Overwintering Tenderennials

October 31, 2016

If you are new to gardening, you need to know what a tenderennial is and how to work with it. Many of the best, loveliest plants are tenderennials, which means they can be damaged by the winter cold, even in USDA Zones 7 and warmer. If you do nothing, there’s a chance these tender perennials will suffer and may just give up the ghost, but if you follow these 3 simple steps, you’ll have them in your garden, looking fabulous, year after year. NOTE: The steps here are for gardeners living in USDA Zones 7 and warmer.  Gardeners living in colder zones wishing to overwinter their tenderennials will need to dig and bring them indoors.

 

Looking around at the plants at your local garden center is like looking at a horticultural United Nations. Many of the plants offered come from around the world. (Or rather, the parents of these plants did when they were first spotted in the wild by plant collectors.) From tropical jungles to arid Mediterranean climates and everywhere in between – we are tempted with a smorgasbord of choice. As wonderful as this is, it’s also why we need to be aware of a plant’s background in case it needs our help to survive the winter.

 

One look at Canna Tropicanna Gold is enough to tell you that it hails from a warm climate. (The name is also a give-away.) It’s good to know there are ways to keep tropical plants happy where winters are a bit tricky.

One look at Canna Tropicanna Gold is enough to tell you that it hails from a warm climate. (The name is also a give-away.)

Most tender perennials are ones that are grown from tubers, rhizomes, tuberous roots or corms. Cannas like Tropicanna, calla lilies, begonias and agapanthus are great examples plants that are native to warm climates but are often the sort of plant we want to have in our gardens, even if they require a little extra TLC. With three simple steps we can easily protect these tenderennials.

 

 

1. Getting ready for bed: So the first step is to think about the plants in your garden and spot the ones that are tenderennials – the ones that need some special care. Look for anything which took it hard last winter. If you’ve recently planted something new, do a quick online search to find out what its native climate is like. As a case point, take Canna Tropicanna, which – as the name suggests – grows in tropical and sub-tropical zones. This absolutely show-stopping plant stands tall, glowing and gorgeous all summer, but now colder times are looming. It’s time to cut the foliage and stems right back, clearing away any debris and weeds to be ready for step two.

 

2. Tucking them in:  cover the plants with a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch like pine straw, wood chips or regular straw. This will help insulate the ground and protect plants from being hit with any unexpected freeze.   Depending on what plants you’re protecting, you may not want to water them.  For instance, dormant calla lilies don’t require water.   Avoid fertilizing until spring.

And when Canna Tropicanna Gold is in flower, it’s a fabulous show

And when Canna Tropicanna Gold is in flower, it’s a fabulous show

3. Wake, rise & shine: The warmer weather of spring will trigger the plants in the ground to start growing. Thanks to steps one & two, your tenderennials will leap out of the ground, emerging through a weed-free, mulched garden bed.

 

Here’s a tip for USDA Zone 7 readers:  Weather patterns have changed enough recently to surprise us with a bit of snow or a hard freeze.  So, if you’re growing tender plants, or even newly planted roses or perennials in containers, you can help them escape the worst part of winter by giving them the step one & two treatment, then bring them into a sheltered area like the garage or a covered porch during the winter.

 

Finally, consider giving the tenderennial treatment to plants that sit on the fence so to speak – plants that you may think of as “throwaways” at the end of the season. You’ll be surprised at how a little bit of extra care will reward you with a glorious display in the spring and summer to come.

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For hi-res images to accompany this story, please contact Judie Brower at jbrower@TesselaarUSA.com

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