How to best protect your perennials and shrubs from bitter cold?

No matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere, we are deep into winter.
And much of the United States has seen VERY cold temperatures in the last week. Even here, in North Carolina, it has been about 15° for the last few nights. I realize it is now January and maybe you feel it’s too late to lend your garden some help. No! It’s never too late. The bitter cold, and/or heavy snow is certainly an issue. But almost worse is later in the season as the temperatures can vary so much within any 24 hour period. A really cold night can come on quickly and all it takes is one night of very cold temperatures to destroy a plant.

Take heart. You can order a cover, make a cover, or even just use a sheet in no time at all.

Here are a few suggestions and links you may want to consider:


Let’s start with some general ideas on how to protect your plants.

The best way is to cover them. This is almost foolproof. But the downside is you have to remember to put a cover over your plants each cold night…and depending on the number of plants, you may need quite a lot of covering. For the occasional, light covering you can use old sheets.

But if you want to have a more “permanent” solution, i.e. to be used many nights during the winter,  then buy some lightweight, breathable fabric made especially for this purpose. Do be sure to remove it in the sunlight as water condensation with the warmer daytime temps can cause rot or mold.

I actually stake mine down at the edges using metal plant markers (they are handy!) or even short wooden plant stakes left from the summer season. You can also tie a string around the fabric covered plant, but I have found that any real breeze or wind will make quick work of uncovering the fabric.

Not very glamorous! This is how I do it. Fabric from Gardeners Supply.


I love this fabric. It comes in a huge roll (6′ x 20′) which I then cut into various size pieces, depending on the plant size. I have learned to “label” each piece. Using a thick black marker I write the name of the intended plant on the edge of the fabric. Yes, it may seem like a lot to do…but believe me, my hydrangeas thank me all summer.

Then there is the issue of snow and ice.

Heavy snow can crush plants, even large shrubs, so this calls for a unique kind of covering. A burlap covering held up with sturdy stakes, in the form of a tepee, will work very well. Be wary of any flat topped covering as the snow will collect and eventually crush the structure.

The “perfect” tepee as snow will slide right off. Read more HERE


For smaller plants or maybe a newly planted perennial that is still tender here is another option: an individual cloche.

 Like the older, heavier, glass cloches but these are lightweight and breathable.

These are made from PVC, not glass. Not practical for any large project at all, but for a few tender plants this works beautifully. And note the release hole at top so the plant can breath in warmer temps. Large Garden Cloche  





There are many how-to columns on this subject and here are a few I would recommend:

The best source for all kinds of coverings, whether lightweight, permanent or portable is
Gardeners Supply Co.

Frost IS beautiful; just be sure your plants like it!