Planting perrenials in October?

ATekk(6nj)September 29, 2011

Hi all,

I am about to place my first order with Santa Rosa gardens just because of the fantastic sale and good reviews on Daves. Since I am still new to gardening though I need some input.

In selecting a shipping date I am not sure what is best. My Bluestone order this spring really thrived and all plants got to full size rarely quickly. I am concerned about this fall order of plants not having enough time if I plant them now to get established for the winter. Will I be ok if I have them shipped out next week and plant them next weekend? I know fall is a common time for planting and transplanting but is there anything I can do to assure that they survive the winter or if possible should I delay shipment till the spring?

Thank you!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would wonder if FL plants will have time to harden off properly in your zone ... before a hard frost/freeze???

i dont know the answer ... but i do know .. i have struggled with spring mailings from warmer zones ..

after that concern.. winter heave is a problem for me.. in my z5 ... might or might not be an issue for you ... the plants may not have the time to root in enough .. in the cold soil.. this could be offset by deep mulching once dormant ...


    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 9:42AM
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You should have no problem. I do this all the time and I am considerably closer to winter than you are. The soil is warm and the air cooler in the fall, so the plants can grow roots without heat stress. I usually mulch them well (though not right against the stems) to help keep the soil warmer for longer and to prevent frost heaves over winter and early spring. We have a short spring and a longer fall and I usually find plants do better planted in fall, regardless of whether they are perennials, deciduous woodies or evergreens.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 10:32AM
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Thanks for the input Ken. I reached out to SantaRosa to see what my options are. If they have spring shipping I may just go with that and not worry about it. Otherwise I guess they also have their guarantee.

If I do go with the fall planting I will be sure to take your advice on deep mulching.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 11:19AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

babs said:

I usually mulch them well (though not right against the stems) to help keep the soil warmer for longer and to prevent frost heaves over winter and early spring.

===>>> i would phrase it from the other season ... the mulch keeps the soil frozen or colder in spring ...

what causes heave.. or rocks to pop out ... is uncovered soil.. going in and out of freeze .. repeatedly.. in late winter ... mulch keeps the soil frozen longer.. avoided the temp spikes ...

i often say.. the key is.. GET THEM DORMANT ... KEEP THEM DORMANT ...

your FL supplier makes me worry about the former.. and the mulch takes care of the latter ...

you have the variables.. so now you can deal with them .. neither is a deal breaker ..

but if you are a worrier ... then delay ... it probably hangs on the value of the late season super savings deal ....


    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 12:45PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

You are in New Jersey. I takes freezing weather to freeze soil, and unless you are in the coldest part of the state, you just aren't going to get much of that. So don't even think of playing mulch games unless you like your plants well rotted. Mulch the beds like you normally would. Put it around the plants and cover the ground. Don't cover the plants. Make a habit of checking on the plants after a cold snap so you can push them back in if they pop out. However, the only plants I've had that problem with are things with 'carrot' roots like small Siberian iris divisions.

At this point, you are probably about three months away from having the ground freeze at all. That's plenty of time for plants to make good root growth and become anchored.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 1:55PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'd only worry about certain plants like Chrysanthemum.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 8:31PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well thanks Atekk, read this post and next thing you know, I'm ordering yet more perennials from the Santa Rose sale...

I selected the option to ship them ASAP. I will be planting them in October for sure. Shouldn't be a problem to plant most perennials here, so it shouldn't be a problem in New Jersey. Last year I actually transplanted all the way into November - divided a bunch of Peonies. However, they were planted close to house foundation, which is a warmer micro-climate. All came back beautifully in the Spring, however there were no blooms (obviously stressed by a late fall transplant).

There are some plants that are iffy surviving the winter with a fall planting however - Buddleia, Scabiosa, Chrysanthemums, some of the Asclepias species, off the top of my head.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 9:42AM
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Thank you all for your inputs! The customer service rep for Santa Rosa was really helpful and said I can change my mind up till Monday when they plan on shipping my order. I have the possibility of doing a spring shipment if I want and am wondering if better safe than sorry since all my plants I put in the ground in spring came up so nicely this year.

terrene...I ordered a couple Buddleia so that is making me wonder if I should just wait. Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 10:23AM
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I hope nhbabs or someone else will answer this...

I am in the same zone in NH as nhbabs is. We've already had one night of frost. (I think it got down to 35 or something.) We're past our first frost date and there is always the chance of a killing freeze at any time. This is why I have been wary of planting anything new... the ground freezing completely is still a couple months away, but freezing air temps are a reality. If the upper part of the plant is affected by a freeze overnight, will the roots still grow, or will the whole plant die? Do people cover their plants overnight when a frost or freeze is predicted? I'd love to take advantage of the relatively warm temps and all this rain we're having, but I'm worried about buying plants and having them not "take".

(I am planting bulbs and bare roots, but am wary of planting mature perennial plants.)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:53PM
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Mature perennials should do fine if you get them in soon. As I said above, I mulch around them (not over the plant or against the stem) well to help keep soil warm longer in fall so the roots will grow more and then to reduce the likelihood of heaving in the spring as Ken said by reducing temperature fluctuations. In my experience plants like the autumn combination of warm soil and cooler air to get settled in and will take off in the spring. In NH springs the soil is cold and warms up more slowly than the air, so the roots of new plants grow slower while the upper part of the plant is warm and wants the water and nutrients that the roots provide. I find I have to watch spring planted perennials much more closely than fall planted ones as they are more likely to suffer from heat stress when the temperatures rise.

If you don't get everything planted, I have buried pots in a pile of mulch for the winter and had them pull through without problems. Putting pots in the ground doesn't work too well here due to freezing preventing good drainage in the spring and leading to rotting in the cold soil when the surface has thawed but lower soil levels are frozen creating saturation for a week or more.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 3:44PM
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Thanks - burying in mulch is a good tip. I'm in the first 5 years as a gardener and am still in the "trial and error" phase... getting a little more adventurous but still sometimes overly cautious (and also often amazed at how resilient some plants are.) Would you suggest, though, as a precaution, that on nights when there will be frost, I should cover the plants? Or does what happens above the roots not matter so much as long as the soil is warm enough?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 4:07PM
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There are two ideal times to plant most perennials; spring and Fall.

Of course it depends on the type of plant you are working with, but many perennial plants actually grow over much of what we think of as "winter" when most people think of their gardens as dead. They will produce a second type of leaf that can survive the freeze/thaw cycles - it is often more leathery than the other leaves and takes on a reddish hue in many plants - and many of them are producing those leaves as we speak, even as this year's summer growth is dying back.

Take a walk outside in November after the annuals are dead, and you'll find there's still a lot of green out there, though most of it is confined to the base of the plants right above the soil. Even when the frozen air temperatures make it difficult for perennials to move water to their stems and they die, some leaves at the ground level are basically evergreen.

You'll notice that a lot of spring and summer blooming perennials that re-seed will wait until fall to sprout, or else will sprout in the very early spring when there are still regular nightly frosts, and I bet there are a lot of sprouts in your garden right now, including some from weeds. That's because cooler temperatures help plants conserve moisture while they're young and don't have the root systems to survive summer heat, but these particular varieties can freeze/thaw with no problem.

A lot of plants actually grow quite a bit in what you normally think of as "winter." Here in Colorado - zone five - I am watching oriental poppies and grape hyacinths emerge from dormancy to put out leaves right now. Other perennial plants - irises, day lillies, and penstemon, are producing new rosettes of leaves at the base. I am noticing a lot of columbine seeds are sprouting right now, and huchera and sedum are continuing to grow leaves.

Even the first hard frost that kills all the annuals won't stop some perennials from continuing growth until December.

Then in February, crocuses and other early spring bulbs will be emerging, and some those perennials that grew through December will start wake back up again then and continue building the root systems.

Most sellers are not going to ship plants unless they can be planted now and survive; maybe a few will, but it's not very good for attracting return business.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 1:49AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Atekk, in my zone where Buddleia can be borderline cold-hardy, I would definitely not plant a Buddleia in the fall. It needs an established root system, and significant top growth to survive the winter here. I would still be cautious in zone 6, but they might do okay if you plant them in a sheltered microclimate. To be safe, you could have them shipped in the Spring.

From what I've read, plants' roots will continue to grow until the soil temperature is below 40 degrees. Roots are much less cold hardy than top growth, but this is not a problem because the soil temperature would be warmer than the ambient temperature for most of the winter. This is why most plants in pots need to be mulched heavily, sunk in the ground, or somehow sheltered to survive the winter.

Then you have plants like Daylilies that are so hardy that I dug up a root ball and accidentally left it hanging out by the compost pile all winter, and it survived.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 3:51AM
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