the wind. Therefore, hydrating your plants well protects them from the dry cold and keeps roots from freezing. Start now by deeply watering your plants which encourages root growth even when the stems are dormant.
Insulate with Mulch
Delicate plants and those which have been newly planted need extra protection to prevent root freeze. Spread at least 2-3 inches of mulch at the base of plants, shrubs and trees. You can also use compost, leaves and straw. As always, take care not to pack the mulch around trunks or stems.
A few extra tips to consider:

  • Never cover your plants with plastic for the same reason you never wear one over your head
  • Pick all ripe fruits and vegetables before a potential freeze
  • Do not trim plants after a freeze as they need time to recover
  • Cover your delicate plants before it gets very cold
  • Protect your irrigation and outdoor plumbing by draining hoses and sprinklers and wrapping exposed faucets and pipes