Protecting plants which are young or tender against the cold and wet of winter will make the most of your hard work through the year.  Read about the easy steps you can take.

be prepared

I love this image of a tree fern in a winter coat at Kew Gardens! Thanks to David Hawgood. This image licensed for reuse under Creative Commons license for reuse.

Protecting plants – keep them dry!

Purpose made ‘pot feet’ or bricks under patio pots protects them and the roots of plants inside. Pot feet or bricks will keep the pot out of puddles and prevent waterlogging which can rot or freeze plant roots and damage the pot.

If you have Mediterranean style plants such as lavender, sage or thyme in containers, rockeries or borders, spread a little medium sized gravel around the roots and under the leaves to help water drain away and reduce the risks of it rotting the plant. For other plants that like hot dry soil, adding gravel around and under their leaves is a good idea too – but be careful not to smother the crown of the plant.

protecting plants

Raising pots on bricks or pot feet is important to keep the bottom of the pot and plant dry. If your containers are in chilly spots or a harsh spell of weather is on the way, consider wrapping bubble wrap around the pot, and, if you can, covering that with hessian to protect the pot and the plant's roots from frost. Sarah Buchanan.

Protecting plants - think roots!

Any new or young plants destined for borders or containers next year should be sunk, pot and all,  into loose soil or a bag of compost. This ensures the roots are well below the surface of the soil and protects them from freezing. Be sure the soil won't waterlog the roots by mixing gravel with it.

Protecting plants - cover them up!

Tender plants whose label advised you to protect them from cold winds and damp, need more careful preparation for winter. Cut off damaged leaves and any top-heavy growth that won’t look good next year, clear weeds and leaves from the bottom of the plant to create a clean, tidy and drier base. Different plants appreciate different winter wrappings. Don’t forget to tie any coverings firmly, or the wind will whip them off and damage the plant.

Your plants may not need the full coat treatment, but when a harsh frost or strong, cold winds are expected young and tender plants will appreciate a temporary cover. Spread horticultural fleece, a bin bag or old newspaper over their tops at night. Don't leave plastic or paper on for more than a day or two or damp forming under it may rot the plant. If in doubt, invest in fleece.

protecting plants

An old newspaper provides quick and easy frost protection, but these young plants will need more than that to survive the winter. Sink the pots into loose soil to keep the roots snug and pop a layer of horticultural fleece over the top during harsh weather. Sarah Buchanan.

Protecting plants - going under cover

If harsh winters are your norm it might be worth investing in a garden frame where tender or young plants can be overwintered. Garden frames come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Or use wood planks and corrugated plastic sheeting to create a DIY frame that will do the job you need. We looked at these handy garden helpers in a recent blog - follow it up here.

If you have a conservatory which is home to tender plants be sure to protect them from sudden changes in temperature and extreme cold. Consult the labels that came with plants or search for advice on the RHS website here.