Tip of the Week: Plant When Conditions are Right

The bare root plants starting to show up now in warehouse and some hardware stores are common perennials we grow in Colorado – such as Echinacea, daisies, liatris and daylilies. Unfortunately for all of us who want to get outdoors and plant something, it’s at least a couple weeks too soon to plant perennials.

The first clue that it’s too early is if you are already growing some of these plants in your garden, you’ll see they are still dormant. In many places along the Front Range and at higher altitudes, especially, the soil can’t be worked yet.

Because perennials in the stores have been in cold storage all winter, they have been kept dormant. Bringing them inside the store where it’s warm forces them to break dormancy – and they will start to bud.

The emerging buds, flowers and new growth are likely to freeze if they are planted outdoors now. The record low temp in March was a shivering 5 degrees and the typical last frost of the year is usually around mid-May. Thus, any perennials that have broken dormancy are likely to suffer damage if planted outdoors now.
Have you purchased any of these perennials? Here’s what you need to know:

  • If planted outside now, 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 or freezing temps.

If you have the 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!

This entry was posted in Snow, Gardens, Residential, Maintenance, Green Landscape, Annuals & Perennials