Plant and garden care during the colder months can be tricky. Anyone with a green thumb knows there’s a lot to take into account in order to avoid plant damage and guarantee that they make it through winter and into spring.
In this article, you’ll learn a few simple and proven tips to help tend to your plants during the winter months. From bringing your garden inside, to ensuring that trees and shrubs hold up in freezing temperatures, we’ve got you covered.
Outdoor plants and trees have it a little harder during the winter. Start planning their care now, so you’re ready when the first bit of cold arrives. A few quick strategies can go a long way to protect plants from potential sun scalding, foliage damage, and frozen roots when colder weather comes.
Mulching is one of the easiest ways to protect your outdoor plants in the winter. Mulching is simply spreading any material over your soil as a covering. This retains moisture in your soil, regulates the soil’s temperature, and makes your flower or garden beds look more attractive. Mulch made with organic materials, like shredded leaves or compost, can even help improve the soil’s fertility.
You can also set up a drip-line irrigation system for outdoor plants. This low-volume watering system delivers water to thirsty plants, and will keep your plants’ roots moist, but not soaked.
Pull back old mulches from the plants during autumn months, and apply a new 3-inch layer of mulch around the stem towards the drip line. Leave a half-inch between the stem and mulch to allow air circulation. This will prevent rotting. Any of your newly planted trees or shrubs should be mulched for the winter.
As the mulch decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil, which helps your plants grow stronger and healthier in the warmer months.
Screens & Covers
Using protective screens and covers can keep the harsh wind from damaging your plants. You don’t need a special cover to protect your trees and plants; simply cover them with a blanket or burlap at night all the way down to the roots, without tying it to the plant. Remove the covers during the day so your plants get the sunlight they need.
Trees can suffer from severe damage if not taken care of properly during the winter. To protect their tender bark from sun scalding or potential cracking and splitting, wrap some burlap around them or paint them with whitewash. This is especially important since cracks could lead to fungus and diseases.
For a simple, cheap whitewash, mix 2 cups of salt with 1 gallon of water, stirring until the salt dissolves. Then add 6 to 8 cups of hydrated lime. Keep stirring until completely dissolved and the mixture looks thinner than paint. Brush the mixture onto any exposed area of the tree's bark.
Bring Your Winter Plants Inside
Some of your outdoor plants can be brought inside as houseplants, but you’ll want to remember a few things before you start filling your home with all kinds of greenery.
Carefully choose which plants will benefit from the care and climate you can give them inside. Remember that they’ll get less sunlight and rain, so you might need to change your routine around plant care once you bring a few of them inside.
Only hang on to your healthier plants – if one of your plants has fought to stay alive all summer, it’s probably not going to fare very well inside. Avoid any greenery that shows signs of disease or insects – issues like this can spread even more quickly among indoor plants.
Consider just bringing in cuttings of your plants. Cuttings take up less space, so you don’t necessarily need to bring an entire shrub into your living room.
Care Routines for Indoor Plants
Every plant is different, so each has different needs. If you already have indoor plants, these are likely tropical, but be sure to research any specific type of plant if you have doubts about its care routine.
Plants do not need as much water during winter because the low temperatures will cause a period of hibernation, or dormancy. During this time, plants minimize their metabolic activity to save energy, resulting in little to no growing during winter and, therefore, the need for very little water.
A little water at room temperature every 10 to 12 days will work for most indoor plants. The soil on the surface will dry quickly, so don’t use this as an indicator of your plant needing more water.
Look out for yellow leaves, flying bugs, and moldy soil—these are signs of potential overwatering.
During winter, the humidity level of the average home can drop by 10-20% making it difficult to achieve the ideal 50% humidity that plants prefer. To make sure your plants are getting the humid environment they need, place them near a humidifier.
If you don’t have a humidifier at home, you can try different ways to keep your plants’ surroundings humid. Plants naturally release water through their leaves when they transpire, so grouping them together will create a humid space around them. Try grouping them in the kitchen or bathroom to use the moisture from hot water.
A good technique to keep your plants humid is filling a tray with water and adding pebbles that stick a few centimeters out of the water. Placing the plant pots on the pebbles and water will keep your plants humid as it evaporates.
As the days grow shorter, you might need to move your plants to another room or closer to a window to get sunlight. South- and west-facing windows will receive more sunlight during winter, so consider this when choosing a new location. Be sure to clean your windows to allow in more light, and shift the plants to the brighter windows.
And make sure to rotate your plants individually, to make sure they get sunlight all over their leaves and keep them from becoming lopsided.
There is no need to worry about your plants making it through a harsh winter. Even though there are many threats to plant life during the cold season, there are plenty ways to make the transition into spring much easier. Once the snow melts and the cold goes away, your plants will thank you for your hard work when they come into full bloom.