(WHTM) – Central Pennsylvania is starting to get colder, which can be dangerous for outdoor plants.

How the cold harms plants

According to Gardening Know How, the cold weather freezes plant cells which critically injures the plant. This freeze disrupts the plant’s ability to get nutrients and water. For plants with small branches and twigs, the cold causes stems to blacken and tissue to die because this tissue is not dormant like the rest of the plant.

Other plant injuries from the cold include drying out, sunscald, salt damage that prevents the plant from taking up water, and breaking of stems from snowfall.

Ways to protect plants from freezing weather

Take these precautions now to protect your plants from the incoming cold weather.

Cover them

If it will only be a light freeze, covering your outdoor plants can protect them. Drape a sheet, towel, or blanket over the plant to keep the plant warm. For extra protection, place a plastic covering around the sheet, but be sure not to use plastic on its own because it will damage the plant.

In the morning, remove the covering immediately.


If the freeze will last a while focus on protecting the roots. Mulch the roots generously with wood mulch or hay and place jugs of warm water into the mulch at night. This will help keep some of the colds away from the roots.

Create insulation

If you know in advance a freeze will take place consider making a structure that will insulate your plants. To do this, place stakes around your plant and wrap them in burlap to “fence” the plant in. Fill this makeshift structure with hay or leaves around the plant.

You can also place jugs of warm water inside the structure to help keep the temperature around the roots warm.

Water the soil

It’s true that in the colder months, plants do not need as much watering, both those that are inside and those that are outside. However, watering the soil of a plant helps the soil trap heat which helps the roots and lower stems to survive during a freeze.

Bring them inside

For the best protection, take your plants out of the freezing elements and place them inside. A shed or basement will work perfectly as a place for your plants to have a “sleepover” for the night when the temperature will dip the most. You can either bring them inside just for the night and take them back out in the morning so they still receive their needed sunlight, or you can leave them inside near a bright window for the cold months.

Keep in mind

Not all plants freeze at the same temperature. Pay attention to each specific plant’s hardiness rating in order to know how much protection each of your plants will need from the cold.