Need advice on nurserying plants over the winter

sweetmagnoliameOctober 30, 2008

Is "nurserying" a word? If not, think some of you will know what I mean and be able to help.

I've bought a variety of perennials on sale over the last few weeks and due to a back injury am not personally able to prepare the place where I had planned to plant them. At best, I can get some help to get them in the ground for the winter, and then dig them up/prep the ground/replant in the spring.

I assume they have to be buried to avoid freezing. Should I have a trench dug and just line them up, and should I bury them in the pots or take them out?

I have several heucheras, japanese painted ferns, fall blooming anemones, obedient plants, perennial violets, Jacob's ladder, Lady's Mantle....etc. Most of the pots are 4-6", a few are gallons.

This is so frustrating. Thank you in advance for your help!


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david52 Zone 6

If you can do it, on a north side of a structure, I'd dig a trench thats bigger and slightly deeper, take them out of their pots and put them in, trying no disturb the root masses, and lay them in the trench, and then cover up with dirt - Water it in. Then prepare your beds when you can, and as soon as everything thaws out, pull them up and transplant them. The soil should remain colder on the north side of something.

The issue with keeping them in the pots all winter would be risking that the root mass rots from too much moisture, and at this time of year, if these are pots from end-of-the-summer sales, thats a pretty high risk.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 6:56PM
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laura_42(4b-5a Colorado)

David52 -- What about wintering them inside the garage? This is my newbie plan for my container garden, but now I wonder if this is such a good idea.

It's worked for my mums and bulbs, so I just assumed it would be OK....?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 7:49PM
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Mags, I just want you to know that there are those of us who understand the frustration of a back injury. Somebody once said that a gardener needs a cast iron back, with a hinge.

My back is glass . . . In fact, since it already has so much permanent injury - it's broken glass.

I have lain uncomfortably on the couch and crippled around from couch to bathroom to window as the days & weeks slip by. Or, watched others do my job.

Right out there, outside that window . . . if we could just get the legs to carry us down those few steps . . . if we could lift the shovel rather than just grasp and lean on it.

Patience, the future holds a white blanket of snow to cover the landscape. And, healing will come with time.

Steve's digits

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 12:18AM
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david52 Zone 6

Yikes, you back-hurting-peoples, take it easy. I'm thinkin' rocking chairs, proximity wood stove, maybe foot ball / old boring movie to doze through on TV.

Laura, you can over-winter plants in the garage - the idea is to have the plant go dormant, if possible. But then there are plants, and then there are other plants, and what makes them go dormant and wake back up is some combination of day length and temperature.

You can sure do it, just watch out they never get soggy, and they don't get too dry. I'd be tempted to whack off a lot of top growth.

I'm not that much of an expert on this, to be sure, and I hope others chime in.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 10:04AM
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Okay, I guess this plan is the same as what we do with our potted herbs or . . . ornamentals, could we include dahlias? No, those have tubers. Still, I wonder if washing soil off the roots of most perennials and bedding them in peat moss might work. - shrug -

I used to carry the potted rosemary downstairs to the basement floor. Light would come thru a small window for only about 2 hours each day and sweep across the clustered plants. Water was given maybe once each month. Mortality was an issue, mildew was apparent and the last year I tried this probably over 1/2 died. Perhaps a good drenching with a fungicide early on or the complete removal of foliage would have helped. After a few years, I decided to place the rosemary and other plants on the floor of an unheated greenhouse over Winter.

There, mildew can also be seen by mid-Winter but nearly 100% of the plants survive (rosemary, lemon verbena). When outdoor temperatures drop below 15°F, an old quilt is used to cover the plants. The quilt sometimes stays over the plants for days and days but I try to get it off them whenever there's any break in cloud cover.

I think that this approach would work with only a simple frame covered with plastic and placed against the southside of a building. Others are successful at using coldframes - not me, others. I can't deal with such a low volume of air. Temperature fluctuations are rather extreme.

My greenhouse is less than 200 sqft and it is covered by plastic film on the southside (isulated north wall and roof - a "sunshed"). So, it isn't a great deal different from a coldframe . . . just a giant coldframe that I can walk around in.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 11:33AM
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laura_42(4b-5a Colorado)

I agree; back injuries are no fun. :(

My container plants are in a south-facing garage with small south-facing windows, so it would be both cooler and lighter than the basement. I've already trimmed most of the foliage off, except for the lavender and strawberries. I just assumed they'd be fine, but all this talk of mildew is a bit worrying. Also, I'm hoping the warmer temps aren't confusing the plants..? Hmmm.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 2:32PM
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Thank you all for your advice!

To my utter delight one of my friends stopped by yesterday morning and before he realized what he was actually getting into, offered to plant all my plants. I offered the trench option out of respect for his time and generosity, but he was kind enough to take the time to plant them all where they need to be next spring! (Well, as much as you can know that. If you're like me, you plant things thinking they're going to be in the perfect location and by the first fall realize you need to move them!)

Thanks for the kind words about the back injury. Digit, it's obvious that you've walked in my shoes. Funny how I haven't had any trouble with working shorter hours while I'm recovering, or doing less housework, but not being in the garden is killing me. Without someone to weed, deadhead, just to do the little things each of us does everyday to feed our passion for gardening, it's sat there looking sad and unattended. I'm not good at sitting on the sidelines...much less when the sidelines are bed, to sofa, to chair, to standing at the window! The snow will force me to behave/rest and let the healing happen!


    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 2:14PM
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I have read some things about mums and not sure if I am getting the full info. I have some store bought mums that we got in the early fall. They have gone dormant in late fall here and can I cut them back and save them for the spring, or are they just trash?


    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 10:16AM
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david52 Zone 6

Are they planted out in the garden, or still in a pot?

Mums will overwinter fairly easily, the issue is the roots drying out. I mulch garden ones heavily around the base with grass clippings. The ones in a pot, just keep it ever so slightly damp.

In the early spring, if you have space, you an take a potted mum and divi it up, planting it out in the garden. They'll get to a very respectable size by bloom time.

Something to be said for the old standbys. I've two favorite colors, a burgundy and a violet shade, both of which allow the spent flowers to blend in with the new blooms, not like the yellows where they stand out.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 12:26PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Pete,

Welcome to RMG!

Did you get the mums at a florist shop kind of store, or at a "garden center" type store? I'm assuming you got regular "garden mums," but if you happened to get them in a floral department somewhere, they may not be hardy. The mums sold as floral decorations are grown for the quality of the flowers, and are often not hardy at all--though it's possible they could be.

So, assuming you have regular garden mums, if you haven't already planted them in the ground, I'd do it as soon as possible if the ground isn't already frozen, and water them in really well after planting. As David says, it will be much more difficult to manage the watering over winter in a pot than it would be in the ground, and mums don't like their roots drying out at all---but if you keep them too wet, they'll rot. If you're able to get them in the ground and water them in well now, they'll very likely be fine for the rest of the winter, and you can just forget about them till spring. And I agree with David about mulching them with something, especially since they won't have any established root system---and you're also kind of on the edge of the cold limit for many mum varieties too. Mulch with something that will provide insulation, but will still allow for air circulation. If you happen to plant them in an area where they'll have snow cover for a lot of the winter, that will help provide extra insulation.

I cut mums all the way down in the fall, but since yours aren't established, I think it might be best to only cut them down partway, like maybe half or a little bit more (depends on how tall they are), and leave the rest of the stems and foliage on over winter. That might help protect them a little bit.

And just a heads up for you since this is your first post here (have you been lurking?) When you have a specific question like you do now, you'll usually find that more people will see your post and you'll get more replies if you start a separate thread. Sometimes people won't go back and read an "old" thread if they've already looked at it, and they might not realize that a new question has been added at the bottom. And if you want to, you can also choose to be "notified" when there's a reply if it's a thread you start. And---well---we LOVE new threads around here! ;-)

We're glad you found us, and I hope we see more of you around here,

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 1:24AM
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Hi, no I have not been lurking!
These mums in question were purchased @ a Hy-vee grocery store. Not really sure what variety. My pop is dead and he was the green thumb in the fam, so that's why the questions. Both of these are potted and yes the ground is frozen here in southern MN. They are facing on the north side of the house, sitting on the front porch.
I read a couple other things that said to cut them all the way down and mulch, but nobody said anything about watering. I can put them in my unfinished basement till spring, & I have access to some grass clippings for mulch. It is about 60degrees, but we now have very low humidity once the ground is tight. What's the best?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 9:48AM
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