How to Prep Your Plants for the First Frost of the Season
The air is turning colder, which means it's time to unpack your long-hibernating winter clothes, break out your best slow-cooker recipes, and—most importantly—get your plants ready for the first frost. While some of the South's hardier plants can make it through the season unscathed, most need our help to survive until springtime. Here, we have a few tips for winterizing your garden now that the first frost looms.
- Once temperatures in your area begin to drop into the 40s—the rule of thumb is any nighttime temp below a chilly 45 degrees—you know it's time to bring tropical, semi-tropical, and cold-intolerant potted plantings indoors. You should move any plants that are sensitive to the cold inside so that they're not exposed to the winter weather.
- Before moving, you may want to spray the plants with your horticultural product of choice to ensure that unwanted insects don't hitch a ride inside on the plants' leaves or in the soil.
- Once inside, place these containers near clean, clear windows so that they receive adequate light.
- When bringing your containers indoors, be sure not to crowd them. Your plants need sufficient space to thrive.
- Don't overwater. Because these plants need less moisture once they're moved inside for the winter (thanks to the cooler temps and dimmer light), you should let the soil dry out before watering again.
Plants that may need to move indoors: bougainvilleas, Chinese hibiscus, lantana, gladiolus, agapanthus, tree ferns, mandevillas, clivias, princess flowers, elephant's ears, passion flowers, geraniums, fuchsias, sago palms, plumerias, begonias, orange bells, angel's trumpets, snake plants, amaryllis, banana plants, peace lilies, canna lilies, calla lilies, and ginger lilies, to name just a few.
- Clean up and clean out. Remove debris, fallen leaves, and weeds from your garden patch.
- Cover the roots of your perennials and shrubs with mounds of mulch created out of decaying, fallen leaves or compost. Form the mounds around the plants, focusing on the bases. This will insulate the plants against the extremity of the season's frost.
- Plant your spring bulbs. Because they need the winter cold and plenty of time to produce their springtime blooms, they should go in the ground now. Plant bulbs such as daffodils, crocuses, tulips, irises, and hyacinths, and wait for showy garden color next season.
- Take cuttings of annuals like impatiens, coleus, begonias, petunias, and geraniums, and root them in containers inside during the season. For more information on how to do this, check out The Grumpy Gardener's guide to turning annuals into perennials.
- Keep an eye on the forecast. When overnight temps are expected to dip below freezing, prep beds by covering plants with burlap, an old sheet or blanket, or clear plastic. This helps retain heat radiating from the soil so plants can stay toasty during the night.
WATCH: Grumpy's Tips For Beginning Gardeners
Don't be caught unprepared when the first frost arrives! Take a few winter-prep steps now, and your plants will thank you come springtime. Have you already started winterizing your garden this year?