What Happens to Plants Under Snow?

For many humans, snow is a beautiful but trying aspect of winter time. Always tending towards the anthropomorphism, one would assume that plants, with their delicate leaves and soft petals, feel similarly. But of course, nature often knows better than us.

Somewhat counterintuitively, many plants benefit from snowfall; the snow provides an insulating layer that protects against harsh windchill and lower temperatures by creating insulating pockets of air, similar to the way in which igloos insulate from the outdoors. This process keeps the soil from freezing. Larger plants, like trees, often have other adaptations that protect them from the cold, like the ability to grow new roots.

Many plants benefit from snowfall; the snow provides an insulating layer that protects against harsh windchill and lower temperatures by creating insulating pockets of air.

The only real threat snow poses is in how it falls– snow can often fall and weigh down branches or stems, eventually causing them to snap. (Some trees have evolved branches that cause the snow to slide directly off.) Warmer temperatures post-snow can also pose a danger: if the ice melts into the ground and then freezes again, it can wreak havoc on root systems and tender seedlings. Mulching helps protect against this, and of course, it never hurts to protect plants (some absolutely will not do well outside). If you can, bring plants indoors, or if they’re stuck outside, take steps to protect them from the snow.

Next time it snows, get Lil’ Sprouts outside and exploring their backyard to see what’s covered and what’s not, and how each plant is faring. Just make sure to bundle up!

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