How to Wrap Shrubs for Winter

Shrubs wrapped in burlap for snow storm.

Preparing the outside of your property for the winter entails numerous tasks— cleaning the gutters and pulling out your summer garden. You may also want to wrap any young and newly planted shrubs in your yard to prevent damage that could keep them from bouncing back in the spring. In this guide, we’ll explain how to wrap shrubs for winter.

Why Wrap Your Shrubs?

Bushes wrapped in protective cloth for winter.

Is wrapping plants for winter necessary? Shrubs are known for their hardy nature. The mature plants on your property may not need extra protection besides brushing heavy snow off the branches. However, young shrubs and trees may struggle to survive a tough winter.

We often recommend that you wrap young or sensitive plants since:

  • Heavy snow loads weigh down branches, misshaping and damaging shrubs.
  • Dry winds “burn” conifer needles and evergreen foliage.
  • Frozen soil prevents evergreens from replacing the moisture in their leaves, which leads to defoliation.
  • Sunny, cold days can cause sunscald on the southwest side of tree trunks.
  • Frost damage can occur when bark heats up on sunny days and rapidly cools at night.
  • Deer resort to eating evergreen foliage for survival in the lean months.

When to Wrap and Unwrap Your Shrubs

A group of shrubs wrapped for winter.

Wrapping plants for winter should be done after the first serious frost hits your area but before the coldest temperatures settle in. The specific timing will depend on your local climate. That said, aim for late fall (or mid- to late-November) to begin wrapping your shrubs.

You’ll want to wait until the first frost hits so that your shrubs will go into dormancy before you wrap them. Keep an eye on the weather. When temperatures consistently dip below freezing, that’s a good indication to begin gathering your burlap for shrubs. If a heavy snowfall is forecast in your area, you may need to push up your wrapping schedule. You don’t want lots of snow to bend or break the branches of young shrubs before you can wrap them.

When should you remove the burlap wrapping from your shrubs? Again, keep an eye on the weather. Once spring rolls around and frost is no longer a major concern, you can take off the burlap.

Don’t keep your shrubs wrapped too long, however. Doing so could limit their growth and damage their health.

Tools & Materials Needed to Wrap a Shrub

Supplies to wrap shrubs for winter.

Now that you know the risks your greenery faces when the weather turns cold, let’s look at how to wrap shrubs with burlap. To start, you’ll need to assemble the necessary tools.

You’ll need:

  • Twine
  • Burlap sack or shrub wrap
  • Paper or plastic tree wrap
  • Water and watering can

How to Wrap Shrubs for Winter

You can employ various techniques to wrap and protect conifer and broadleaf evergreen shrubs in the winter. Here are the steps we recommend:

Wrap with Twine

Landscaper wrapping branches with twine.

If heavy snow is in the forecast, bind the branches with twine. Start at the bottom and work your way up in a spiral pattern. The end result is a conical-shaped shrub that won’t catch nearly as much snow.

Use Burlap for Shrub Covering

Trees wrapped in burlap for winter.

After wrapping a shrub with twine, encase it in a burlap sack or commercial shrub wrap if cold or high winds are a threat. The burlap weave is wide enough that the plant can breathe, but it keeps the worst of the biting wind at bay. This covering also protects the shrub from browsing deer.

Wrap Trunks with Tree Wrap

Landscaper wrapping tree wrap around trunk for winter.

To help prevent frost damage and sunscald, encase the trunks of newly planted and thin-barked trees with paper or plastic tree wrap. Install the wrap before the first hard freeze and remove it after the last frost in spring. Don’t leave tree wrap on year-round because this gives trunk-boring insects a place to hide.

Water Thoroughly

Landscaper watering bushes with a hose.

If an early freeze is in the forecast, water your shrubs in advance of the autumn storm. Moist soil helps prevent plants from defoliating. A drink from a watering can should do the trick.

Add Mulch

Mulch in a wheelbarrow near garden bed.

Help your plant’s roots stay warm during the winter by adding 8 to 10 centimetres of mulch around the base of your shrubs. The mulch can help insulate the soil and protect it from dry winter winds.

If snow falls before you have a chance to wrap your shrubs, brush the snow off with your arms or a broom as soon as possible. However, if the plant is covered in ice after an ice storm, don’t attempt to remove it, or you could cause more harm than good.

Pro Tips to Protect Your Shrubs in Winter

Now that you know the basics of how to wrap shrubs with burlap, let’s look at a few extra tips our pros recommend.

Don’t Wrap Shrubs That Are Already Wet

If your shrubs are wet, give them time to dry off before wrapping them in burlap. Wrapping wet shrubs will trap the moisture, which is practically an invitation for mould and mildew. The moisture can also freeze, increasing cold damage to your plants.

Always brush off any snow on your shrubs before wrapping them. If your plants are wet or covered in ice, set up a sturdy outdoor fan and keep it blowing on your shrubs until they are dry.

Don’t Wrap Your Shrubs Too Tightly

Wrapping plants for winter too tightly can restrict airflow. Even in winter, your shrubs need good air circulation. Otherwise, moisture and humidity may become trapped within the burlap, increasing the risk of fungal diseases. Tight wrapping can also snap thin branches or cause friction damage to the bark.

You don’t need to wrap the burlap tightly over your shrubs. In fact, many homeowners plant stakes around their shrubs and drape the burlap over the stakes to promote airflow and lower the risk of trapping moisture.

Apply Anti-Desiccant

If you want to lower the risk of your shrubs drying out in the winter, spray anti-desiccant on the tops and bottoms of your shrub’s leaves once a month, starting in November. An anti-desiccant is typically a clear and flexible coating that is often applied as a spray. It acts as a barrier that can help reduce water loss during dry winters.

Check on Your Shrubs Periodically

Don’t fall into the mindset of “wrap it and forget it.” Winter can be brutal, so make a point of checking on your shrubs periodically. First, look to make sure the burlap is still in place and hasn’t been damaged. Replace any missing or damaged sections. Next, check on your shrubs. You want to ensure that they aren’t too wet. Check for signs of mould, mildew, and disease.

Get Help Winterizing Your Garden

Now that you know how to wrap shrubs for the winter, it’s time to get to work. Don’t forget that you’ll need to perform other seasonal lawn care projects to prepare your property for winter as well.

Need help with winterizing your yard? The Grounds Guys® are on it. We can assist with shrub protection, leaf removal, pruning, fertilizing, and much more. We also offer snow removal services to save your back when the next blizzard hits. Our teams are reliable, knowledgeable, and friendly. That’s our Neighbourly Done Right Promise™ to you.

Ready to contact us? Find your local The Grounds Guys and request a free estimate today.