Caring for Trees Purchased from Garden Centers During the Winter

flower-treeWhen it gets cold and snowy outside, you might find it difficult to care for items that you have purchased from garden centers in your area. Young trees are particularly concerning because extreme cold can harm their roots and bark. Other plants can also be killed by the cold and snow, especially if they are not native to your region. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to protect your young plants during their first winter outside to help them survive until spring.


The cheapest way to protect the roots on your tree is to cover the base of it with mulch. You can create this mulch with leaves that have fallen in the autumn. Make sure that you spread this mulch around the base of your tree at a depth of between three and four inches. It is also important to break the leaves up well, so that water can get through them when the snow melts. Additionally, many garden centers will sell you wood chips for a low price, which can also be used to protect the roots of the tree. Spread the wood chips at a depth of between five and six inches for the best results. It is very important, however, that the wood chips do not touch your trees or plants, as they sometimes carry fungus that could kill a young tree.


Applying a solid fertilizer is vital because it helps the roots to grow, rather than the leaves. This is important because the roots must establish themselves quickly for the tree to survive the winter. When you purchase trees from garden centers, they will already have roots, but you need these roots to grow into the ground, so that the tree establishes itself in your yard.

Burlap Wrap

If you live in an area with extreme cold and snow, wrapping the roots and the lower trunk in burlap before planting it. This wrap protects the tree from the elements until it can begin growing again in the spring. With smaller plants, you might want to wrap the entire plant before it gets too cold, as they need additional protection from the cold. Do not wrap the plants too tightly, as air and moisture must still have the ability to reach them. Wrapping the plant too loosely, however, means that it will not protect the plant properly, making the entire exercise pointless.

General Maintenance

Take good care of your trees in the months before winter hits to give them the best chance at survival. Start by pruning all of the dead branches while the tree is dormant. You should also give the tree a thorough watering in the fall, just before frost arrives in your area. If you have any questions about how to properly maintain your trees and plants, return to the nursery where you purchased them in the first place, as the staff will be well aware of how to grow and protect these plants in your current climate.

Winterland Nursery has been raising trees, flowers and plants in the greater Madison area since the early 1960s. To speak with one of their experts or for more information on what they can offer you, visit their website at

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