The lazy gardener wins in the fall. Our philosophy is to leave it up until spring unless it’s a plant like peonies or phlox that tend to get powdery mildew on their leaves. Those perennials you would want to cut back and throw away the leaves in the garbage. After winter, some decomposition has already started making it a whole lot easier to pick up the previous year’s growth on your perennials. An added bonus is that nothing looks prettier than a little snow on spent coneflower heads or ornamental grasses gently rustling in the winter wind. They also provide birds and other wildlife food and shelter.
Should I cut my roses back and protect them from the cold?
No, do not cut your roses back in fall. Cutting encourages new growth which will not withstand winter. Cold damage begins at the tips, so leaving longer canes provides a better opportunity for living stems come spring.
Shrub roses do not need winter protection, especially if they are grown on their own roots and not grafted. Varieties such as Knock-Out, Oso-Easy, and Flower Carpet are all winter-hardy and can be left alone. Hybrid tea, floribunda, or grandiflora roses do best with protection from the cold. Dispose of any diseased leaves while cleaning up the area around the rose. Keep watering until the plant loses its leaves and goes dormant. When the ground has frozen, usually by mid-December, apply a mound of compost, shredded leaves, mulch or topsoil over the base of the rose. A ring of chicken wire works well to keep the material contained. Remove this protection in spring, once temperatures are consistently above freezing. DO not use the Styrofoam cones as they do not allow air circulation and on sunny winter days can heat up enough inside the cone to cause the rose to break dormancy.
What plants tolerate the cold so I can add to planters for fall and winter decor?
There are still many weeks to enjoy cold-tolerant plants, either in containers or in the ground. Your porch or front walk can pop with color from mums, asters or combination planters. Include tall plants (Ornamental grasses, Swiss chard), medium-height plants (pansies, snapdragons, kale, thyme, sage) and trailing plants (Lysimachia, ivy, sedum, rosemary). Accent with a pumpkin, scarecrow, ceramic bird or mushroom to celebrate fall.
Did you know that cabbage and kale get even more vibrant in color after the first frost? Extend the season by adding evergreen boughs to planters containing grasses, cabbage or kale and continue watering to keep fresh. For winter décor, add red dogwood stems, curly willow, berry branches and bows to the evergreen boughs. Our ready-made winter porch pots fit in your containers, making outdoor decorating quick and easy.
Terra cotta pots should be brought in to your garage or basement as well as any ceramic pots that are small enough to move. If you cannot move your larger pots, make sure they are not sitting directly on soil and water can drain out of the drainage holes. Although most of the ceramic pots at The Growing Place are frost-resistant, this will help prolong their life. The freeze/thaw cycle late winter and early spring is what can cause them to crack so you want to make sure the melting water can get out. You can also remove about 1/2 of the soil in your larger pots so that when it freezes the water has a place to expand into.
Is there still time to plant?
Now, and until the ground freezes, the weather is perfect for installing trees and shrubs. You can still plant perennials but, most should get in the ground by the end of September. Cooler weather means less stress and moisture evaporation. Roots continue to grow as the temps cool and deciduous plants shed their leaves. For winter survival, maintain watering new plantings and existing landscapes until the ground freezes.
Take photos of your garden to reference and start planning for next year. What did you enjoy or not like about your garden? Answers will help you plan what to do differently. For assistance, call 630.820.8088 and schedule an appointment with our landscape designers. We also have a convenient Plant Search online full of photos and detailed descriptions of most of the plants we carry.
What do I do with perennials that have spread?
Spring and summer flowering perennials increase in size by producing shoots and roots and are best divided in the fall. After 3 to 4 years, the clump may die out in the center, overrun its space, or produce fewer flowers. Grab a shovel, garden fork, knife, and scissors. It’s time to divide.
Have a new planting site in mind and prepared before you begin. Loosen dry soil by watering the plant days beforehand. Remove any dead foliage and dig around the plant so that it can be lifted in a clump. Then split the plant with a fork, inserting it deep into the clump. Compacted roots can be divided with a sharp knife or scissors. Once divided, the clumps are ready for replanting. Water and care for them as you would any newly planted perennial.
How do I seed patches in my lawn?
Watch a video to see how to reseed grass.