Protect Tender Plants for the Winter

Now is the time to ensure that your garden is properly put to bed for the winter. Attention needs to be paid to the not so hardy plants to ensure that they survive our wild winters and emerge safe and sound in the spring. I find that there can be confusion over this issue and many people do not realize that some Roses are not hardy in our climate and benefit from protection. Any plant designated a zone 5 or more needs winter protection.

Shrubs needing winter protection include Azalea, Rhododendron, Boxwood, Magnolia, Rose of Sharon, Japanese Maple and all Roses – except Shrub and Rugosa types. Zone 5 perennials commonly grown in this area include various Ornamental Grasses, Russian Sage, Helleborus, and Gaura. Just check the tag if you are not sure.

Mulching for root protection

Ensure that the plants receive adequate moisture before freeze up. Do not cut back perennials. As the ground begins to freeze (not too early), mound the base of the plant with peat, manure, topsoil or leaves to about 4 – 6″ in height. By mounding around the base of the plant you are aiming to provide a more even soil temperature and help prevent the dangerous freeze thaw cycle that may heave and damage roots.

Wrapping for above ground protection

Tender shrubs and Roses will benefit from wrapping with burlap or any other breathable material. Wait until after the first heavy frost before wrapping a plant. Wrap from the ground up and tie securely with twine, or use an old plant pot or wooden boards to cover the plant. The idea is to protect the plant from drying winds and ice storms. Do not leave the covering on too late in the Spring – remove a couple of weeks before the last frost date. If you are mounding the plant as well, do this after the wrapping.

Remember, come spring, you’ll be pleased you spent a little time doing these tasks now!