As the weather cools down, plants will need covering, bulbs will need lifting or mulching and extra winter protection given to tender specimens which will have to be brought indoors if they are to survive the frost of the coldest months.

4 steps to protect plants from frost damage

So, what steps should you be taking to protect your plants from frost this winter?


1. Wrap them up

how to protect plants from frost in winter
Put horticultural fleece around pots of tender plants. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Use horticultural fleece (available on Amazon), hessian or bubble wrap to wrap around permanent plants in pots. You need to stop the roots from freezing, which could ultimately kill the plant. If you have lots of pots, huddle them together near a house wall, where it will be slightly warmer. They will insulate each other and you can use one large length of protective material to protect all the plants. Tie the cover round them securely so it doesn’t blow off in winter.

Next time you’re planting a tender permanent specimen in a frost-resistant container, line the inside wall of the pot with bubble wrap to save you having to do it in the autumn. Remember to add drainage by poking holes in the bubble wrap to match up with the pot’s drainage holes.

Plants in borders which can’t easily be moved, such as tree ferns, should be wrapped in horticultural fleece from the base of the trunk upwards. The leaves of tree ferns and other tender plants such as cordylines should be tied upright, packed with straw and covered with horticultural fleece. A layer of mulch should be laid over the root area to keep the frost from damaging them.

2. Make a frame

how to protect plants from frost in winter
Create a frame for tender plants. (Thinkstock/PA)

Small tender shrubs can be protected with makeshift frames made from chicken wire (available on Amazon). Alternatively, a wigwam made from bamboo canes packed with straw and then covered in netting. In wet weather, you may need to temporarily cover them with clear polythene to stop them rotting in the wet.

If frost is forecast, keep a pair of old curtains to hand to cover borderline hardy plants overnight to prevent damage.

3. Move them indoors

How to protect tropical plants from frost in winter
Put geraniums under cover. (Thinkstock/PA)

Many tender plants, such as geraniums, begonias and half hardy fuchsias will need to be brought under cover before the first frosts. Put them in a frost-free greenhouse or garden shed to give them the best chance.

You could also consider bringing potted plants into your house for an added splash of colour.

4. Lift plants

How to protect tropical plants from frost in winter
Dig up dahlia tubers. (Thinkstock/PA)

Dig up tubers and rhizomes of tender plants like cannas and dahlias once the foliage has been blackened by the first frost. Cut them down to within 5cm (2in) of the base and dig them up with a fork, taking care to avoid damaging the rhizomes, remove all loose soil and dry them off, before storing them in boxes of dry sand or soil in a cool, frost-free place like a shed (for dahlias) or a greenhouse or conservatory (for cannas).

If you live in a mild area, you may get away with just a thick mulch such as straw or compost around the roots. If you can provide shelter for dahlias or cannas grown in containers, bring them under a porch or into an unheated greenhouse.

How to protect tropical plants from frost in winter

If you’ve got exotic plants in your garden, you need to consider how to protect these plants from frost in winter.

Lush, jungle-like plants like bananas, ginger lilies, spiky cordylines, spreading tree ferns and tropical-flowering cannas will all need some TLC to get them through the cooler months.

Some exotic-looking gems are as tough as old boots and should weather the storms of winter unscathed, including fatsias, hostas and even some palms.

But many are not. So, what do you need to do to save your exotics from the winter elements?

1. Banana (Musa)

Winter exotic plants
Banana plants will need winter protection (iStock/PA)

These exotic-leaved perennials won’t survive the winter without intervention, so you’ll need to give them some lagging.

Before frost has arrived, cut away the leaves and place a wide circle of chicken wire around the stems. Fill the inside of the circle with dry straw, going from the wire right to the stem and firming it around and down. This will ensure the insulation remains in place.

Place horticultural fleece across the top of the straw to further protect the plant during the winter, but still allow air circulation. Then, when winter is over and the danger of frost has passed, remove the lagging and tidy up your plant.

2. Canna

Winter exotic plants
Cannas are best brought inside (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Cannas are beautiful plants with leaves that open out to reveal show-stopping spikes of exotic-looking flowers in summer in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink. But these exotic plants need care if they are to survive winter.

If you’ve grown them in pots, move them to a greenhouse or conservatory to allow them to flourish for a few more weeks. Alternatively, let the first frost catch the foliage, then cut back the plants and move them to a frost-free shed or garage and stop watering them until spring.

Alternatively, dig up the rhizomes (swollen stems that grow horizontally) in the autumn, then cut down the foliage and stems to around 15cm (6in) and keep them in a frost-free dry place in multi-purpose compost.

In mild areas where your cannas are in a sunny, sheltered position, you can risk keeping them in the ground through the winter, but cover them with a 15cm (6in) deep mulch of straw and be prepared for losses in very wet or harsh winters.

3. Ginger lily

Winter exotic plants
Cover crowns of ginger lilies (iStock/PA)

With milder winters, these towering, tropical hedychiums (as they are also known) have grown in popularity. Their huge palmate leaves giving any jungle-orientated garden a colourful pick-me-up, as well as chunky flowerheads of fragrant blooms.

These aromatic showstoppers will flower into the autumn, but once their leaves are caught by frost cut them back to around 5cm (2in) above ground level and cover the crowns with a thick dry mulch.

For extra protection, you could cover the mulch with horticultural fleece, then lift that off in spring when the weather begins to get warmer and new growth starts to appear.

If you grow ginger lilies in containers, overwinter them indoors, in a greenhouse or conservatory.

4. Tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)

Winter exotic plants
You may need to pack straw around the crown of a tree fern (Tim Sandall/RHS/PA)

These large ferns love moisture, flourishing in damp soils, their handsome spreading fronds emerging from the crown. They’re native to tropical regions and the forests of south east Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America, so they’re used to plenty of heat.

In late autumn, tie up the fronds emerging from the thick trunks and erect a circular tube of chicken wire around the trunk. Leaving around a foot between fern and wire, tie the circle together with cable ties. Fill the tube with straw, insulating the trunk.

If you anticipate a cold winter, cut off the exposed leaves and cover the straw with horticultural fleece or a hessian sack for further protection of this exotic plant. If the winter is mild, your leaves may withstand what winter throws at it.

5. Cordyline

Winter exotic plants
Cordylines need tying up and covering (iStock/PA)

Many gardeners grow these spiky candidates as central features of summer containers because of their valuable architectural structure and colourful, sword-like leaves, which range from variegated green to purple.

Also known as the cabbage palm, cordylines do best in sun or partial shade. In cold spots these exotic plants can suffer damage due to winter winds and snow, so they will need some protection.

Cordyline australis is made of strong stuff and even if you have a harsh winter, it should regenerate. But the variegated and purple types are more tender.

When cooler weather comes, you need to tie up the leaves together in a point, which stops any snow or frost reaching the crown. If your plant is in a container, place the pot on feet or bricks so water will seep straight through and not remain cold and wet on the roots.

Once you have done that, wrap the tied leaves in horticultural fleece and move them nearer to the house if you can, or move pots to a frost-free greenhouse over the winter.

Best-selling frost protection for plants

Want to protect your plants? Check out our list of best-selling frost protection on Amazon.

SaleBestseller No. 1
New Ambassador Frost Protection Plant Fleece 20M X 1M 17G/M2
  • Lightweight and strong.
  • For all year round protection.
  • Provides a natural barrier against birds and insects.
Bestseller No. 2
Haxnicks 4x Small Easy Fleece Jackets | Garden Fleece Bags | Easy To Use Winter Plant Frost And Wind...
  • Made from high-grade 35GSM polypropylene fleece
  • Simply pop the jacket over the plant and secure with the integral drawstring around the base
  • Quality product of Haxnicks
Bestseller No. 3
4PCS Plant Fleece Frost Protection Jackets (50gms 60cm x 80cm), Garden Fleece Frost Protection,...
  • 🌿【Plant Protection】Our plant fleece frost protection can protect outdoor plants from the effects of cold and harsh weather. Garden fleece frost protection create a space that allows air, light,...
  • 🌿【Comfortable Design】This horticultural fleece has a convenient drawstring at the opening, which can easily and quickly cover plants in harsh weather conditions, maintaining plant stability.
  • 🌿【High Quality Material】Plant covers for winter is made of high-quality breathable non-woven polypropylene, with high tensile strength and tear resistance. Our exquisite design allows our...
Bestseller No. 4
Cymax Garden Fleece Plant Freeze Protection 2mx 10m,Fabric Plant Cover Frost Blankets for Winter...
  • Premium Material :Our plant cover is made of soft ,lightweight breathable and durable fabric ,which can not only better to prevent plant from frost damage in winter,but allows sunlight reach the...
  • Easy to Use: You can cover the freeze covers over your plants directly and keep the plant frost blanket more securely with soil and stones etc. You can also support the plant covers with a hoop, make...
  • Large Size to Cover Large Area : Our plant cover's size is 6.5ftx32ft, which can cover more areas. You can cut the plant covers into different size to cover different plant,such as strawberries,...
SaleBestseller No. 5
KAHEIGN 2 x 10M Plant Frost Protection Fleece, 30gsm Garden Fleece Plant Antifreeze Cloth Winter...
  • [High quality] Made of an amazing 30g/m² fleece material, with high tensile strength and tear resistance, UV protection, not easy to age, the bound edges provide sufficient protection for the lid,...
  • [Protects heat] The ultra-thick anti-freeze fleece cloth helps plants avoid wind, snow, frost, etc., keeps the temperature of crops above a critical level, and also can protects plants from sunlight...
  • [Breathable] The non-woven breathable fabric allows air, ultraviolet rays and a small amount of rain to enter, allowing plants to be watered and ventilated naturally, without removing them every...

Last update on 2024-02-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You may be interested in…

This article may include affiliate links to products and services where we may receive a small fee to support the running of this site if you make a purchase or is a sponsored article from one of our select editorial partners providing valuable advice and information to our readers.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.