Can garden plants survive the frost? And can plants recover from frost damage?

Can garden plants survive the frost?

The general rule of thumb is if a plant is frost hardy it should survive the frost. Plants that are half hardy should be brought indoors throughout the winter months and protected from the frost. This also includes half hardy bulbs and seeds. 

Plants that are native to the Uk will usually survive the frost as well as evergreen plants or winter flowering plants. If however the plant is a seedling or small plant it may need protecting from the frost.

To protect your plants from frost damage.

  • Avoid pruning during the winter months. 
  • Potted plants should be brought indoors or a heated greenhouse especially over night.  If they can’t be bright indoors try moving them to a sunnier part of the garden. 
  • Add a mulch around the base of plants to protect the roots from frost damage. You can either use woodchip, fallen leaves or straw.
  • Wrap a frost protective fleece around venerable plants. Or create a fleece tunnel over borders and veg patches. 
  • Lift bulbs of tropical plants and store away in a cool dry dark place of winter. Replant once the frost has passed. 

Top tip - If you are using a green house or polly tunnel to store plants through the winter. Insulate with bubble wrap to help keep it warmer. This will also allow light to pass through.

If you don’t have a polly tunnel or greenhouse an alternative option is to build a small cold frame. This is just a small box made either from wood, plastic or metal with a glass lid. Ideally you want to the lids to be able to open for warmer days and to let the rain in. 

Another simple alternative which is ideal for small plants is to cut the bottom off two litre plastic bottles and place the bottles up right over the plant. Use a stick as a stake to hold the bottle in place and to prevent it being blown away. Remove the lid off to allow air in.

Can plants recover from frost damage?

If you find your plants looking dried out and lifeless through the winter don’t panic there is usually hope that it will come back to life in the spring. In some cases like Houttuynia Cordata plants for example the whole plant dies back except for the roots during the dormant period then re-grows again the following spring. If however your plant is looking like it has been damaged from the frost. We advise leaving the plant as it is until the frost has passed. In the mean time to protect your plant from further frost damage ensure the roots are well covered and the plant is covered or if you can bring it in doors. Once the frost has passed cut off any dead parts and remove any dead leaves or stems and add some fresh healthy compost around the base of the plant.