Preparing Perennials for the Winter


Authored by Suzanne Alicie in Gardening 
Published on 10-04-2009

Perennial flowers are a wonderful item to have in your flower bed. These plants can be left in the ground over winter and will come back fuller, thicker and healthier each year. Of course their life span has a lot to do with how you prepare them for their dormant winter season. Preparing perennials for winter is pretty much the same as putting them to bed to hibernate through the cold season.

Perennials include bulb plants such as tulips, daffodils, and gladiolus as well as plants that grow from tubers like irises, sedum, and hostas.

Once all the flowers have stopped blooming and stopped creating new growth it is time to begin winter preparation. First go through the flowerbed and cut back all the flowers to the ground. Remember that it is the tubers and bulbs under the ground that keep the flower alive, so remove any green that you see. I like to place a wooden popsicle stick in the ground to mark where each plant is. This is because most planting of new flowers is done before the perennials begin to come up in the spring, and I don’t want to plant on top of an existing flower.

Scrape all mulch to the side of the flower bed and get busy weeding. Any weeds that remain in the flower bed through the winter will also return in the spring so make sure that you not only get the tops but dig out the roots as well.

Once your flower bed is weed free use a small garden spade to make several holes in the garden. The key is not to dig a hole but simply insert the spade and wiggle it back and forth. This serves to loosen the soil and aerate it. If the soil in your flowerbed becomes too compacted the plants won’t be able to spread and reproduce under the ground and the nutrients won’t be able to get to the roots. So this is an important step. Some people like to use a wheel with spikes on it to aerate a flower bed but I prefer the spade because it goes deeper. Just be careful not to damage any tubers or bulbs.

Spread a thick layer of compost over the entire flower bed. Compost not only fertilizes and improves the soil, but it also provides a layer of protection against the coming winter cold. In extremely cold places a layer of straw is also recommended. Replace the old mulch back over the flowerbed on top of the compost and then apply a layer of fresh new mulch to help protect the flowerbed throughout the winter months. Don’t worry that your flowers won’t be able to come up in the spring; mulch is perfect for perennial flowers.

This is all you need to do to prepare your perennial flower bed for the winter. You clean; feed and cover, and the perennials will sleep well throughout the winter absorbing nutrients, protected from freezing and be ready to sprout in the spring.


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