Winter is the time of year that gardeners should be curled up in a warm place, wrapped in a blanket. But the same is true of tender plants.
Most garden plants are hardy enough to survive the winter, but some varieties are more vulnerable and need our help. Frost can damage and even kill tender plants, while excess water causes rot and cold winter winds can harm the foliage.
Here’s how to protect your plants and ensure your garden springs back to life next year!
Bring tender plants inside
Plants in containers can be moved inside during winter to protect them. Young plants are especially vulnerable, so move them into a cool porch, greenhouse or conservatory. Fuchsias, pelargoniums and lemon verbena are common tender plants.
If you can’t move pots inside, lift them up on pot feet to stop waterlogging. If you don’t want to buy pot feet, lift the pot up on wine corks.
Container plants are vulnerable because their roots aren’t protected underground. Even hardy plants like lavender may suffer root damage, so wrap pots in hessian or horticultural fleece and move them to a sheltered spot.
Protect exotics with fleece
Exotics are the most vulnerable group – they struggle in our cold climate. Tropical plants like tree ferns and palm trees are all at risk, as well as cordylines and banana plants.
Exotics in containers can be moved inside, but established plants will need protection in situ. Wrap shrubs in a fleece jacket packed with straw to protect them. Tree ferns need layers of straw packed over the vulnerable crown, plus fleece or hessian wrapped around the trunk.
Tie the leafy canopy of cordylines together to prevent wind damage and stop water collecting at the base and causing rot. You can also apply a thick mulch of leaves or peat-free compost to protect the roots of exotics.
Wrap half-hardy shrubs
Some shrubs and trees can also be damaged by frost. Protect fig trees by packing straw along the branches and around the roots. And keep callistemon and pittosporum safe from the cold by wrapping them in fleece jackets.
Mulch plants with tubers
Plants that grow from shallow rhizomes or tubers are at risk of waterlogging and frost damage. Apply a deep mound of bark chip mulch around the base of cannas and dahlias. If your garden is prone to very cold temperatures, it may be safer to lift and store tubers over winter.
Protection when it snows
Snow is a danger to plants over winter not because it’s cold, but because it’s heavy! A layer of snow can easily snap branches off trees and shrubs. Knock any snowfall off with a broom to stop branches splaying and splitting.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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