Overwintering Perennial Herbs

gardenathome(9B/10)July 21, 2010

Hi, everyone! We know it may be too soon to ask but we wanted to be prepared. How can we overwinter perennial herbs within zone 9/10 where the winters are quite mild? Specifically, sage/rosemary/lemon balm/tarragon. All grown outside in the garden as of spring this year.

Do we have to cut the plant down to a stalk or leave it as is? Do we water it once a week in the winter? Cover it with mulch? Any advice would be appreciated. Many thanks, guys! :-)

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Garden sage and lemon balm overwinter in my gardens which are in the frozen cold of Western NY State with no special winter prep. Good winter drainage is key.

Do NOT cut your woody plants to the ground.

Rosemary *almost* survives here with no winter protection so I expect that to be a non-issue for you as well.

Someone with tarragon experience will have to comment on that for you.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 9:37AM
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chudak(10 San Diego)

I'm in zone 10. My tarragon never needed any attention. I just left it outside and it did just fine. I'd imagine lemon balm is the same.

Like fata said, don't cut down your woody plants (e.g. rosemary). They should do just fine.

It depends on what kind of sage you have. Some sages drop all their leaves and flowers in the winter and you are left with just bare semi-woody branches. You can safely cut these down to the ground as they won't put out any new growth the following year. The plant will re-sprout from the crown with fresh growth.

If the variety of sage you have doesn't drop it's foliage it will do just fine left alone (though you may want to do some pruning in the fall or spring).

I grow many perennial herbs here (thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, rosemary, sage, marjoram) and I don't do anything special to them over the winter to help them survive--they just do.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 12:39PM
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Hi, Fanta and Chudak! Thank you so much for both of your help! That is good to know. For the sage, it is just common sage. So would that drop its foliage? I guess we'll see! :-)

Also, Chudak, we had planted the sage from seed just spring of this year, is that long enough for it to have produced a crown that it can re-sprout from next spring? The perennial herbs in our garden were all started from seed actually. :-)

Is there any way to overwinter annual herbs in zone 10? :-) I love the basil plants! But they have bolted already...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 8:13PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Sage does not drop it leaves. See following picture from a snowy January day. I got some great shots somewhere of sage covered in ice from an ice storm too. Note this is *not* a purple variety. This is the regular-old garden sage. Purple is its "I'm cold" winter color.

If direct-sown grown sage will come back for me, I don't think you'll have an issue.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 8:40PM
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chudak(10 San Diego)



See Deciduous Herbaceous Salvias at the above link. Some sage (salvia) varieties do drop all their foliage in the winter. The one I had was obviously a deciduous variety. They suggest not cutting back the dead foliage until the spring--however where I am it never freezes so the problem this prevents does not occur here (water in stems freezing).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 2:13PM
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A great photo, Fanta! It must have been so cold for the plant. Amazing all that snow and it still retained its foliage. I guess the herbs should be safe here in the winter then. :-)

Oh by the way, one of our sage plants have this weird smell to it. It was fine last week... Is that normal?

You guys are awesome. Thanks for all of the help!!! :-)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 2:15PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

chudak, I suppose I should have also included the botanical name Salvia officinalis in my posts - though I did make sure to say the common name "garden sage" in each of my posts because I know there are many salvias and not are cold-hardy or even perennials.

gardenathome, I live in western NY state and actually the snow can be a blessing to the plants. If there is snow cover, it can offer some protection from really bitter cold temperatures that we can get. Good water drainage no matter where you live is going to be key in winter and wet seasons for garden sage.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 9:14PM
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Hi, Chudak and Fanta! Thank you again for both of your help! We understand more about perennial herbs now. :-)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:15AM
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