Can You Plant Perennials in March?
This week one of our readers wrote and said she’d been to a large warehouse store, saw the big display of packaged bare-root perennials and couldn’t resist the temptation to buy some Echinacea, liatris and a few other plants.
The info on the packaging was ambiguous about when to plant in Colorado. She wanted to know if she protected the plants well, could she plant them now?
The plants showing up now in warehouses and some hardware stores are bare root plants and they are common perennials that we grow here in Colorado – such as Echinacea, daisies, liatris and daylilies. While they do grow in Colorado, should they be planted NOW?
The first clue that it’s too early to plant them is that if you are already growing some of them in your garden, you’ll see that they are still dormant. In many places along the Front Range and at higher altitudes, especially, the soil can’t be worked yet either.
Unfortunately for all of us who want to get outdoors and plant something, it’s really too soon to plant perennials and to expect them to survive the spring frosts and perhaps a hard freeze that are still ahead. Yet what do you do, if like our reader, you already bought these plants?
Here’s what you need to know:
- Because these perennials have been in cold storage all winter, they have been kept dormant. But bringing them inside the store where it’s warm has forced them to break dormancy – and they will start to bud.
- If planted outside now, these buds will likely freeze – and depending on the temps, the roots may freeze as well. Protecting them with coverings like a wall of water or other material won’t work in a hard freeze.
- The best plan is to get these plants into pots so that the roots can begin developing and so that you can water them to keep the roots moist. Keep plants in a cool place indoors.
- On warm days, start setting the plants outdoors so they can begin to harden off – but move them indoors at night to prevent frost/freeze damage. When night-time temps are consistently above 28 degrees and the soil is workable, they can be planted.
- After planting outdoors, protect them just like you would protect annuals from frost or freeze damage whenever the forecast predicts frost/freezing temps.
- Normal low temps by the end of March are around 30 degrees along the Front Range, but bear in mind that the record low in March was only 5 degrees. At higher elevations, hitting 30 degrees will be later, of course, based on the location. Monitor the weather, harden off the plants and get them in the garden when the conditions are comfortable for the plants to enjoy the outdoors.
In the meantime, it you want to satisfy that urge to plant something, plant cool season veggie seeds such as carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes. These seeds will sit quietly under the soil until the soil gets warm enough for seeds to germinate. Watch the soil between times of precipitation and if it gets dry, apply water to keep soil moist.
Be patient, growing days will soon be here! When you are ready to get your perennials planted and your gardens updated, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.