Will Cold Weather Harm Landscape Plants?

Thermometer showing very cold temperatures

Cold Weather Can Challenge Landscape Plants

Baby its cold out there!

In fact, these are the coldest temperatures we have seen in several years. You and I may be able to bundle up, but what about our plants? Is cold weather bad for plants?

Let’s first assume that you have plants that are correct for our area. Obviously, plants that are normally found in southern regions will not do well in our coldest winters. Plant varieties that could be damaged include Camellia, Crape Myrtle and Southern Magnolia, to name a few.

Interestingly enough, plants are very adept at preparing themselves for winter’s cold.

During summer days, leaves make more glucose than the plant needs for energy and growth. The excess is turned into starch and stored until needed. As the daylight gets shorter in the autumn, plants begin to shut down their food production. As the amount of daylight gets too brief for the leaves to adequately produce food, the plant essentially cuts off the leaves from the rest of the plant. This is when we get the brilliant colors of fall. The leaves soon fall off and the tree rests for winter until the whole cycle begins again.

Evergreens, however, keep most of their leaves during the winter. They have special leaves, resistant to cold and moisture loss. Some, like pine and fir trees, have long thin needles. Others, like holly, have broad leaves with tough, waxy surfaces. On very cold, dry days, these leaves sometimes curl up to reduce their exposed surface. Evergreens may continue to photosynthesize during the winter as long as they get enough water, but the reactions occur more slowly at colder temperatures.

There are a few things you can do in your garden to help protect at risk plants from cold temperatures.

  • An extra layer of mulch could help protect the root system. Just be sure to remove it in the spring so as to not suffocate those same roots.
  • Spraying the foliage with an anti-desiccant will help keep leaves from drying out.
  • Wrapping plants in burlap will help protect them from harsh winds.

One last cold weather related tip. Don’t forget to brush heavy layers of snow off of plants so they do not break under the weight.

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