How to Prepare Perennials for Winter

Views: 20573 | Last Update: 2009-04-30
When preparing perennials for the winter, leave the green and lush parts and cut out the brown parts. Bring perennial plants that can be temperamental inside the house with instructions from a sustainable gardener in this free video series on gardening... View Video Transcript

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Yolanda Vanveen

Video Transcript

Hi, this is Yolanda Vanveen, and in this segment, we're going to learn all about how to prepare our perennials, for the winter. Now, we all have gorgeous blooms all summer long, and by the end of the fall, it starts to freeze a little bit, if you live in a colder climate, and everything just looks trashed, so how do you prepare your perennials for the winter, and what should you do with them? First of all, my theory with all my plants, is if it's green and lush leave it be, if it's brown or ratty, cut it out, so the first thing I do, is, to prepare them for winter, is cut out all the brown material, and if it's in the garden, a lot of times I'll just leave it there as compost, but in my containers, I like to actually cut out anything that's brown, and not looking good, because it doesn't look good, and by the winter time it will turn mushy, and then I remember, this is my strelitzia, or my bird of paradise, and it does not like cold, cold winters, and it won't even survive in my greenhouse, because if it gets even a little bit of frost, the ends of the leaves will actually curl up, and I'm even getting concerned now. It's probably forty degrees, and I know it's hating it right now, and I should put it in the house, so I treat it as a house plant, for the wintertime. I don't even try to put my exotic plants outside in the greenhouse, or even cover them up. If they're very, very temperamental, then I will bring them inside, and even if I leave them a little bit on the dry side, give them some water, but leave them in the laundry room. They seem to do really well. I have a little window there, and they sometimes get a little bit beat up, but at least I can save them, so if you've got plants that are annuals, like this petunia, it's really probably not going to come back no matter what I do, but I have left them in my greenhouse, and a few times they have survived, so the same deal. If it looks brown or green, or looks ratty in any way, then I just start chopping it out, and it's easy to do, and a lot of times too, if it's still blooming, I just have the hardest time, chopping anything that's dying, so I've thrown this in my greenhouse. It's actually getting pretty cold in the greenhouse, and this plant is not liking that, but there's still some flowers on it, so I think I'm just going to trim off all the dead flowers, for dead growth, and then I'll come back in a few weeks, probably, and the rest of it will die down, and then I'll go ahead, and I will cut off the rest of the flowers, anything that's brown, all the way to the ground even. Sometimes my annuals will even come back, so it's always worth the effort, to either throw it in the garage,or throw it in the basement, or even in the greenhouse, if you have one, and just let it survive the winter. In my outside beds, I cover all of my perennial beds with leaf clippings, so when I'm raking up my leaves, I just cover up all the flower beds, and that way, all the weeds die down, and then the leaves break down the compost, for the next year, and then my perennials, my day lilies, my semisefugas, my crocosmias, all come up through that, and they do really, really well, and it's an easy way to prepare your garden for the winter. I also like to dig up my geraniums, or begonias, or any other plants that will not make it over the winter, in my climate, and I will either save them as the bulb, in a paper bag, or I'll just throw them in the greenhouse, and leave them dry for the winter, and then put them out again the next year, so there's lots of ways that you can help your perennials through the winter. Never fertilize them with nitrogen in the fall, because that will get new growth, and that's the worst thing you can do for your plants, so to prepare them for the winter, don't fertilize them at all, after mid summer, and even into early fall, and if you're going to fertilize them, give them phosphate, something that is a blooming fertilizer, because actually the phosphates will help the plant survive the winter, better.