3 Winter Prep Tasks for Shrubs

Gardeners in any growing condition could benefit from a little preparation before winter hits. It’s not only nice to put a bow on the growing season, it may actually save your plants from getting stressed or damaged. Although that sounds serious, these three tasks are actually easy and quick. 

clippers deadheading a hydrangea

1 - Deadhead large blooms.

A large spent flower can easily be caught in the wind or weighed down by snow, causing the branch to snap. So, if you live in an area that gets a little wild in the winter, it’s good to do some proactive pruning. Take a walk by the spots that get hit hardest and snip off any large blooms just above a set of leaves.

Plants to consider:

A gardener brushes away mulch from the base from a plant

2 - Check mulch.

Some gardeners like to mulch before winter hits. If that was the case for you, go back and check the bases of your shrubs. Brush away any mulch that is touching a branch. If mulch is mounded up around a shrub it can cause problems, like:

  • making the environment soggy (butterfly bushes despise this in particular)
  • encouraging pests to get cozy and chew away the precious outer layers of the branches
  • accidentally remaining there well into the future, which creates a multitude of different problems
Watering evergreens in winter

3 - Water young evergreens (and new plantings).

Lack of water is the most common reason an evergreen experiences winter burn. Essentially, the harsh wind sucks moisture from the foliage and it isn’t able to be replenished because the plant is dormant. To avoid this, provide ample water for them before the ground freezes. To make sure you don’t overwater:

  • feel the ground around the outside of the rootball and
  • if it is moist, don’t water OR
  • if it is dry, water deeply 

Thankfully, winter naturally does some good work without our assistance. The steady drop in temperature helps our plants go dormant and any lasting snowfall insulates plants against especially chilly days. Winter also gives gardeners their own type of dormancy – a chance to sit back and reflect on the seasons of the past and the seasons to come. While you’re relaxing you could:

Comments (5)

  1. John Leous

    Hi I appreciate your helpful hints! Especially about keeping new Evergreens moist! I also burlap to help prevent wind burn and aleviate Deer! Thanks again

    • Kristina Howley

      That’s a great call for gardens that face truly tough winters! Glad you’ve found a method that works for you!

  2. John Leous

    I truly love Proven Winner

  3. Shani Frank

    Can you send this booklet by mail?
    It’s very hard to read in email.

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Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.


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