How to Protect Plants from Frost: Essential Tips and Our Favorite Plant Covers

Protecting your plants from frost is extremely important for maintaining a healthy and vibrant garden and landscaped yard. Frost can damage or even kill plants, especially those that are not frost-tolerant. Here are some essential tips and our favorite plant covers to help you safeguard your garden from the chilly dangers of frost.

Understanding Frost

Before diving into protection methods, it’s important to understand what frost is and how it affects plants. Frost occurs when temperatures drop enough to cause the water vapor in the air to freeze. This can damage plant cells, leading to wilting, browning, or the death of the plant.

What Plants Need Frost Protection

Frost protection is particularly crucial for plants that are sensitive to cold temperatures and those not naturally adapted to withstand freezing conditions. This includes a wide variety of tropical and subtropical plants, such as begonias, hibiscus, and citrus trees, which thrive in warm environments and can suffer damage or death in frost. Annuals like impatiens, zinnias, and marigolds, which complete their life cycle in one growing season, are also vulnerable.

Young plants and new growth, regardless of the species, are more susceptible to frost damage because their tissues are tender and less hardy. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, along with herbs such as basil, are not frost-tolerant and require protection. Even some perennials and hardy plants may need frost protection during unexpected cold snaps or if they are planted in areas that expose them to colder temperatures, such as open fields or elevated locations.

Trees and Shrubs

Shrubs and trees, especially evergreens and those that are newly planted or young can also be at risk during a frost. While many mature trees and shrubs are adapted to handle cold temperatures, there are specific considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Evergreen Trees and Shrubs: Evergreens, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, some conifers, and even boxwoods can be sensitive to frost because they retain their foliage during the winter. Their leaves can lose moisture during cold, windy weather, leading to desiccation and frost burn.
  2. Newly Planted or Young Trees and Shrubs: These plants haven’t had the chance to establish a robust root system, making them more vulnerable to frost damage. The roots, stems, and emerging buds are particularly at risk.
  3. Flowering Shrubs and Fruit Trees: Early blooming varieties, like magnolias, cherry trees, and certain types of hydrangeas, can have their buds and blossoms damaged by late frosts. This can affect their bloom in the current season and potentially impact fruit production in fruit trees.
  4. Tropical and Subtropical Species: Shrubs and trees native to warm climates, like palm trees, can suffer significant damage in freezing temperatures.

Essential Tips for Soft Protection

  1. Know Your Plants: Understand which of your plants are frost-tolerant and which are not. Frost-sensitive plants include most tropical plants, succulents, and some annuals.
  2. Keep an Eye on the Weather: Regularly check the forecast during colder months. Frost usually occurs on clear, still nights.
  3. Water Plants in the Evening: Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, providing some warmth to the plants.
  4. Use Mulch: Applying a thick layer of mulch around the base of plants helps insulate the soil and roots.
  5. Cover Plants at Night: Use frost covers or blankets to protect plants. Remove the covers during the day to allow for air circulation and sunlight.
  6. Choose the Right Location: Plant frost-sensitive plants in areas that are less likely to experience severe frost, such as near walls or under large trees.
  7. Potted Plants: Move potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area to protect them from frost.

Our Favorite Plant Covers for Frost Protection

  1. Floating Row Covers: Lightweight and easy to use, floating row covers allow light and water to reach the plants while providing frost protection.
  2. Frost Blankets or Cloths: Frost Blankets are thicker than row covers and can be draped over plants. They’re ideal for protecting individual plants or small groups.
  3. Burlap Sacks: An eco-friendly option, burlap sacks can be used to cover plants, offering good insulation against frost.
  4. Plastic Tents or Tunnels: Creating a small greenhouse effect, these tent covers are great for rows of plants or small garden areas.
  5. Water Walls: Water walls are plastic protectors filled with water. They absorb heat during the day and release it at night, providing a stable environment for the plant.


Protecting your plants from frost requires a bit of preparation and vigilance. By understanding your garden’s needs and using the right protective measures, you can ensure that your plants survive the colder months. Remember, each garden is unique, so tailor these tips to suit your specific situation. With these strategies in hand, your garden can thrive year-round, even when the temperature drops.

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