Fairway Green, Inc
9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 281-7888

How the weather affects landscape plants

Today we live, work, and play in controlled environments. Climate controlled homes, cars, workplaces, and even athletic stadiums allow us to enjoy ideal conditions every day. Unfortunately, for plants and turf, environmental changes impact them daily. So, how does the weather affect the plants? Most plants are rather resilient and can tolerate average conditions and moderate change, but it is the extreme and sudden changes that result in stress and potential harm to your landscape.


Water is essential to all plant life, and it is needed for healthy growth and development. Whether it comes in the form of rain, sleet, snow or from irrigation, the amount and duration influence plant growth. Not enough water affects the plant’s ability to produce food through photosynthesis, resulting in a lack of nutrients. Too much water may injure plants as well.

Excessive or continued rainfall can compact and/or erode soil, resulting in poor growing conditions. Erosion can leach nitrogen and other vital nutrients out of the soil, leaving plants with a lack of nutrients needed to thrive. When the soil is saturated for an extended period, oxygen becomes depleted causing the plant’s root system to degrade. As root loss occurs, plants can no longer take in adequate moisture and nutrients from the soil.

Winter precipitation also affects landscape plants. Snow can protect plants from fluctuations in soil temperature, but the weight of snow can damage stems and branches. Additionally, water inside a plant can freeze causing cells to expand and destroy the plant from the inside. This may cause wilting of the plant, even after the cold and frosty weather has gone. Water can also freeze the outside of a plant’s foliage causing desiccation injury. In addition, frozen soil reduces a plant’s ability to take in water and nutrients.


How does cold temperature affect plant growth? Air temperatures influence all growth processes including seed germination, respiration, transpiration, and photosynthesis. Warmer than average temperatures cause plants to mature early, but extreme heat leads to slower growth. Colder than average temperatures also slow growth leading to dormancy in some plants.

Significant changes in temperature can also damage plants. Freezing and thawing of the soil may cause shallow-rooted plants to heave. Warm early season temperatures will initiate growth in plants, if that is followed by a cold snap or frost, it can damage buds, flowers, or the new growth. We probably have all seen plants affected by frost.


Wind is essential in plant growth as it aids in the pollination process of certain types of plants and grasses; however, wind can also cause adverse effects such as desiccation injury and loss of leaves and structural damage. Plants lose moisture through their foliage and high or consistent wind will increase the rate of loss. If the plant cannot replace the water fast enough, it may become discolored and drop leaves or needles. This can be a major issue in the winter if the ground is frozen and the plant cannot take in water from the soil.


Further, light is a factor that affects plant development and growth. As you may already know, sunlight is essential for photosynthesis. Location is key and plant specific, this is especially important when designing a landscape. Keep in mind that changing conditions such as new construction, installing a fence or trees growing larger can alter the amount of sunlight reaching plants, resulting in stress and/or decline.

Helpful hints to minimize the effects of weather

It is best to select native plants when designing a landscape.
• Select plants that are more resistant to insects and diseases.
• If deer frequent the area, choose deer resistant plant material.
• Do not overcrowd an area, allow space for good air circulation.
• Select plants suitable for your USDA hardiness zone.
• Proper planting depth is key.
• Maintain proper cultural practices.
• Set up a plant healthcare program to feed the plants and control insects.
• Choose the right plant for each location. Think about how large the plant will be in 10, 20 or even 30 years. Learn more about planting the right plant in the right place here.
• Do not plant a shade lover in full sun, sun lover in full shade or plants that like dry conditions in low wet areas. For more planting best practices, check out this blog.
• Ensure evergreens have adequate soil moisture prior to winter. Apply an anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreen shrubs at the end of the growing season to reduce winter injury through water loss.
• Mulch your beds regularly, maintaining 2-3 inches of mulch. Too much mulch is not healthy for the plants.
• Do not shovel snow containing de-icing salts onto plants.


The effect of weather on plants varies widely from plant to plant. Making educated decisions prior to planting combined with proper maintenance is essential in having a healthy landscape. Take the time to research your plant list and contractor prior to all installation jobs. If you have questions about the plants on your property, contact our office at 908-281-7888 or request a free estimate online.

9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14, Hillsborough, NJ 08844 United States | (908) 281-7888
Phone: (908) 281-7888 Fairway Green Inc.