November is the Time to Protect Shrubs for Winter

November is the time for Midwesterners to protect their vulnerable shrubs from winter damage. A little protection from cold winds and snow is all that many cold-sensitive shrubs require. There are several methods available to provide shelter.


Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.

Another method of providing protection is to use horticultural fleece, plastic, wind-break netting or commercially made covers like below. This method should be used on all late-season planted evergreens, as they may not have developed an adequate root system yet, and can dry out from harsh winds.

Lighted covers at

Snowmen Bush Covers

To wrap shrubs, insert three stout canes or rods around the shrub and wrap with several layers of protective fabric. Be sure to secure the fabric to the ground. Do not fill the area with leaves, this will promote fungus growth and other problems.

Smaller alpines or plants such as helibores, can be protected using bricks and a piece of glass or clear plastic. Place bricks on the sides of the plant, place glass on top with some type of weight on top to prevent glass from moving. Another idea is to use a spare cloche, but prop-up an end for some circulation.

Some evergreens don’t need wind protection as much as they need to be protected from heavy snowfalls. One heavy snow can break branches and permanently disfigure the plant. Tie shrubs branches loosely in an upright position.

winter protected shrubs

For established or larger shrubs that don’t need wind protection, remove heavy snows with a broom. Be sure to hit the branches swinging upward to pop the snow up, as pushing down may break the branches.

BTW – I drew these myself!  =-)

24 thoughts on “November is the Time to Protect Shrubs for Winter

  1. I can certainly appreciate this post largely because I’ve not bothered with winter care/protection…ever. As you know I’ve got roses now that I’m interested in protecting and pruning. The reason I’ve felt adverse to pruning before is because I like letting plants grow wild and natural but then again I understand that pruning helps to shape the way that plants grow. So it makes sense to me to prune my roses and fruit trees so they don’t have these SUPER tall shoots. Last year I didn’t protect my Euonymous bushes and they got buried each time I shoveled. Come spring I was sure they were dead, but when I dug them up I saw signs of life so they didn’t get tossed. Then they spent the spring and most of the summer in pots in which they largely recovered. I transplanted them by my double-bench arbor and they look pretty happy now, even if they’re still small plants, not more than a foot or so tall. Should they be protected? I also never protected the Smoke Bushes but aside from long branches that sprouted oddly they seem okay (guess I should prune huh?) So I’m sharing all this cuz you say November is the time to protect, does this include the roses and young trees (I’ve got two young fruit trees I planted in October)?

    Thanks for another informative post.


    • You’re very welcome!
      I wrote this because last year the were so many casualties, especially evergreens. I don’t disagree with you about letting things get a bit wild looking (I don’t like gumball shrubs either!), however everyone needs a hair cut once in a while!
      With your roses, I would mulch the crown in some way; leaf mulch, light soil or a cover. The fruit trees should be good if you watered enough when you could. The deciduous trees/shrubs aren’t as susceptible, as they don’t have leaves to lose moisture from.


      • I’ve got some of those rings to put around the roses and then fill with wood chips. I think I will go ahead and prune them as I would like more dense growth from them and hopefully train them to climb more as I planted them more than halfway through the season.

        I might go ahead with wrapping the trunks of the trees in that paper to protect from rodents if we’re going to get snow like last year.

        It makes a lot of sense that you wrote this, and I’m glad that you did! Okay here’s another question, do you recommend any special protection for Butterfly Bushes? Last year I had the smaller versions and they didn’t make it, whereas this year I have two different varieties that are shrubs; one grows 8-10 feet high, the other 4-6 feet high and about as wide. They’re quite spindly, even scraggly looking as you might well know but have gorgeous fragrant flowers.


        • First off, yes, prune roses to be fuller.
          Second, if you think rodents will be an issue, they will chew right through paper. You’d need a plastic ring or something solid around the base/trunk. Paper is for sun scald, or for times it gets hot/cold and the bark splits from temp change.
          Butterfly bushes are somewhat tender in this area. Put a pile of decomposed leaf mulch (not a pile of fall leaves) on the crown, be sure to remove in spring.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks!! Leaf mulch? Wood chips okay, for the Butterfly bush that is?

            Prune I will!

            Okay so two weeks later but I noticed my Fruit Cocktail tree had a small peach pit sized bunch of sap on the trunk? It’s an amber color. Any idea? Should I be worried…?



            • Wood chips are fine. Leaf mulch is chopped-up leaves. (fun to make – rake leaves into pile, run over with lawnmower, repeat)
              Was the tree injured? Is there a bug in the sap? Trees use their sap to push boring insects out. A photo would tell me a millions words 😉 Is there anything else going on? Leaves discolored or wilting?
              Sometimes things just happen also…


              • Oh my goodness, I have a mulcher on the side of my lawn mower, gosh I feel stupid now. Perfect, and I didn’t rake my leaves for the second round of tree dumping. Now I’m excited to mow my lawn in cold weather. 😉

                Okay, tomorrow I will take a picture (or some day this week…lol) and show you. I’ll take a closer look at the sap too. I don’t think it’s injured… :/ and all its leaves are gone. Oh I hope it’s okay…


  2. Pingback: Monday Memories 11-23-2015 | Midwestern Plants

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