Best Ways to Protect Plants from Winter Frost

As the cold weather sets in, it’s important to know how to protect plants from frost, especially tender and young ones. Sudden cold snaps can wipe out these plants in your garden, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. There’s nothing more devastating than seeing the beautiful plants you’ve lovingly nurtured destroyed seemingly overnight by a visit from Jack Frost. So, unless you live in a warm zone, it’s likely that some of the ornamental plants and crops in your garden will need protection during the colder months.

Here are some of the best ways to protect your plants from winter frost:

Key Takeaways:

  • Research which plants are more vulnerable to frost damage and prioritize their protection.
  • Bring potted plants indoors to provide them with better insulation.
  • Add mulch to garden beds to insulate the soil and protect the plants’ crowns.
  • Cover larger garden plants and shrubs with fleece or other plant coverings.
  • Place tender plants in sheltered spots to reduce the impact of wind chill.

Which Plants to Protect from Frost

Not all plants in your backyard will need protection from the frost, but there are certain categories that will. These include young seedlings and new growth, tender perennials, half-hardy varieties, and tropical and subtropical plants such as palms and banana plants. Signs of frost damage include blackened, distorted or limp growth and the leaves turning green on evergreen plants and shrubs. It is always recommended to research the conditions and hardiness of specific plants and include frost protection in your winter garden ideas if cold weather is forecasted in your state or area.

Here is a table summarizing the types of plants that require protection from frost:

Plants Description
Youth seedlings and new growth These plants are particularly vulnerable to frost damage.
Tender perennials These plants have less tolerance to cold temperatures and need protection.
Half-hardy varieties These plants have some tolerance to cold but still need protection in frosty conditions.
Tropical and subtropical plants These plants are not adapted to cold climates and require the most protection.

By identifying the types of plants that are susceptible to frost damage, you can prioritize your efforts and focus on protecting those that are most at risk. Taking the necessary steps to shield these plants from frost will help ensure their survival and maintain the beauty of your garden throughout the winter months.

Bring Potted Plants Indoors

One of the easiest ways to protect plants from frost is to bring potted plants indoors, especially tender container plants. Potted plants are more susceptible to frost damage because they lack the insulation of plants in the ground. Use a conservatory, garden room, garage, porch, or frost-free greenhouse to overwinter potted plants. Ensure the indoor location is not too warm. This method works well for plants like fuchsias or hydrangeas that are often grown in pots.

When bringing potted plants indoors, make sure to check for any pests or diseases that might be hitchhiking on the plants. Inspect the leaves and stems for signs of infestation, and if necessary, treat the plants with appropriate insecticides or fungicides before bringing them indoors. This will help prevent any unwanted pests or diseases from spreading to your other indoor plants.

Steps to Bring Potted Plants Indoors:

  1. Choose a suitable indoor location for your potted plants, such as a conservatory, garden room, garage, porch, or frost-free greenhouse.
  2. Inspect the plants for any pests or diseases and treat them accordingly.
  3. Water the plants thoroughly before bringing them indoors, as indoor environments tend to be drier than outdoor conditions.
  4. Place the potted plants in their designated indoor location, ensuring they receive adequate light and proper ventilation.
  5. Monitor the plants regularly for signs of stress, pests, or diseases, and take appropriate action if necessary.

By bringing potted plants indoors during winter, you can provide them with the protection they need to survive and thrive until the warmer months return. Remember to continue caring for your indoor plants by providing them with the necessary light, water, and nutrients they require.

Add Mulch on Garden Beds

One effective method to protect your plants from frost is by adding mulch to your garden beds. Mulch acts as insulation, providing a layer of protection against the cold temperatures. It helps to regulate the soil temperature, keeping it more stable and preventing rapid temperature fluctuations that can damage plants. Additionally, mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, reducing the risk of dehydration during the winter months. By adding a layer of mulch on your garden beds, you can create a favorable environment that promotes the survival of your plants.

There are different types of mulch you can use, such as chipped bark or straw. These materials provide excellent insulation and help to prevent the cold air from reaching the plant roots. When applying mulch, make sure to spread it evenly around the base of the plants, covering the soil surface. Aim for a thickness of 2-4 inches to provide adequate insulation. Avoid piling mulch directly against the plant stems or trunks to prevent moisture buildup and potential rotting.

Table: Benefits of Mulching Garden Beds

Benefits Description
Insulation Mulch acts as a protective layer, insulating the soil and preventing rapid temperature fluctuations.
Moisture retention Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, reducing the risk of dehydration for plants.
Weed suppression A layer of mulch helps to suppress weed growth, reducing competition for resources.
Soil improvement Over time, organic mulches break down and enrich the soil, improving its structure and fertility.

In addition to providing frost protection, mulch offers other benefits to your garden. It helps suppress weed growth, reducing competition for nutrients and water. Mulch also improves soil structure as it breaks down over time, benefiting the overall health of your plants. By adding mulch to your garden beds, you can create a favorable environment that supports the growth and survival of your plants, even during colder months.

Cover Plants with Fleece

If you have larger garden plants and shrubs that need frost protection, covering them with fleece is an effective method. The fleece acts as a barrier against the cold and helps to retain heat around the plants. You can create a tent-like structure using stakes and drape the fleece over the plants, securing it in place. This will provide them with the insulation they need to withstand freezing temperatures.

Another option is to use wire netting filled with bracken or leaves. This provides a less obtrusive way to protect your plants while still offering insulation. Wrapping the trunks of young trees with fleece or blankets can also protect them from frost damage. Whether you’re protecting tree ferns, agapanthus, or cordyline, covering your plants with fleece is a simple and effective solution.

cover plants with fleece

Table: Plants That Benefit from Fleece Covering

Plant Recommended for Fleece Covering
Tree Ferns Yes
Agapanthus Yes
Cordyline Yes

Covering your plants with fleece is a practical way to ensure their protection during frosty weather. By taking this simple step, you can safeguard the health and vitality of your larger garden plants and shrubs, allowing them to thrive even when temperatures drop.

Tender Plants: Finding the Perfect Sheltered Spot

When it comes to protecting tender plants from winter frost, one of the key considerations is finding the right sheltered spot. The wind chill factor can significantly impact the health of your plants, and excessive exposure to sunlight can also pose risks. By strategically placing your tender plants in a sheltered position, you can create a microclimate that minimizes these dangers and promotes their survival.

One of the best options is to position your plants near a south or west-facing wall. These walls can absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night, providing a natural source of warmth for your tender plants. Fences, large evergreen trees, and pergolas can also serve as effective windbreaks and offer protection against harsh winter conditions.

Maximizing Sun Exposure

  • Choose a sheltered spot that receives ample sunshine, as this can help to offset the risks of frost damage.
  • Avoid placing early-flowering plants directly exposed to morning sun, as this can lead to rapid thawing of frozen buds and potential damage.
  • Patio or courtyard areas that receive plenty of sunlight are ideal for creating a sheltered spot that offers both protection and optimal sun exposure.

By carefully selecting a sheltered spot for your tender plants, you can provide them with the best possible conditions for withstanding winter frost. Remember to consider the wind chill factor, sun exposure, and the unique characteristics of each plant when choosing the right location in your garden.

Tender Plants in a Sheltered Spot

Lift and Store Tender Perennials

When it comes to protecting tender perennials from frost, one effective method is to lift and store them during the colder months. This ensures that the sensitive roots, bulbs, tubers, and corms are safeguarded from freezing temperatures, allowing the plants to survive and thrive when spring arrives.

To lift and store tender perennials, start by carefully digging up the plants, making sure to preserve as much of the root system as possible. Gently shake off any excess soil and trim back any foliage that may have wilted or died. For bulbs, tubers, and corms, remove any dried or damaged outer layers.

Next, choose a cool and frost-free location to store the lifted plants. A potting shed or greenhouse is ideal for this purpose. Arrange the plants in a single layer, ensuring that there is enough space between them for air circulation. You can also use crates or trays lined with newspaper or wood shavings to store the plants, keeping them organized and protected.

Table: Guidelines for Lifting and Storing Tender Perennials

Plant Type Best Timing Storage Conditions
Dahlias After the first frost In a cool, dry place
Begonias Before the first frost In a cool, dark place
Lilies In late fall, after foliage has yellowed In a cool, moist location
Gladioli After foliage has turned yellow or brown In a cool, dry place

Remember to check on your stored plants periodically throughout the winter. Remove any rotting or diseased specimens promptly to prevent the spread of diseases. You can also mist the storage area with water occasionally to maintain a slightly humid environment.

When spring arrives and the threat of frost has passed, you can replant your tender perennials outdoors, ensuring they have the best chance of thriving in the new growing season.

Protect Tender Plants with a Cloche

When it comes to protecting your seedlings and smaller plants from frost, using a cloche is a simple yet effective method. A cloche provides a protective cover that helps to retain heat and create a microclimate around your plants, shielding them from the harsh effects of the cold. Whether you opt for a glass or plastic cloche, the principle remains the same – placing it over your plants creates a barrier that traps warmth and prevents frost from settling on the leaves and stems.

For a budget-friendly option, you can even make your own cloche using cut-off large plastic bottles or milk containers. Simply remove the bottom and place the cloche over your plants, making sure it extends down into the soil to create a seal. This DIY solution works particularly well for smaller plants or individual seedlings that need targeted protection.

Using a cloche not only shields your plants from frost, but it also allows them to benefit from sunlight and warmth during the day. This means you can remove the cloche during the daytime to ensure your plants receive adequate light for photosynthesis. Just remember to cover them back up in the evening to protect against the dropping temperatures.

protect tender plants with a cloche

Benefits of Using a Cloche

Using a cloche for frost protection offers several advantages for your seedlings and smaller plants:

  • Increased temperature: The enclosed space created by the cloche traps heat, creating a warmer environment for your plants.
  • Reduced wind exposure: The barrier provided by the cloche helps to shield your plants from strong winds, which can exacerbate the effects of frost.
  • Moisture retention: The cloche helps to retain moisture around your plants, preventing them from drying out in cold, dry conditions.
  • Pest protection: The physical barrier of the cloche can also deter pests and prevent them from damaging your plants.

By using a cloche to protect your seedlings and smaller plants from frost, you can give them the best chance of thriving throughout the colder months. Remember to monitor your plants regularly and adjust the cloche as needed to ensure optimal growing conditions.

Move Plants into a Cold Frame

You can protect your young hardy annuals from frost by moving them into a cold frame. A cold frame provides an enclosed space that retains heat and shields plants from the harsh weather conditions. By creating a controlled environment, you can ensure the optimal growth and protection of your plants. This method is particularly useful for young plants that may be more susceptible to frost damage.

Cold Frame

To set up a cold frame, you can either build your own using metal rods or opt for a ready-made one. Ensure that the cold frame has good ventilation to prevent overheating on warmer days. Placing the frame in a sheltered area, such as against a wall or fence, can offer additional protection. The cold frame acts as a mini greenhouse, providing the perfect conditions for your young hardy annuals to thrive.

Remember to monitor the temperature inside the cold frame and adjust ventilation accordingly. This will help maintain the ideal growing conditions and prevent overheating or frost damage. With the shelter provided by a cold frame, your young plants can continue to grow and flourish even during colder months.

Water Plants in the Morning

One effective way to protect your plants from frost is to water them in the morning. By doing so, you can help insulate them and increase their chances of surviving the cold. When you water your plants in the morning, the soil becomes damp, which absorbs heat during the day. This moisture in the soil has an insulating effect, providing some protection against frost.

Watering your plants in the morning should be done in conjunction with other protective measures, such as covering them with fleece or mulch. By combining these methods, you can create a more robust defense against frost and ensure the well-being of your plants.

frost protection

Benefits of Watering Plants in the Morning

  • Moisture in the soil helps absorb heat during the day.
  • Damp soil has an insulating effect, providing protection against frost.
  • Watering in the morning allows plants to use the sunlight and warmth more efficiently.
  • Combining morning watering with other protective measures increases the chances of plant survival.

So, make it a habit to water your plants in the morning during winter and when there is a risk of frost. This simple yet effective strategy can go a long way in keeping your plants healthy and thriving despite the cold weather.

Wrap Containers

If it is not possible to bring your outdoor pots indoors during the winter months, there are still steps you can take to protect them from frost. One effective method is to wrap the containers in materials such as bubble wrap or straw. These insulating materials create a barrier between the cold temperatures and the sensitive roots of your plants, helping to prevent frost damage.

Another option is to bury the pots in the ground, leaving only the rim exposed. The surrounding soil acts as a natural insulator, providing additional protection against freezing temperatures. To ensure proper drainage, elevate the pots using pot feet or bricks. This prevents the pots from sitting in icy water, which can be detrimental to the roots.

wrap containers

If you have multiple containers, consider grouping them together in a sheltered area. This provides additional protection against both the cold and the wind. By creating a microclimate, you can help to maintain a more stable temperature for your plants, reducing the risk of frost damage.

Wrap Containers: Tips for Frost Protection

To effectively wrap your containers for frost protection, follow these tips:

  • Choose materials that provide insulation, such as bubble wrap or straw.
  • Wrap the entire pot, including the sides and bottom.
  • Secure the wrapping material with tape or twine to hold it in place.
  • Ensure the top of the pot is left open for ventilation.

By taking these simple steps, you can help to safeguard your outdoor pots and ensure the well-being of your plants throughout the winter season.


Taking steps to protect plants from winter frost is essential for their survival. Whether it be bringing potted plants indoors, adding mulch on garden beds, covering with fleece or cloches, placing plants in a sheltered spot, lifting and storing tender perennials, using cold frames, watering in the morning, or wrapping containers, there are various methods to ensure the well-being of your plants during colder months. By implementing these best practices, you can help your garden thrive all year round.


Which plants should I protect from frost?

You should protect young seedlings, tender perennials, half-hardy varieties, and tropical plants from frost.

How can I protect potted plants from frost?

Bring potted plants indoors to a conservatory, garden room, garage, porch, or frost-free greenhouse.

What can I do to protect plants in garden beds from frost?

Apply a layer of mulch, such as chipped bark or straw, around borderline-hardy plants. Leaf mold or piles of leaves can also be used for extra protection and insulation.

How do I cover larger garden plants and shrubs for frost protection?

Use plant coverings like horticultural fleece, blankets, or bubble wrap to create a tent-like structure. Wire netting filled with bracken or leaves can also be used as a less obtrusive option.

Where should I place tender plants for frost protection?

Plant tender and frost-sensitive plants in a sheltered position, preferably near a south or west-facing wall. Other sheltered positions include next to fences, under large evergreen trees, under pergolas, or in sunny patio or courtyard areas.

How can I protect tender perennials from frost?

Lift and store the roots, bulbs, tubers, and corms of tender perennials in a cool but frost-free place, such as a potting shed or greenhouse.

What is the best method to protect seedlings and smaller plants from frost?

Use a cloche made from glass or plastic to cover the plants. Homemade cloches can be created using large plastic bottles or milk containers.

How can I protect young hardy annuals from frost?

Move them into a cold frame, which provides an enclosed space that retains heat and protects plants from frost.

When should I water plants for frost protection?

Water plants in the morning during winter and when there is a risk of frost. Wet soil absorbs heat during the day and provides some protection against frost.

How can I protect outdoor pots from frost?

Wrap them in materials like bubble wrap or straw, or bury the pots in the ground with only the rim showing. Grouping pots together in a sheltered area also provides additional protection.

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