Planting in winter has its challenges but rest assured, it’s okay to put a plant in the ground during the winter months. In fact, in some cases, it’s the best time. In the PNW, it rains A LOT in the winter. This natural watering schedule means you don’t have to worry about irrigating them for 3 to 4 months. Also, the colder temperatures that trigger dormancy means all of the plant’s energy gets directed to its roots. When spring starts, it is more established and the plant has the best chance to thrive in its new location.
When does planting in the winter make sense, and when does it not?
In the landscape industry, the main issue we run into is plant availability. Winter is the slow time of year for garden centers and nurseries. Generally, the plant selection is poor and plants selected to be in a design are not as available. However, as a customer, you may find good deals on what is available during this time.
There are also a handful of plants that we’ve seen not perform well when planted in the winter. Those that do have issues are typically not available at the nursery, or if they are, we just simply wait until spring to plant them.
Another problem we run into is planting herbaceous perennials, which die back in the winter. The plant may be nice and showy in the summer, but in winter, the plant looks practically non-existent. When a landscape project is finished, it’s not as rewarding for a customer because their new landscape might have bare spots where the perennials are. But, of course, in the spring, the new plants will pop up and fill out the landscape. A little reassurance to the customer has always taken care of this issue as well as creating a design that takes into account this lean time of year.
The key to transplanting is knowing when the best time is for a specific plant. Deciduous plants will experience dormancy after a hard freeze in the winter. This makes it an ideal time to transplant. However, grasses, evergreen plants, and late-flowering perennials are on a different schedule and will fare better being moved in spring.
Some types of plants tolerate transplanting better than others. Since transplanting involves cutting back the roots and moving the plant to a different environment, the plant needs to be able to heal up and start growing again. Certain ones, especially those with thick, fleshy roots, can have a difficult time overcoming the shock. Consider if it’s worth the risk to move it or let it stay.
Plants that can be difficult to transplant successfully are the following:
- Flowering dogwood
Another factor in transplanting is the size. Large, established plants are going to find it extremely difficult to survive, no matter what kind they are. Anything that’s only been in the ground for a year or two will have the best odds of being moved successfully.
Plants in containers are more at risk than plants in the ground. A plant sitting in a container is more exposed to the elements because the root zone doesn’t have the added insulation of being directly in the soil. So that plant you got from the nursery will fare better if you get it in the ground now rather than leaving it in a pot and waiting for spring.
Mulching around the plant in winter is important. It helps protect the roots from the harsh environment above the ground. Mulching acts as insulation and keeps its roots warmer. Fall leaves are one of the best materials for this and are readily available. You can also use compost, straw, or bark dust.
At Blessing Landscapes, we can design a planting plan to meet your needs and do the planting for you. We use best practices to ensure your new plantings will thrive no matter what season they go in the ground. This involves digging a large enough hole, adding beneficial fungi to encourage root growth, and mulching with a topdressing of compost to provide a slow release of nutrients during the year.
Hopefully, this will set your mind at ease if you’re contemplating planting in winter. If you can brave the elements outside, start digging. Otherwise, contact us!