What Happens to Your Perennials In The Winter?

February 4, 2021

Your perennials absorb sunlight, store food, and blossom during the summer. Their natural process of photosynthesis occurs while they continually store nutrients. However, winter presents survival challenges for these beautiful plants. Luckily, they have the ability to adapt and are able to survive through the frigid winter season. Winter perennials usually survive for more than two years. They include trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants with fleshy, soft stems.

How Your Perennials Prepare for Winter

When winter arrives, the woody parts of trees and shrubs survive the cold. The above-ground parts of herbaceous plants (stalks and leaves) die off, but underground parts (bulbs & roots) remain alive. The plants hibernate and live off their stored glucose until spring. As perennials age, they shed their older leaves and grow new ones. This process is important because the leaves damage over time by insects, disease, and weather.

Deciduous trees, such as oaks, maple, and elms, shed their leaves during the fall in preparation for winter. However, evergreens keep most of their leaves during the winter. They possess special leaves that are resistant to cold and moisture loss. Some such as pine and fir trees have thin long needles. Others possess have broad leaves with thick, waxy surfaces. On dry days, the leaves sometimes curl up and mitigate the exposed surface. Evergreens may continue their photosynthesis during the winter as long as they receive enough water, but the reactions occur often slower during the colder days. But, as the days get short and cold, the plants begin to completely shut down their food storage ability.

What is Dormancy for Winter Perennials?

Perennial plants take advantage of winter by hibernating. They declare dormancy to prepare their soft tissues against the drying weather, freezing temperature, and overall nutrient shortage. Dormancy is a defense mechanism that allows perennial plants to survive during undesirable conditions. Instead of profusely exerting energy for growth, winter perennials conserve nutrients during this phase.

The Arrival of Spring & Wake up Time!

Spring brings back rejuvenation and replenishment for the plants. Shorter nights mean greater sunlight, encouraging your perennials to grow once again. The plants don’t shoot up at the first sight of spring. Depending on your climate, it may take weeks for your garden to emerge from dormancy. You should trim back foliage allowing for new growth. Most outdoor plants require minimal maintenance, alleviating you of the stress!

Winter perennials are special plants that add an aesthetic value to your garden. They are able to survive the winter season but will require care once the temperatures start to increase and winter concludes. Repeated thaw-freeze cycles during spring caused by sporadic weather pattern shifts may injury your plants. Therefore, it is recommended to keep your ground compact with mulch, preventing any damage to your perennials!

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