Plants are an integral part of any backyard environment. They serve a number of important functions from being visual elements of a desired theme to simply providing shade. On a more natural level, they are also important parts of the urban landscape that provide food and shelter to native animals and insects that depend on their branches, bark, and flowers for nourishment and sanctuary from predators and the elements. As most of the country is experiencing historically cold weather, this is a perfect time to dust off the old primer for how to help your beloved friends survive harsh winter conditions.
First, if you can move the plants, by all means move them. This is really only a possibility for potted plants but if they are not too large and too unwieldy to move, get them into a warm corner of the house at least during the evening hours so that they can get some respite from the cold. This is especially true of tropical and other non-native plants that might not be accustomed to the weather in your area. Even large potted plants are more vulnerable to the cold because their root systems are above ground and not able to seek the shelter of the typically warmer lower layers of the soil.
For those plants that can’t be moved, start by giving them all a healthy watering before freezing temperatures set in. While it might sound counterintuitive, water actually takes on insulating properties in the soil and helps it retain heat around the plants’ roots and in the plants’ cells. Take care to just water the bases of the plants and not get the branches or limbs too wet so that ice does not form and damage their exterior limbs.
For the next step, its time to get creative and figure out a way to cover those plants up. For the smaller and more tender rooted members of your garden, use old pots turned upside down. For the larger shrubs or small trees, use tarps or other wind breaking material to carefully wrap the plants. It is important when covering plants to take care not to bend or break them and to secure tarps carefully to the ground. What you do not want to happen is for covers to become sails in windy conditions and uproot your plants during especially strong gusts.
Even more importantly, it is always a good idea to consider the survivability of any plants you put into the ground as you make landscaping decisions. While annuals and some tropical or non-native plants might be very visually appealing, they always have the hardest time making it through hard freezes. Hardy native perennial varieties are best suited for whatever cold your particular regional environment can throw at them because they have evolved with your particular weather patterns over centuries of cultivation, both natural and controlled. Native perennials have the incredible redeeming quality of being able to allow most of what you see above ground to die back during a hard freeze as a means of conserving energy and warmth in the roots and core of the plant. To put it another way, they are always the most adept at living to fight another day.
If you are anything like us, plants in the backyard environment become irreplaceable components of what make your outdoor living spaces what they are and they deserve our dedicated attention and protection. For more backyard plant tips, visit our showroom in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona or get in touch with one of our design specialists.