How Cold Weather Affects Plants

13 January 2016 10:35

Gardening, cold weather plant care, frost blanket, frost damage to plants, garden cloches, how to protect plants in winter, winter gardening

frost damage to plants

Throughout the past few months, what should have been winter weather has turned out to be decidedly autumnal weather. In the past,  we have discussed why the weather has been warmer than usual and when we should expect it to change.

There has been a great number of reports of plants blooming out of season and we’ve heard about the tales of fruit farmers not getting enough “chill time” for their plants. Well, the time to expect a change in weather is here, and a cold snap is just around the corner!

Every gardener should be aware of what to expect.

So, in this blog post, we’ll be focusing on how wintry weather will affect your beloved gardens.


How exactly does the cold affect plants?

With plants blooming early, there is a possibility that they could die due to the expected drop in temperature and fail to reflower in spring. While there are of course, many different types of plants and with that, various levels of hardiness and tolerance, what exactly could the cold temperatures mean for plants in general:


  • Water can freeze inside the plant’s cells causing it to expand and destroy the plant from the inside. Effects of this can be seen in the form of wilting, even after the cold and frosty weather has gone, due to the fact that the plant hasn’t grown the strength and structure to support the expansion of cell tissues.


  • Water can freeze the outside of a plant and freeze plant’s surrounding soil causing desiccation (drying out) and in turn interfering with the plant’s water supply.


  • Colder weather can decrease plant enzyme activity. This then disrupts plant nutrient intake because plants secrete enzymes to digest surrounding materials for soil, which consequently can stunt growth or more severely cause them to die.


  • Changes in the fluidity of cellular membranes may occur. Ironically, the cellular membrane is responsible for ensuring the plant cells are responsive to milder environmental changes and are a dynamic structure that encourages and enable growth.


Taking all of this into consideration, any plants blooming in the belief that spring has come early will be highly vulnerable over the next few months. In fact, if you planted early in the hopes that we would skip winter this year, here’s a guide on What Gardeners Should Know About Frost Damage and how to overcome the temperatures to come.

Aside from the potential damage to your plants, the colder gardening environment could, unfortunately, have a trickle-down effect on the whole garden ecosystem – without plants flowering at the incorrect time, there could be a significant lack of available food and pollen for insects. For example, European Honey Bees, which have famously been dropping in number, could have an even tougher time come spring.

While you can’t control the weather, you can do your best to make sure the temperature doesn’t have a fatal effect on your plants. You might want to cover your plant with cloches and garden blankets or take it a step further by also using a cold weather fertiliser. As long as you’re doing something, you will be better off for helping your plants through the season.


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