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If last winter's extreme weather took its toll on your landscape plants, you aren't alone. Last spring, gardeners nationwide discovered what a harsh winter can do to roses, trees and shrubs. The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts another hard winter ahead. Fortunately, you can take steps in autumn to prepare plants for what's coming.
Extreme cold isn't the only challenge faced by woody plants; in fact, plants hardy to your region should endure normal winter temperatures just fine. However, winter can wreak havoc in other ways.
Although wet, heavy snow can damage branches, snow cover is usually good for plants. A layer of snow provides moisture and helps insulate the soil and roots from fluctuating temperatures.
Healthy plants are more likely to get through winter unscathed. A plant that has struggled during the growing season, whether due to insufficient sunlight, water or nutrients, or heavy damage from insects or disease, will enter winter in a vulnerable state. Start your winter-protection strategy with careful care during the growing season and into autumn.
Deciduous shrubs and trees — those that lose their leaves in autumn — have adapted to life in cold-winter climates by going dormant. Many of these techniques are designed to ensure that plants enter dormancy before the coldest weather arrives, and remain dormant until spring.
Mature trees and shrubs that are hardy in your region need no extra protection. However, young and newly planted trees and shrubs benefit from some extra TLC:
You can find tree wrap and guards at garden centers and hardware stores.
Trees and shrubs that remain green — conifers and broadleaf evergreens, such as rhododendrons — slow their growth but never go fully dormant. It's especially important that they have a ready supply of water whenever the ground isn't frozen.
Many shrub roses and rugusa roses are hardy and need no winter protection, but hybrid teas are another story. These tender, grafted roses need extra protection in regions where temperatures may drop below 10 degrees F.
Last updated: 10/7/19
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