How to Winterize Trees and Shrubs

Temperatures are falling, colors are changing, holidays are passing, and winter is approaching. Before you hunker down and settle in for the season, you should consider how to keep winter trees safe. While nature has built in some organic winterizing processes, there are also steps you can take to learn how to winterize trees and shrubs to protect them from pests and ensure beautiful, green springtime trees. Keep safe trees in winter. Because every part of the tree plays an important role, you’ll want to winterize trees in each section, from the bottom soil all the way up to branches. Here’s how to ensure you have safe trees for spring. You may be wondering about specific plant winterization and we will explain those at the bottom of the post. You will learn how to winterize hostas for the cold, winterizing banana trees, fig tree winterizing, and how to winterize hydrangeas for the cold with our care guide.

Soil/Root Systems

Use mulch, pine straw, bark, or shredded leaves to insulate the base of your tree Start the winterizing process by caring for the soil, which trees rely on for nutrients and water. Winter conditions, like cold ground freezes, temperature drop and frosty mornings, make it more difficult for trees to get the nutrients that they need. As such, mulch and fertilizer are keys to safe trees. While fertilizer helps bring the soil to optimal nutrient-dense levels, bark mulch acts as a protective agent. When you spread a layer of mulch around the base to winterize trees, you help protect the soil from harsh conditions and therefore make it easier for the tree to absorb the water it needs for photosynthesis and other processes. The combination of fertilizer and mulch promotes plant root zone development and helps the trees endure winter. Bonus: mulching around the trees means you’ll need to weed less when spring does arrive! Also, remember that safe trees are hydrated trees, and water them as necessary when you experience dry spells in your region (yes, even in the winter!).


The trunk is the transportation hub of the tree; it carries water and nutrients up to the branches and leaves. So, when you winterize trees, you don’t want to skip the trunk! The largest threat to the trunk comes from insects and pests who want to settle in the tree bark and find a safe hiding spot from the cold. You can use sprays, oils, taste repellents, or a combination of these for pest-free, safe trees.


Pruning is essential when you winterize trees. You must remove dead, diseased, and overlapping wood while also pruning the trees to be structurally correct. Ensuring that trees are properly pruned helps them get maximum exposure to the winter sun’s rays, which are in shorter supply during winter when daylight hours are shorter.

While this may seem tedious, pruning not only helps protect the tree and prevent future damage, but it also encourages new growth. You should consult with a professional to help ensure your pruning lends to safe trees, as there are certain methods and cutting patterns that only trained arborists know. We do have another blog post about Pruning a Tree that will give you some useful information.

Avoid pruning during hard freezes as this will encourage new growth.

Potted plants are easy and need minor protection only from strong winter winds or freezing temperatures. You can simply move your tree or plant indoors into a safe area like a porch or garage.

Stay tuned for a winter fruit trees edition of this blog.

Taking the time and putting in the effort to winterize trees will yield great payoffs not just for you, but also for the environment, thanks to the air purification that they offer. If you want to know more about safe trees or the winterization process, contact us.

There are also several winter blooming trees if you are looking for fall color. You can also check out our blog post on Frost and Cold Protection And Preparing Plants for Winter.

Winterizing Plants

Hostas: after frost has nipped the hosta leaves you can cut it at the base of the plant and mulch the plant heavily with a protective layer of organic material until spring when the new growth will appear

Bananas: the roots of banana plants are frost hardy and protected by the heat of the soil it’s in. The stalks will die back once a hard frost hits but do not prune until last frost is over! Pruning will encourage new growth that will not make it over the cold winter temperatures. If you must prune because they are mushy or unsightly, be sure to cut back all the way to the ground or about a foot above. Mulch heavily until new growth appears in spring.

Figs: Some figs ( Celeste, Brown Turkey, and Chicago Hardy) are very cold hardy. Figs are deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the winter weather below 25 degrees. Not to worry though, they will regrow and sprout new ones when temperatures are right. Wrapping the tree with burlap might be a good idea if you live in a very cold area.

Hydrangeas: These bigleaf hydrangeas will lose their flower heads after the bloom period. Prune the stalks back because new flower buds only appear on new wood. Different types of hydrangeas are more cold hardy than others. 

Tender plants and newly planted trees or young trees will need extra protection while protecting plants for the extreme cold weather.