Fothergilla Winter Care

Fothergilla are popular shrubs hardy to USDA zones 5-9. These deciduous plants are native to the southeastern United States where they are adapted to overwintering in cold conditions. With a little care and protection, your fothergilla will grow back each spring for years to come. 

snow dusting fothergilla legend of the fall

Protecting Fothergilla in Winter

Fothergilla does not need much care to survive winter, as these shrubs are well adapted to cold winter temperatures. When grown in more northern regions, fothergilla may need to be covered or wrapped to protect them from harsh winter winds. Another consideration is protecting fothergilla from rabbits, which can chew entire fothergilla plants to the ground when food sources are scarce in winter. Take measures to prevent rabbit damage over winter, especially for young, newly planted shrubs. Rabbit fencing or plastic netting can help keep rabbits away from your fothergilla.

Cutting Back Fothergilla For Winter

Remove any dead or damaged branches before winter. Suckers, which are new growths arising from the base of fothergilla, can also be pruned out in winter. Do not perform any structural or maintenance pruning of fothergilla in winter since fothergilla blooms on the previous year’s wood. Pruning fothergilla in winter can remove the buds that have formed over the summer, thus preventing the plant from fully blooming come spring. Wait until after fothergilla finishes blooming in spring to prune for height control. 

Fothergilla Winter Care in Pots

Move potted fothergilla to an unheated, sheltered space such as a porch, shed, or garage. This will provide much-needed winter protection while still allowing the plant to undergo its dormancy period. If you are unable to move your fothergilla, wrap the sides of the pot with several layers of burlap and apply a few inches of mulch to the top of the pot. Grow fothergilla in concrete or metal pots, as these will hold up better than clay or terracotta pots, which can crack with fluctuations in winter temperatures.

Watering Fothergilla in Winter

Fothergilla should be watered deeply in late fall to prepare it for winter. Once winter arrives, fothergilla will not need to be watered often. If conditions are particularly dry, fothergilla can be watered as long as the ground is not frozen. Try to water 1-2 days before a freeze is expected, as moist soil will stay warmer longer than dry soil. Do not saturate the soil. 

Growing Fothergilla Indoors

Fothergilla should not be grown indoors over winter. These plants have evolved in a temperate region where they must undergo a dormancy period initiated by cold temperatures. As long as fothergilla is grown within its hardiness range, it will be fine growing outdoors in winter. 

Steps To Care For Fothergilla in Winter

Fothergilla needs little winter care. The most important way to care for fothergillas over winter is to protect them from rabbits, especially young or small shrubs. To prepare for winter freezes, give the plants a good soak in late fall before the ground freezes. 

Step 1 - Fothergilla can be wrapped to protect it from winter winds. Install stakes a few feet around the shrub, then wrap burlap or frost cloth around the stakes. 

Step 2 - Apply a 2-3 inch layer of wood-based mulch over the plant’s roots. This will help insulate the roots and protect them from the freeze-thaw cycle of winter. 

Step 3 - Install rabbit fencing that is at least 2-3 feet high with no gaps for rabbits to squeeze through. 

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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 06-22-2023