Shrubs wrapped in burlap

How do I best prepare plants and shrubs for the winter?

By..., Jeff's Outdoor Landscape Designer

For many of us, by the time late fall arrives, we’re a little less enthusiastic about yard work than we were throughout the spring and summer.

But preparing your plants and shrubs for the winter can actually be a pleasant way to spend some time outdoors enjoying the cooler weather before winter arrives. And your plants and shrubs will thank you by thriving beautifully in the spring.

Read on for a few things you can do to prepare your plants and shrubs for the winter.

Pruning and weeding

When fall arrives, it’s time to cut back or prune your plants and shrubs to get them ready for the winter. Follow these guidelines:

  • Inspect each of your plants and shrubs for any dead or damaged branches; prune as required.
  • Remove any spent flowers, although you might consider allowing hydrangeas to remain; their dried flowers look beautiful and can be an eye-catching source of winter interest.
  • Cut back any perennials.
  • Continue to water to prevent dormancy.

Fall clean up is also a good time to deal with any weeds before winter. During the fall, weeds are attempting to soak up as many nutrients as they can to try and survive through the winter. You can prune and cut back or use a weed control compound to keep them under control.

Note: Wait until spring to cut back any grasses, to reduce winter damage. Prune roses during the second week of April.


Mulch adds a protective layer to help insulate and retain moisture. Mulch helps to protect the roots of plants and shrubs that are less hardy or those that have been planted more recently and may still be somewhat vulnerable to frost. “Frost heave” happens when cycles of freezing and thawing push a plant’s crown up from the ground and can lead to the death of even some of the more hardy types of plants and shrubs.

A four- to a six-inch layer of mulch is typically sufficient, ideally applied after the ground freezes.


Wrapping helps protect plants and shrubs from a variety of conditions that can harm them throughout the winter. Wrapping protects flower buds, evergreen leaves, and needles from winds that can dry or burn them. Salt—from sidewalks and roads—that blows or splashes onto your plants can cause severe damage if they’re not wrapped. Wrapping also provides protection and support to weak branches that could break under the weight and rigidity of ice and snow.

Wrap evergreens with burlap to prevent winter burn. (Broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons should be wrapped with burlap and also mulched with leaves.)


If you have roses, mounding is essential to protect their roots. Mounding can be used to protect a variety of delicate plants, not only roses. Most woody plants that tend to die back close to the ground in winter will benefit from mounding. This technique is meant to protect the lower 8 to 12 inches of the plant, in case the winter turns out to be colder than the plant could otherwise tolerate.


We Can Help

If you’re a busy homeowner who could use some assistance in preparing your landscape for winter, let us help! Our friendly experts will make sure your plants and shrubs are properly protected so that they’ll emerge from winter ready to thrive.

Need some help preparing plants and shrubs for winter? Check out the options on our landscape maintenance page.