Soil and water

Master Gardener: Trees and Plants Need Water in Winter | Home & Garden

Brian Jervis Ask a Master Gardener

It’s cold and we haven’t had much rain. Is there anything I should do to help my plants survive the winter? —AW

Many of us don’t really think about watering our trees, shrubs or perennials during the winter. But, according to a quick check with the Oklahoma Mesonet (, we’ve only had a trace of rainfall in the past two weeks.

The dry winter air doesn’t help us much either, so it’s probably time to provide some extra water for our outdoor plants. Here’s why.

During prolonged dry spells in winter, root systems can be damaged. When spring arrives, outdoor plants may look normal and even have new growth fueled by stored energy. However, this growth can be short-lived as the whole plant or parts of the plant begin to die due to its inability to absorb water and nutrition through its compromised root system.

As this damage becomes apparent in spring or early summer, most of us will wonder what happened to our plants, and lack of water during the winter probably won’t. the first potential cause we think of. Additionally, if this winter root damage does not kill the plant, the plant may be weakened, making it more susceptible to insect and disease problems in the future.