How Cold Weather Can Damage Your Shrubs And How To Prevent It

By: albertaarb - April 16, 2014

The spring is here and cold weather plant damage & root fertilization is at the front of many of our minds… and yards. 

When the temperature starts to dip, many gardeners worry about their outdoor plants. Freezing temperatures are widely known to negatively affect lawns, flowers and shrubbery. But don't fear. There are plenty of simple steps to take to prevent cold weather plant damage.

Keep plants healthy

Just like people, the healthier the plant the less likely it is to 'get sick.' Outdoor shrubbery that has been grown in nutrient rich soil will sustain far less damage than those that have not.  Try adding compost soil or even eggshells or Miracle Grow to you shrubs during favorable weather conditions.

Mulch isn't just for decoration

Sure, mulching your yard, flowers and shrubs may look great, but it also serves another purpose. Plants that are surrounded by mulched beds will hold in the heat, giving them a much higher endurance than those that are not.  The same goes for shrubs planted closer to a home. As the heat from the dwelling will help to shelter them in cold weather and prevent winter shrub damage.

Water before the cold

Shrubs that are watered before a devastating cold snap will hold in more heat during the nighttime hours. Those notorious for 'zapping' plants.  Be careful not to overwater, but giving your shrubs a much-needed drink will help them out.  Spritzing the shrubbery's foliage as temperature drops can also help to protect them.

Cover up

We've all seen neighbors and businesses cover up their ornamental shrubbery before the fall's first big cold snap. Be advised that covering plants will only protect them from a frost, not a freeze.

Covering up plants is a viable option for gardeners in the case of a projected frost. The best way to cover shrubs is to place stakes about two inches from the leaves surrounding the plant. Then cover the stakes with cloth, careful not to wrap the shrub too tightly.

Foliage that makes contact with the cover has a significantly higher chance of death or damage due to heat transfer from the leaves to the cold cover. During the day, make sure to remove any covering.

Choose the right shrubs

This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure you do a bit of research regarding plants that grow well in your specific area.  Obviously palm trees and other tropical shrubbery would be irreparably damaged during a cold winter - and then those plants would need to be removed. 

Simply invest and grow plants that are known to be hardy in your specific area. When choosing broad leaf evergreens that are notorious for easy injury, such as gardenia, daphne and  azalea, choose a location to the north or east side of a dwelling. Or other barrier where they'll  be protected from chilly winds and often intense winter sun. Especially if it bounces off the snow. 

To bring indoors or not to bring indoors---that is the question

If you have potted shrubs, some gardeners wonder if it is safe to relocate them indoors after they have bitten by the frost. The unfortunate news is once foliage is damaged, the damaged potion will continue to decline once inside.  The best advice is to clip the damaged portions back before relocating indoors. The warmer temperatures will gradually encourage new growth, but please be patient. After damage it takes much longer for shrubbery to recover. 

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