As winter approaches, gardeners often remain stumped on keeping their beloved plants warm.
Cold weather can have adverse effects on plants— curtailing their growth and making them vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Proper care and warmth are thus necessary throughout the colder months.
Let us take an in-depth approach to keeping your plants warm during the bone-chilling winter months.
Effects of Cold Weather on Plants
Cold weather can cause irreparable damage to plants, especially those not adapted to freezing temperatures.
Frost can damage plant cells and cause dehydration. Sustained low temperatures can disrupt a plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis and take up nutrients from the soil.
Furthermore, winter winds can desiccate leaves, resulting in moisture loss and added stress.
Understanding Plant Cold Tolerance
Different plant species will have varying abilities to tolerate cold weather.
Cold Hardy Plants
Cold hardy plants, also known as frost-resistant or winter-tolerant plants, can withstand low temperatures without any fuss. These plants are typically native to colder areas and have adapted to prolonged periods of freezing and frost. Some of them include:
Evergreens: Trees and shrubs, such as pines, firs, and hollies.
Perennials: Flowering plants like hostas, peonies, and asters.
Annuals: These include plants such as pansies and snapdragons.
Tropical plants, on the other hand, are used to warmer climates. These plants do not tolerate frost or freezing conditions well and will require additional care during winter months. Common tropical plants include:
Palms: Known for their iconic appearance, palms are often sensitive to cold and may require protection or indoor shifting in colder areas.
Orchids: Most orchids are native to tropical regions and require extra care in cooler climates.
Bromeliads: They need to be brought indoors or protected from cold weather.
Summer vegetables such as tomatoes, basil, squash, peppers, and eggplant will not survive lower temperatures or frost conditions.
Kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, parsnips, carrots, mache, and claytonia, on the other hand, are semi-hardy and can still survive cold weather to a certain extent.
What temperature is too cold for plants?
Temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit are most likely to cause damage to plants, depending on the duration of exposure.
Winter Care Basics
Insulation is one of the most basic and no-nonsense ways of protecting plants from freezing weather. You can insulate your plants through mulching, wrapping, or using plant covers.
The next important factor is selecting the right location for your plants. When planting outdoors, choose an area that offers natural protection from wind and frost, such as the vicinity of fences, walls, or large rocks.
For indoor plants, ensure they are placed in well-lit, wind-free areas that maintain a consistent temperature throughout the winter months
Keeping Outdoor Plants Warm
Outdoor plants are highly vulnerable to freezing weather. Keeping them warm is particularly challenging and may require several steps, depending on the severity of the winter.
Mulching: Applying a layer of suitable mulch material (leaves, straw, or wood chips) around the plant’s base helps to insulate the roots and moderate soil temperature.
Pruning: Prune deciduous trees and shrubs in late fall, before the onset of winter, to encourage healthy growth and prevent breakage caused by heavy snow or ice accumulation.
Wrapping: Protect vulnerable shrubs and trees with burlap, tree wraps, or frost cloths to reduce the impact of chilling temperatures and cold winds. Some other DIY wrapping materials include:
- Aluminum Foil– Wrapping your plants or pots with aluminum foil can help them build and sustain heat from sunlight.
- Bubble Wrap– Bubble wrap provides excellent insulation to your plants during cold winds or sub-zero temperatures.
- Plastic Sheets – Use plastic sheets or old clothes to cover potted shrubs and herbs during adverse weather forecasts or snow storms. Secure them using pegs.
Insulating containers: For plants kept in pots or containers, add foam insulation around the pot or place it in a larger foam-stuffed container to keep the roots warm.
Stones: Dark stones can store and release heat slowly over extended periods. Place several of them in and around the plant pots and use a heat lamp in tandem to keep the ambiance warm for long.
Heated Mats: Heated mats are particularly helpful in aiding germination during freezing temperatures. They typically increase the ambient temperature by 10-20°F. You can place several plant pots on top of them at once.
Infrared Heaters: Infrared Heaters can help increase the air temperature around your plants. However, one significant disadvantage with them is they lower humidity. For large outdoor areas, they could also prove to be ineffective.
Heated Greenhouse: Nothing can be a better home for your frost-sensitive outdoor plants than a heated greenhouse. Beware of the added electricity costs, though.
Keeping Indoor Plants Warm
You may think keeping indoor plants warm isn’t much of a challenge. Think again! Temperatures inside can still vary from being sustainable to being devastating for your plants.
Keep The Temperature Constant
Continuously varying temperatures can induce stress in sensitive plants. Ensure you keep your thermostat set to a particular reasonable temperature that is fit for your indoor plants.
Keep The Plants Off Your Window Sills
Keep your plants at a fair distance from your window sills. No plant part should touch the glass. This protects them from cold winds and the icy touch of the glass.
Use Your Refrigerator
If you have noticed, the top and back of your refrigerator are particularly warm. You can use this to your advantage and strategically place the plants around your refrigerator.
Use Grow Lights
LED and fluorescent grow lights can not only protect your indoor plants from the harsh cold but also induce growth off-season. Ideally, cluster and keep your plants in a separate room for this to work well.
Things To Avoid
You may be enticed to place your plants near your fireplace or radiator, thinking they will benefit from the heat. You will kill them off this way.
The heat radiated from these sources is unbearable and will scorch your plants quickly.
Keeping your plants warm during the long winter months can be a daunting task. Any negligence can spell doom for your valuable plants, especially if they are cold-sensitive.
However, by following the thorough guide above, you and your beloved plants can sail through the winter period with ease. Happy Winter Gardening!