Caring for Plants in the Cold - Seedlings, Shrubs and More

The recent cold weather has taken its toll on some plants.

I was worried for my own fresh young shoots on lupins but they seemed to have come through unscathed. I have however spotted some phormiums and yuccas that have been knocked about a bit. Time for action.


Seedlings are vulnerable and you may have noticed curled leaves or even brown patches on some leaves. I’m thinking of seedlings in greenhouses. This may be due to the cold or the combination of cold and damp. It may seem counterintuitive but ensure greenhouses have plenty of ventilation on sunny days. Don’t open up doors and vents and allow snow and frost in, but on sunny afternoons temperatures will rise quickly in a greenhouse. Follow that with a cold night and it all becomes too much for seedlings. So:

T Keep an eye on propagator lids. A lot of moisture rises from seed trays and does condense and will run back down onto the compost. This can result in soggy conditions. A daily check is a good idea.

T If particularly cold weather is forecast, cover trays with a few layers of newspaper. Do this in late afternoon and remember to remove the following morning. It will protect against a degree or so of frost.

T Move trays of seedlings away from windows and into the centre or inner edge of benching. It’s warmer there.


Shrubs growing outside are tough. If the frost and snow have nibbled at shoots of say photinia (signs of brown, crispy areas on the deep green leaves) or pieris (same symptoms, lovely plant!) then wait a week or so until we know we aren’t going to come across any more Beasts from the East. Then:

T Cut back shoots to parts of the plant where no damage is seen. Cut the shoot just above where a healthy pair of buds are beginning to grow and that shrub will soon be bold and bushy again.

T And while you’re sorting that out, weed around the base and sprinkle some AfterPlant mycorrhizal fungi on the soil. It will help this new growth to really shoot away strongly.

T Finally with your shrubs, stand back and check for any dead branches, completely dead leaves and whip them off. This is the best bet for those phormiums and yuccas.


Trees have to be tough. They stand out there come rain, shine, snow and ice. And recently, more rain. Check:

T They haven't worked loose from the soil - especially with newly planted specimens.

T Check all tree stakes are sound and not showing any signs of rot. Replace if necessary

T Loosen or tighten tree ties as appropriate. They do move over time - as does the tree trunk.


Herbaceous plants are showing signs of growth. I’ve mentioned my lupins (looking good even if I say so myself!) and my delphiniums are making a show. Keep an eye on:

T Bugs! I know it feels way too early to look for aphids but a warm week (hopefully soon) and they will soon take a shine to your succulent shoots.

T Slugs: they never seem to go away and feed voraciously on tender herbaceous.

T If any shoots are damaged by frost do not worry. Plenty more shoots always come up to replace them.


Houseplants should be nicely tucked up still inside homes.

T Many are beginning to increase growth rates so a little more water is a good idea to match the increase in natural light levels.

T If it’s really cold do bring them into the room side of the drawn curtains.

T Draughts are a big killer of houseplants and temperatures do get nippy on window sills at night. 


Otherwise, you'll just have to tough out the cold, your plants are. Remember spring weather is nearly here. And do take a daily walk around your garden to look for anything not quite right - and put it right!