Once autumn settles in, it is sometimes necessary to protect your plants to help them make it through the long, cold winter to come. Choosing the right kind of protection, and when to implement it, is not always an easy task.

Over the last few years, new techniques and materials have been developed, so gardeners have to keep up-to-date if they want to make the right choice.

Here are just a few things you need to protect your plants from:

  • the weight of snow and ice
  • road salt, which can damage hardwood and softwood trees
  • strong winds
  • rodents
  • sudden changes in temperature

Unfortunately, ideal conditions are very rare. A lasting, protective layer of snow is quite often lacking and winter protection becomes necessary. Botanix garden centres can help you find the solution with their wide range of products: snow fences, protective netting, stakes, landscape fabric, burlap, cones, etc., all of which will protect your shrubs, conifers, rose bushes and perennials.

When to set up winter protection

  • Set up your winter protection as late as possible in the season, ideally when the ground is frozen, or after a good snowfall. This will help prevent sudden temperature changes and prevent plants from warming up, which might wake them from hibernation.
  • Stakes and pickets, on the other hand, should be put into place before the ground is too hard.
  • Make sure you allow for air circulation through your barriers to avoid disease and mold.

And when to remove them

When the soil begins to thaw, remove the winter protection. April is generally the best time to do this.

  • Remove winter protection as soon as possible, to prevent mold and early bud burst resulting from warming within the protective covering. This applies particularly to rose bushes.
  • Choose a cloudy day to protect your plants from the shock of sudden exposure to the sun, from temperature change and foliage burning from the sun.
  • Don’t wait too late in spring as this can cause serious damage.

What material use for each plant

Since our winters last for several months, remember your garden must not be an eyesore in any season. To keep it looking good in winter, avoid clashing colours, and create conceptual continuity by using the same materials throughout the garden.

Protect conifers

Conifers probably resist winter's rough handling better than any other plant. However, their persistent needles require large amounts of water. In the fall, it needs to stock up on water, which will allow it to better withstand the drying winds of spring. The following spring, you might notice that they have lost their colour and that some branches have turned brown.

  • Before the first frosts and late in the fall - water them abundantly. Then implement the appropriate winter protection measures.
  • If you have upright conifers, wrap them with an appropriate black or transparent netting or tie them up with string. This will prevent the branches from opening and bending under the weight of the snow.
  • Staking conifers near the house or under roof over­ hangs is a good idea, as it protects them from large accumulations of snow.
  • Use a snow fence to protect your plants from the wind. They are solid, but not airtight. You can wrap them around the base of conifers or make shelters to completely cover globular conifers.

Protect trees

Trees do not generally need winter protection. Notable exceptions to this rule are trees on grafted stems, young trees and fruit trees.

  • Young trees and fruit tress - protect the base of the trunk from rodents with a perforated white plastic spiral.
  • Grafted stem trees - cover with a geotextile fabric held by 4 stakes. Protect the base with a plastic spiral.

Protect shrubs and fragile plants

  • Tie the branches of shrubs together with a rope or nylon net, to protect them from snow or ice.
  • Surround the shrubs with a snow fence covered with geotextile if they are in a windy location.

Winter protection summary table

  • Plastic barriers should be avoided, as they prevent plants from breathing. They can result in excessive condensation, causing an accumulation of ice and freeze-dried leaves.
  • Pierce your cones in several places to allow for air circulation.
 Snow fence

Plastic netting

Winter fabric

ConesWhite spiralStringProtective FabricMulch
Upright conifers X   XX 
Spreading conifersX       
Hardy shrubsX    XX 
Less hardy shrubsX X    X
HedgesX    XXX
Rose bushes  XX X X
Hardy rose bushesX       
Trees    X   
Fruit trees    X   
Less hardy perennials  XX  XX
Lawn      X 
Flowerbeds       X