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How To Protect Your Plants From Winter

November 17, 2016

With temperatures about to drop and snow on its way, this is your last chance to winterize your plants and residential landscape. Hopefully gutters have been cleaned, irrigation systems shut off, and garden beds raked and cut back, but what should you do about trees, shrubs, and evergreens? If the plants are rated for Zone 4 on the USDA Plant Map, they should be able to handle our harsh Minnesota climate. However, there are several precautions to take for less hardy plants to ensure they last all winter.

The three most susceptible types of plants for winter damage are newly planted ones, non-hardy plants, and evergreens. With a couple extra steps during fall chores, these plants can be protected from freezing temps and high winds in the winter.

  • Plants should be trimmed of all dead leaves and stems, and clean up any debris around the plant.
  • Ensure plants are well watered before frost hits and the ground freezes. Many homeowners stop watering plants in the fall because temperatures are cooler or their irrigation system is shut off. However, the root systems still need water to survive. If the plants are dry and stressed entering winter, they will be especially susceptible to damage. This is especially true for evergreens since they don’t go dormant in winter months.Arborvitae Winter Burn
  • Certain evergreens are more susceptible to winter damage than others. Winter damage can happen for multiple reasons, but one of the most common is called winter burn. To protect evergreen shrubs from winter burn, you can either loosely wrap the shrub with burlap or create a burlap barrier to protect it from wind.
  • Wrap young trees from the soil line to the second or third branch with a lightweight paper type tree wrap to prevent sunscald. Sunscald is a result of high sun exposure during the day, and freezing temps at night. Young trees with thin bark have a hard time staying insulated during winter and should be wrapped.  Burlap Wrap Winterize
  • For plants that are less hardy add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help insulate them. You can use chopped leaves, straw, or shredded bark. Anything that is loose and non-compacting will be a great insulator.
  • Winterizing roses or newly planted trees and shrubs require a deeper layer of mulch or soil around the plant crown after the ground freezes. You may also want to create a framework around the plant to shield it using a tomato cage or chicken wire stuffed with leaves or straw to protect the crowns.

No gardener wants to find dead plants in the spring because they didn’t survive the winter. Winterizing your plants and shrubs will help them survive the freezing temps, bright winter sun, blustery winds, and ensure a healthy garden in the spring.