Landscaping in the Winter

Suburban home with snow on lawn, plants, trees and roof.

Last Updated: March 11, 2024

When the cold weather of winter hits, your lawn will go dormant, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. Many of our clients ask us, “Can you landscape in the winter?” The answer is yes, you can, and you should.

What Can You Do With Winter Landscaping?

The better question may be what can’t you do with winter landscaping? From pruning and trimming to caring for winter plants (and planting them!) and preparing for the spring thaw, there are many things you can do with your winter landscaping.

First, winter landscaping is an excellent time to perform essential landscape maintenance, especially pruning. It can also be a great season to prep for a flourishing spring lawn. Second, you don’t have to accept a dull brown lawn all winter long. There are many ways to spruce up your outdoor space so you can enjoy a beautiful winter landscape.

Why Winter Landscaping Makes Sense

Wheelbarrow on yard in the snow.

There are several landscape maintenance tasks that can take place during the winter months to improve your winter landscaping and be ready for spring.

Aside from improving appearance and curb appeal, winter landscaping can help maintain the structure of your hardscape and help it survive the winter. It can also mean an easier spring cleanup. Annual pruning also keeps your shrubs and trees healthy. Since they are budding in the spring, blossoming in the summer, and fruiting in the fall, winter is one of the best times to prune. All of these are great ways to improve your winter landscaping.

Caring for your lawn through the winter also gives you a head start on your spring landscaping. With less damage to repair, you will be able to focus on the fun part: adding new plants.

Related Topic: Spring Lawn Maintenance

Choosing Winter-Friendly Plants

Spring and fall aren’t the only times of the year when your landscape can show off its natural beauty and unique character. With a little creativity and some horticultural knowledge, you can create an elegant winterscape on your property that just might make your winter landscaping the envy of the neighbourhood.

Our first suggestion for winter landscaping is to add plants that look great in the winter.

Just because a tree loses its leaves doesn’t mean it has to look stark and boring. Many ornamental trees possess interesting and unique bark that offers colour and texture in a stoic winter landscape.

Consider planting these ornamental trees known for their interesting bark:

  • Dogwood
  • Paper birch
  • Japanese maple
  • River birch
  • Seven-son flower
  • Manchurian fir
  • Lacebark pine

Plant Evergreens

Evergreen trees in the snow.

A few evergreen trees placed strategically around your property can add brilliant pops of colour, especially against a blanket of fresh white snow. Evergreens keep their foliage all winter long, giving your winter landscaping a feeling of life and nature, even during the coldest and darkest days.

Popular evergreens in Canada include the following:

  • White spruce
  • Balsam fir
  • Black source
  • Western redcedar
  • Douglas fir
  • Eastern white pine

Add Plants with Berries

Holly bush in the winter.

Some plants grow and keep berries even through the winter. These berries add splashes of warm colour to your landscape. Best of all, they attract birds and wildlife, often creating a scuffle of activity that will keep you glancing out the windows each morning and enjoying your winter landscaping.

Some of our favourite plants with winter berries include the following:

  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Sea buckthorn
  • Rose hips
  • Cotoneaster
  • Wintergreen

Plant a Vegetable Garden

Vegetable garden with cabbage covered in snow.

Yes, you saw that right! A vegetable garden can be part of your winter landscaping. While we usually think of spring and fall as times to plant vegetables, there are plenty that will thrive in the lower light and colder temps of winter. However, you must plan early to give plants enough time to grow sufficiently to be ready for winter harvests.

Many winter plants will need to be planted in June or July for best results and plentiful winter harvests. It’s also important to consider where to plant your winter vegetables. The winter sun is lower to the horizon and doesn’t provide the same amount of light in the same places as it does during spring and summer. Just because one spot looks great in July doesn’t mean it will get the same amount of sunlight in December. So, location is an important factor in planning your winter landscaping, too.

Some of our favourite winter vegetables are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Carrots

Hardscapes in Winter

Pergola in the snow.

As much as you can add colour to your winter landscaping with ornamental trees, evergreens, and plants with berries, you simply can’t match the lush, vibrant look of a lawn in spring and fall. That means you’ll need to rely more on your hardscape design to catch the eye and add more visual appeal to your grounds.

Hardscapes are durable, non-living landscape fixtures. Even one or two prominent hardscape elements can transform a property, especially in the winter when there’s less visual competition. Some of our favourite hardscape features are:

  • Garden benches
  • Trellis
  • Arbors and pergolas
  • Garden or yard sculptures
  • Decorative planters
  • Pathways
  • Fountains (turned off for winter, of course)

Think about how adding a prominent hardscape feature can become a winter showpiece for your winter yard. (When adding hardscapes, you may also want to consider landscape lighting to showcase your newly added features.)

Related Topic: Winter Patio Ideas That Will Make You Forget About the Cold

Winter Pruning Practices

Landscaper pruning tree branch in winter.

In spite of the cold, winter is actually one of the best times of year to prune your trees, hedges, and other plant life. Since most trees lose their leaves in the fall, you’ll be able to see and access problematic branches more clearly.

Pruning back shrubs and trees through the winter will keep them healthy and give your space a groomed look. Removing dead or dying branches also allows your trees to direct their energy towards new growth and removes the danger of a branch falling on someone or damaging property.

We should note that removing limbs can be extremely dangerous, so if you have some dying branches to remove, take the safer route and call in landscaping experts to remove them and keep your winter landscaping free of hazards.

Essential Winter Plant Care Tips

Landscaping in the winter focuses heavily on maintenance. By caring for your lawn through the winter, you can protect your turfgrass and get a head start on spring. Let’s explore a few of our top winter lawn care tips.

Get Rid of Leaves

Rake in leaves on grass.

As fall turns to winter, make sure you consistently rake and remove leaves from your yard before the snow starts. A heavy layer of leaves can suffocate your grass and create the perfect breeding ground for lawn fungal diseases, leaving a lot of work to be done after the winter landscaping season is over.

Perform Winter Fertilization

Fertilizer spreader on grass.

In the late fall, put fertilizer on your lawn before your grass goes dormant. This last bit of nutrition will help strengthen your grass roots so they can survive the long winter.


Plant bed under a blanket of snow.

Adding a layer of mulch as insulation over your plant’s roots can protect them from the intense cold and ice that winter brings. Mulch is like a thermal blanket for your plants and trees. It provides a layer of protection from frost, wind, and frost heaving. What is frost heaving? It’s when the ground freezes and thaws repeatedly, pushing short-rooted plants out of the soil.

Stay off a Frozen Lawn

Residential lawn covered in frost.

After your lawn has frozen over, repeatedly walking or driving on it can kill your turfgrass crown, leaving you with bare spots in the spring.

Keep Salt off the Plants

Salt ice melt on a pathway.

Salt ice melt is great for breaking things up on the road or a walkway, but the salt runoff can burn your plants. Stay mindful of the snow you clear into your yard and whether it has salt in it or not. Your plants will thank you.

Focus on Drainage

Drain and gutter against house.

The buildup of snow during the winter eventually melts and can waterlog your plants. By adding a drainage line and cleaning the gutter, you can help guide the cold water so that it won’t damage your plants.

Tips to Be Prepared for Winter Landscaping

Shrubs wrapped in burlap for winter landscaping.

Getting your landscape ready for the cold, snowy winters can be a lot of work, but it has significant advantages. We’ve talked about what to plant and the right time to care for your landscape. Now let’s look at some other tips to keep your landscape ready for the thaws of spring.

  1. Get your gardening and landscaping tools out of the elements: Before the freezing temperatures and snows of winter hit, move your tools indoors for their protection. Nothing is worse than finding steel tools that were left outside rusted come spring. Also, check your outdoor kitchen and entertaining spaces for items that don’t need to remain outside throughout the winter months, and get them inside, too.
  2. Time to clean your tools: It’s time to get all those empty plant pots, half-full bags of potting soil, hand trowels, and more out of the elements. Clean them up and find a place to store them for the winter. Consider deep-cleaning your gardening tools with soapy water and a stiff scrub brush. This will prevent them from spreading spores and microbes to next year's plants. Use the high-pressure setting on your garden hose’s watering nozzle to remove caked-on dirt from gardening tools and empty pots. Wipe tools and pots with ethyl alcohol to sanitize them.
  3. Bring less sensitive potted plants inside: Determining your area’s plant hardiness zone will help you determine what plants need to be moved indoors so you don’t lose them during the harsh winter. If you’re not sure, give us a call, and we can help you out.
  4. Wrap other plants in burlap: If it’s not possible to bring less sensitive plants indoors, give them a fighting chance during the winter by wrapping them in burlap in addition to mulching. Burlap is thick and sturdy enough to protect against the harsh winter cold but is still breathable, so your plants don’t suffocate. It’s important to remember to wrap your plants consistently once the temperatures have dropped to about five degrees Celsius but before the ground freezes. Keep the covers on until the ground thaws, and remove them on a cloudy day to prevent the plant from going into shock.

Do Landscapers Work in the Winter?

You now know the answer is an emphatic yes. Can you do landscaping in the winter? That would be another big yes. In fact, we encourage you to perform landscaping in the fall and winter and to get creative about adding colour and beauty to your outdoor property.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Landscaper for Winter Projects

Of course, winter is long and cold. If you like the idea of having a gorgeous and magical winter lawn but don’t love the thought of spending your days outside pruning, mulching, and planting new ornamental trees, contact us.

At The Grounds Guys®, our local teams know exactly what to do in order to make landscaping in the winter beneficial for the coming season. We can perform important winter maintenance, like raking, mulching, and pruning. We can also help you reinvent your winter lawn by adding new plants and hardscapes. We even provide snow and ice removal services to help prevent slips and falls. See how our Neighbourly Done Right Promise™ sets us apart from the competition.

Contact Us Today for Expert Winter Landscaping Services!

Ready to transform your winter lawn from dull to striking? Find The Grounds Guys nearest you and request a free estimate today.