This Gardening Hack is a Simple Yet Genius Way to Protect Your Plants from Frost - and It Uses Your Christmas Decor

Try this viral trick to ensure your vulnerable outdoor plants survive through the festive season

A front yard decorated with Christmas lights
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of my favorite parts of the festive season is seeing Christmas lights adorning houses around the neighborhood. Of course, these pretty lights are primarily for aesthetics, but as it turns out, they can play an active role in keeping your garden healthy during the colder months, too. 

When considering your winter gardening tasks, I doubt putting up the Christmas lights was at the top of your list, but perhaps it should be. Winterizing your modern garden is key to maintaining a healthy yard throughout the coldest months of the year, and putting up some festive lights can actually play an important role in this process. 

This genius yet simple hack is all about strategically placing your outdoor Christmas lights so that the little bit of heat they emit protects your frost-sensitive plants. Clever, right? We asked plant experts for their take on this gardening hack, and whether it could really make a difference to the plants in your yard. 

Frost is a gardener's worst enemy in winter. It causes vast damage to our yards and unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to avoid it. Potted plants can be overwintered, and material like burlap can be used to protect the shrubs in your garden borders, but the most vulnerable plants will still need to weather the storm.

However, we recently came across this clever hack claiming to protect your outdoor plants with string lights, and we thought it sounded pretty useful indeed. According to the idea, by stringing some battery-powered outdoor lights around your most vulnerable plants, the heat radiated is enough to protect them from the frost's worst harm. 

'The heat generated by these lights is often just enough to raise the temperature around the plants, offering a buffer against mild frost,' explains gardening expert from GreenPal, Bryan Clayton. 'The microclimate provided by the lights might just be enough to protect plants from mild short-term frosts but for longer periods, gardeners should consider something more substantial.' 

While it might be a useful trick over December, freezing temperatures usually last well into January and beyond. Unless you plan to keep your outdoor Christmas lights up through the whole of winter, Bryan warns that this trick shouldn't be replied on. 'The method isn’t foolproof,' he says. 'It’s not suitable for extreme temperatures or prolonged cold snaps.' 

That being said, there's no reason you can't harness the power of your festive light's heat, especially if you're currently experiencing colder temperatures than normal. 'While this method may not guarantee absolute protection during severe cold spells, it can be particularly beneficial in milder winter conditions,' says Zahid Adnan, professional plant expert at The Plant Bible.

'The benefits include extending the growing season for sensitive plants, preventing frost damage to blossoms and young shoots, and overall promoting a healthier and more robust garden,' Zahid adds. It’s not a substitute for more robust frost protection methods like insulating materials or greenhouses, but it’s a nifty little trick that can make a difference in marginal conditions.

Keen to give this trick a try? Simply wrap some string lights around your most vulnerable shrubs or nestle them among your flower beds. As Zahid notes, it's important to still pay attention to the health of these plants, though. 'It's important to use caution and choose lights that do not generate excessive heat to avoid unintended consequences like drying out the plants or creating a fire hazard,' he says. 'Additionally, monitoring the weather conditions and adjusting the use of lights accordingly is essential for effective protection.'

With hard frosts on the way for many of us, any trick is worth a shot, and there's little harm in giving this hack a go. We can't ensure your Christmas lights will keep the frost at bay, but they can't hurt your yard and, the best part is, they're guaranteed to make your front yard look extra festive. 

Amy McArdle
News writer

Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.