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The Life Of A Dormant Plant In The Winter

The Life Of A Dormant Plant In The Winter

Trees and sea

Photo via D. de Haan (Flickr)

As I look around my snowy neighborhood, I see a lot of trees and plants that have gone dormant. As temperatures start to drop, these plants go into a kind of deep sleep so they can survive through the cold-weather months. Like many of us, these trees and plants are waiting for winter to pass so they can become more active! This week, I thought I’d take a closer look at dormant plants in the wintertime.

What Happens When Plants Go Dormant in the Winter?

As trees and plants grow during the warm-weather months, they are storing up food and water for winter. For example, in late summer, the leaves on a tree make more glucose than necessary for the survival of the tree. This extra glucose is converted into starch that is used to nourish the tree over the winter months. Also, plants and leaves lose their color as winter approaches in order to conserve their energy for the cold-weather months. When a plant or tree goes into dormancy, it is no longer growing. It is simply surviving on the nutrients it stored up over the spring and summer.

Why Is it Important That Plants Go Dormant at This Time of Year?

Plants go dormant because they can’t withstand the cold temperatures and frost that arrive with winter. Also, during the winter, a plant would not be able to collect enough water to survive. And during the wintertime, the days are shorter, which means there is less sunlight for trees and plants.

Making Houseplants Go Dormant

Some people try to make their houseplants go dormant over the winter. It would seem impossible if a plant lives inside, but there are ways it can happen. For one, you can put your plant in a cold room in your home or next to a window that lets in a lot of cold air. Be sure that your houseplant is getting sunlight and some water so it can maintain a low level of activity during dormancy.

Reasons That Some Plants Die in the Winter

There are several reasons why a plant may die in the wintertime. For instance, ice crystals can form inside the cells of a plant if the temperature drops to a certain level. This can damage the cell walls and kill a plant. Also, cold temperatures can affect the enzyme activity inside a plant. When this happens, a plant isn’t able to get the nourishment it needs to last over the winter months.

Frozen plants

Photo via

Preparing Plants for the Winter

There are some simple things you can do to protect your plants from cold winds and freezing temperatures over the winter. One idea is to put two to four inches of mulch around your plants. This acts as extra insulation for the roots. After putting down the mulch, I fill gallon jugs with warm water and bury them there. The warm water helps to keep the roots warm. This is how I protect my most vulnerable plants. If you have younger plants, you may want to put cardboard boxes over them for additional protection.


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