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Protecting Plants From Winter Desiccation - Shrub Care Service Springfield MO

Protecting Plants From Winter Desiccation – Shrub Care Service Springfield MO

After last year’s winter, many of our customers are concerned with losing plants in the landscape from the cold weather. I thought it may be beneficial to share some simple tips to help keep your plants alive during our sporadic Winters here in Springfield, Missouri. Below you will find 3 easy ways you could be protecting your plants from Winter desiccation.

Although it may be too late for many people, the first step in helping your plants live through the seasons is selecting the correct plants upon installation. Many plants have specific varieties that can handle cold temperatures or drought conditions better than other varieties or cultivars. Making sure your plants are in the correct Hardiness Zone for our location is one way to determine if a plant is suited to survive in our area. In Springfield, Missouri our Hardiness Zone would be considered 6a.  This information should be available on the plant’s tag at the nursery. If not, usually it can be found with a simple internet search from your smart phone. Search for “plant specifications for (plant name here)” or “plant facts for (plant name here).” Some good websites for plant facts will be your local botanical center (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder) or a university extension website (Virginia Tech University Dendrology Factsheet).

Another simple way to keep your plants healthy during the more extreme weather conditions is by keeping a fresh layer of mulch over their roots.  Usually 2-3 inches is the appropriate thickness for your mulch.  Be sure to keep the mulch away from the woody trunk or stem of your plants because it will hold moisture against the plant.  This moisture can lead to conditions such as root rot or insect infestations.  Mulch only needs to cover the roots, not the plant itself.  There are many types of mulch you can use for your plants such as wood chips, tree bark, pine needles, crushed up pine cones, processed mulches, or leaves.  The experts recommend using a mulch that is relatively proportionate to the size of your plant.  For smaller plants, go with a finer mulch (mulched leaves, processed mulch, pine needles).  For a larger plant or tree, use larger mulches (tree bark, pine cones, wood chips).  Although, for aesthetic purposes, I recommend finding a happy medium and keeping the mulch color and style uniform across the entire landscape.  Of course, exceptions are always made for areas of focus.  A different kind of mulch or gravel could be used in a pathway or around a specific variety of plants for a sleek contrast that can really make a landscape “pop”.  Aesthetics aside, mulching your plants properly can make a big impact on their ability to handle Winter weather.

Something most people don’t think about during the Winter that can make a huge difference in the survival of their plants is the occasional watering.  If you can remember to water your plants about once a month during the Winter while irrigation systems are shut off, it could literally be the difference between the life and death of some of your plants.  Of course, you will want to make sure the weather is warm enough for watering before you spend the time filling up your watering cans.  During the winter we often have a cold, dry weather in Springfield with the occasional snow accumulation.  It may seem to us that we have had all kinds of precipitation, but usually it’s not nearly what we need.  To add to the trouble, snow is usually high in nitrogen.  Nitrogen, while an important element of plant health, can sometimes dry plants out when over applied.  A little water can dilute nitrogen levels, keeping plants healthy and better able to deal with the cold weather conditions.  Be sure to water your plants when we get those few warmer days during the winter.

The plants I’ve noticed that were affected most last Winter were our leafy-evergreen plants. Some examples would be Holly, Nandina, Azalea, Photinia, and Laurel. These may be some good plants to focus your efforts on for this coming Winter. Another good place to focus your efforts would be on high value plants, new plants, and mature plants. If you are unsure about how to maintain plants in your yard, be sure to contact one of our local professionals since we specialize in shrub care service. The local Conservation Department and the International Society of Arboriculture ( are great resources for finding educated professionals in your area.

Hopefully these tips will ease some landscape concerns this Winter and save you lots of money.  Happy Gardening!


Jeffrey R. Gabris, B.S., MBA,

ISA Certified Arborist: MW-5363A


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