If you think that gardening is only for people who live in moderate climates, think again. There are plenty of plants you can use in your garden no matter how chilly the weather gets where you live. The key to making your garden thrive when temperatures fall is picking the right kinds of plants for your climate and tending your garden properly. If you follow the right steps, your garden will look alive in the winter weather.
The thing about the cold that damages plants is that it causes the water inside the plant to freeze, which ruptures cell walls and causes the plants to die. When this happens, it is already too late to save your plant. The trick is to stop the freezing of your plants before it starts, no matter what kind of plants you have. There are a few things you can do to give your plants the best chance of making it through a cold snap.
The first thing you can do is choose a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. These soils encourage plants to produce sugary sap which freezes quickly in the cold. Next, think about where you are planting your plants. If you are going for a few tender plants, make sure you place them in the shade of the house or of a big tree, where they will have some protection from the elements. If your yard is sloped or rolling, place your most tender plants at the highest points. When your lawn frosts over, the coldest parts will be the lowest points, so keep these tender plants as high as possible. You can further protect your most delicate plants by planting them in special frost proof containers or planters instead of in the ground, to protect them during a hard freeze. Last but not least, in the event of snow, brush heavy snow off your branches and stems, but leave a small layer of snow in place. While too much snow can lead to breakage, a little bit of snow will act as an insulator for your plants.
Of course, all of this will be for naught if you do not choose the right kinds of plants for your garden. The best indicator is to visit your local garden center and find out what kinds of plants are known to thrive in your area. These professional gardeners will have experimented with many different plants and will know which ones can stand up to the strain of the cold in your area and which ones can’t. Another factor to consider is the amount of sunshine your garden will get, both in terms of placement in your yard and in terms of the sunshine your area gets on a regular basis. Cold and sunny climates call for different plants than do cold and wet climates.
There are a few basic rules you can follow when choosing cold weather plants, no matter where you live. First and foremost, skip variegated plants and gold plants for your cold weather garden. These plants are too tender for chilly temperatures. Of course, tropical plants and flowers, like orchids, some types of bamboos and lotus flowers will not thrive in the cold climates. Instead, the best plants to consider for cold weather are heather, heath, holly, witch hazels, crocuses, ivy, winter pansies, forget-me-nots, primrose, chrysanthemums, and poppies. These great plants will give you beautiful splashes of color in the garden during even the most dreary and gray winter days.
One word of caution – just because plants can grow in the cold weather doesn’t mean they will. Even plants hardy enough for cold climates require special care to make it through cold winter months.