Garden Tips for an Especially Cold Spring

This winter will be long remembered for its cold, snow and duration. The combination of these extreme conditions was particularly hard on established plants that in past years have taken winter in stride. Adding to the challenge, assessing weather damage to garden plants has been delayed even longer because of the persistent cooler temperatures. The good news is that regardless of this week’s weather forecast, spring has finally arrived! It’s a good time to get gardening and we’ve compiled some tips that are especially relevant after our harsh winter and cooler than normal spring.

Spring Gardening Tips

  • When planting it’s always recommended that you “tease” the plant rootball with your fingers or trowel to loosen roots for quicker establishment. And don’t forget to use Espoma Bio-Tone; it’s an excellent organic starter fertilizer that contains beneficial microorganisms to help get new plantings off to a good start.
  • The best way to ensure that spring bulbs return every year is to remove spent flowers (deadhead) immediately after they finish blooming. But leave the foliage in place for several weeks, until it dries and withers on its own. This replenishes the energy in the bulb.
  • If you’ve already purchased and perhaps planted tender annuals protect your plants if temperatures dip below 45 degrees. This would include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons and tender annual plants.
  • Now that we’ve gotten some rain it’s the perfect time to get ahead of the weeds. When the ground is moist weeds are more easily and thoroughly removed. Don’t try to weed when ground is soggy as soil structure can be damaged.

Dead or Alive?


Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Lavender Cotton’ with hidden new growth.

The most commonly asked question posed by our customers this spring is, “how can I tell if my plant is dead or alive?” Many plants are very late in showing new growth. Roses, buddleia, boxwoods, junipers and yews, among others, were cold damaged to different. Adding insult to injury, the unseasonably cold spring temperatures have made some established perennials slow to re-emerge also. Don’t give up hope yet—at least not until you’ve given plants a thorough examination. Look very closely for signs life at the base of plants such as roses and buddleia. Prune blackened or obviously dry branches. If you are unsure if a shoot or branch is dead, use your fingernail to scrape the bark. If there are any signs of green, leave it alone and give the plant more time to see if it will rally. For damaged evergreens, look very closely for tiny green buds at the tips of branches and inside the plant. If you don’t see any green at the tips, but do see some inside, carefully prune dead foliage. Give evergreen shrubs the same fingernail scrape test. The key is patience; some shrubs may take a couple of seasons to recover. Can’t wait? Then now is also the perfect time to replace dead or damaged shrubs, perennials and roses. The cooler spring temperatures will give plants time to get their roots established.

Plant Spring Color Now

There’s no better time to add spring blooms to your garden that will greet you for many springs to come. Right now Redbuds and Crab Apples are bursting with color. If you are looking for a medium size trees these are two spring bloomers to consider. Many types of perennials are also blooming now and available at The Growing Place including: Phlox subulata (creeping phlox), Geum triflorum (prairie smoke), Pulmonaria, Violas, Dicentra, Myosotis, Corydalis and many more. Perennials that look great now and also give you long season color include: Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and the wide range of Heucheras.

Make a Plan

We have thousands of plants to choose from and it can be daunting. It’s a good idea to visit the garden center regularly throughout the season so you can see when plants look their best and how they grow in our gardens. This will help when you’re planning what to plant in your garden.

Forget-Me-Nots, Latin name: Myosotis silvatica

Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis silvatica

Prairie Smoke

Geum triflorum ‘Prairie Smoke’

Perennial Geranium 'Rosanne' and Heuchera 'xxx'

Perennial Geranium ‘Rosanne’ with Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’

Bleeding Heart or Dicentra

Bleeding Heart, Dicentra

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.