In most parts of the country there is no question regarding protecting your plants in cold weather because the only plants that are grown are plants that don’t need any extra winter protection. These plants die back completely and go dormant. In fact, many of them need the winter chill.
However, here in the Deep South we often have plants which are unused to freezing temperatures. These plants need special protection if it gets too cold for too long. This seems truer now than it did ten years ago as it seems the winters here on the Gulf Coast are getting colder.
One way you can protect your plants is with mulch. Mulch is good for protecting the roots, but if the plant is such that it doesn’t die back then the mulch does nothing to protect the leaves. Other folks simply rake their leaves on top of the tender plants. Neither approach is truly appropriate because the Gulf Coast often gets a lot of rain in winter which makes mulch a haven for mildew and covering your plants with leaves can deprive them of needed sunshine.
The best approach is to mulch your plants but don’t over do the mulch. If it is a rainy winter, you’re going to be removing that mulch in spring anyway, so a lot of mulch is just going to be money thrown away. Most of our plants here don’t need the mulch for protection – they need mulch as a barrier to keep weeds out. Thus, it is in springtime when you really lay on the mulch.
As for protecting your plants in winter, the thing to do is identify what plants are tender and need protection. At our house we have a bin of old sheets which we use to cover the tender plants on nights where the temperatures drop below the freezing mark. This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t since we don’t need to cover many and it isn’t very often that the temperatures drop to a “hard freeze”. This extra protection has proven all our tender plants have needed to keep them safe from freezing temperatures.
I have heard that other people use things like Rubbermaid tubs and cut up milk jugs for smaller plants. Sheets of plastic supposedly also work well. Whatever you use it must cover the plant completely and be fastened down well so as to not come off during the night.
Again, what you need to watch for – the hard freeze. Just because temperatures drop below freezing doesn’t mean the plant even needs extra protection. Many plants can withstand a quick dip below freezing, but when the temperatures drop below freezing and stay there for a long period of time it is called a hard freeze. Tender plants can not withstand this.
If you are unsure as to whether it is going to be a hard freeze or just a dip below freezing, check with your local news or weather.com.
Source: Personal Knowledge and Experience