How to protect plants from frost

Get your garden prepared for colder weather with these top tips on how to protect plants from frost

how to protect plants from frost
(Image credit: Unsplash/Galina N)

Learning how to protect plants from frost will reward you with a much better-looking garden come spring, with all your perennials in great shape and ready to bloom again. While there are many hardy plants to choose from, some garden favourites do need extra protection on extra-cold nights – and they're not far away! 

Fortunately, there are several reliable methods for keeping tender plants frost-free. Just scroll down for a guide on how to protect plants from frost, including tips from Alan Titchmarsh, and if you’re after a whole lot more garden ideas, just go over to our dedicated page.  

1. Invest in cloches

Vegetable plot of a victorian house with cloches protecting plants

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Cloches are ideal to protect tender plants, particularly vegetables, and will keep them warmer but also dry to prevent disease. Try them for grow-your-own produce such as peas, broad beans, and salad leaves. 

Alan Titchmarsh recommends the decorative versions in the form of Victorian-style bell jars, because they’ll look good as well as do their job. However, you can also get tunnel cloches which, while they won’t be as attractive, can be a sound alternative if you have lots of crops to cover.

2. Use fleece

Like to put on a cosy, fleecy jacket in winter? So do some of your garden plants – although it’s the horticultural type of fleece you’ll need for your garden. It can be used for plants in pots – which are particularly vulnerable in cold weather – as well as for shrubs and trees.

Which of your plants need wrapping? Think callistemon, pittosporum and figs. In the case of the latter, to protect the fruit to come. 

3. Care for plants in pots

pelargonium in pot

(Image credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

Plants in containers need extra protection from frost. Roots can freeze as well as the plant above, and the pot can get damaged, too. The solution is to wrap the pot in bubble wrap – or get frost-proof pots that will protect plant roots. 

If you're big on container gardening then be sure to check out our feature. 

4. Bring tender plants under cover

If you have the space, you should bring tender plants in before the frosts begin. This includes bananas, olives, succulents, fuchsias and salvias. If you don’t have a greenhouse, a conservatory or porch could be a good alternative.

Nowhere to put plants or you can’t move the pot because of its weight? That’s where fleece and bubblewrap come in (see above). You can wrap bananas and tree ferns, for example. 

For a tree furn, use fleece for the trunk, then tie its fronds upright and use a layer of straw before adding a double layer of fleece. Banana stems can be protected with straw packing in a chicken wire surround. Put polythene over the top to keep the straw dry.

5. Care for geraniums over winter

Geraniums shouldn’t be left out in the frost. You’ll need to dig them out of beds and shake off soil from around the roots. Pot them up individually using a seed and cutting compost. Cut down stems to half their height, and take off dead flowers and yellow leaves. They’ll need to be kept in the greenhouse or a room that’s unheated. 

See how to choose a greenhouse in our guide.

6. Look after hydrangeas

Hydrangeas under frost

(Image credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

Worried about the possibility of hydrangea frost damage? For mophead hydrangeas, leave the dead blooms on over winter. This way, you’ll protect the buds below from frost damage. You can then remove the dead flowerheads in spring. Lacecap hydrangeas can be cut back as they’re hardier. 

If your hydrangeas are in containers, you can protect the roots with bubble wrap or straw wrapping round the pot. 

7. Get a mini greenhouse for potted plants

Sol 72 Outdoor Alexei mini greenhouse

(Image credit: Wayfair )

No space for a proper greenhouse? You can still protect you container plants from frost with a mini greenhouse. While choosing frost-proof pots is the first step to keeping your plants healthy in winter, some species just can't be left outside on a frosty night. Pelargoniums are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures and will get frost bite (you'll notice their leaves turn red). If you only have one or two, you're best off brining them indoors. But if you have a larger collection, house them in a mini green house like this one from Wayfair. 

Check out Alan Titchmarsh’s advice on protecting plants from frost

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Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.