10 plants to protect over winter

The damp and cold can take their toll on our gardens, so spare a thought for tender plants struggling to survive in sub-zero temperatures.


Protecting tender plants takes little effort, and often all that’s needed is a layer of horticultural fleece. This lets in light, air and water at the same time as providing vital insulation. Even plants that can withstand temperatures down to -5°C will benefit from some protection.

Here are 10 plants to protect over winter.


Some species of African blue lilies are hardier than others. Keep spares in pots under glass or wrapped in fleece for the winter until hardiness is proven. Mulch hardy deciduous types planted in borders.



In milder areas, the hardier banana, Musa basjoo, can withstand winter, especially with a mulch spread over the roots and a thatch of straw to protect the crown. In colder regions, or for more tender species, lift and pot up the plants, then overwinter them under glass.



This plant overwinters underground as rhizomes. A 10cm duvet of mulch helps insulate against frost. In colder areas, lift plants in autumn, pot up and keep frost free and barely watered until spring. Harden off before planting out in late May.



Plain green-leaved cabbage palms and those with cream variegations tend to be tougher than those with striped or red-tinted leaves. Tie the leaves in an upright bunch then protect with fleece or hessian strips.


Echium pininana

These exotic natives of Madeira and the Canary Islands must reach a good size to flower. Your best bet is to plant them in a sheltered spot and wrap with a double layer of fleece for the winter, giving them a chance to bloom the following season.


Melianthus major

The honey bush is mainly grown for its exotic blue-green foliage. Protected plants in mild areas sometimes grow large enough to produce spikes of deep reddish-brown flowers. Wrap the foliage securely with fleece until there is not danger of frost.



Olea europaea lends a Mediterranean feel to any garden, but cold winds and severe frosts can disfigure their foliage. Move small potted plants under glass for the winter (need not be heated). Protect permanent plantings with windbreaks or fleece in colder areas.



Keep in a frost-free greenhouse for the winter, ideally as young plants taken as cuttings during the summer. Or, lift undamaged plants from the garden, trim back, pot up and bring in. Prune and take cuttings in spring.


Pineapple lily

Eucomis produces a spike of flowers under a tuft of bracts in summer, then dies back. Move potted plants under glass for winter, or wrap the pots in hessian and move to a sheltered spot. Mulch over the top of planted bulbs.


Tree fern

Large tree ferns should be wrapped up for the winter. Either cover the crown by bending old fronds over it, fill it with straw or put a cap of fleece over it. Or wrap the entire plant in hessian.