7 tips on how to protect tender plants in winter

With autumn approaching there is now a chance of overnight frosts or heavy rain. Plants like citrus, tree ferns, bananas, dahlias, begonias, cannas and tender salvias will be at risk of damage if left unprotected. Here are some ways you can protect them.

1. Wrap your plants with horticultural fleece when frosts are predicted. It is also important, however, to remove the wrapping during a very mild spell so to avoid the plant sweating or rotting, and then rewrapping when the frosts return.

2. Lay down a thick dry mulch around the base of your plants. This will protect the plants’ roots from hard frosts and prevent soil erosion from heavy rainfall. You can use bark, wood chippings, gravel or leaves.

3. Reduce feeding. Particularly avoid giving your plants nitrogen-rich fertiliser, as this can encourage new soft growth that will be very vulnerable to winter weather.

4. If your plant is in a container, you can either bring it under cover or move it to a more sheltered part of your garden. This means an area that is out of the wind and/or beside a south or west-facing wall. In these positions they are protected from cold northern and eastern winter winds.

5. Cut herbaceous perennials back to the ground, lift and store them in a cool, dark and dry area. This works particularly well for dahlias, when they will spend the winter in a semi-dormant state.

6. Construct a makeshift frame using materials like chicken wire, or a bamboo wigwam held together with string, and wrap it around tender shrubs. Use clear polythene if the weather is very wet.

7. If your plant is quite small, you can cover it with one of our bell cloches. They are an easy, practical and lightweight way of giving plants frost protection as well as slightly extending their growing season.

Roger Eavis