planting perennials frost

mitzu(Zone 2-3)October 26, 2006

I ordered various perennials for Fall planting and they just arrived. Here in Timmins, Ontario our temperatures are at the freezing point and lower overnight at this time of year. Can I still plant? Some of the plants I received are: Giant Snowball Bush, Windflowers, Raspberries, Astiblles, name a few.

Should I plant them against the house (warmer) and then just transplant in the Spring?

Thanks for any help anyone can give me.


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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

Rule of thumb for new fall plantings is to be in the ground at least 4-6 weeks before your first frost. I think it's too late to plant directly in the ground now by the sound of your weather. Do you have a cold room or garage that doesn't freeze? I bring semi-hardy plants into my unheated sunroom each fall. Then come spring transfer your perennials out into the garden once the ground is workable and sun is strong. It doesn't need to be warm. Perennials can tolerate cooler spring temps if they've been acclimated to them. You'll essentially be "hardening" yours off for spring planting in your cold room.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 3:53PM
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mitzu(Zone 2-3)

I do have a garage and also a cold storage room in the basement. So do I leave them in their ball of soil and the plastic bag that's wrapped around them? and do I water them throughout the winter?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 4:01PM
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triciami5(z5 MI)

I just transplanted some phlox, and I always put soil that I buy in the bag around them, mainly to keep them from heaving out of the ground. I have done that for years and so far have not lost anything, but our area may be a little different than yours. Usually will do this to any new plants at the same time as I mound the roses, to be on the safe side. Even put some on the top of them too. I just walk around with a shovel full of dirt and throw it on. Also you can put leaves on first and then some dirt on for added protection I have done that also. Mark them so you know for sure where they are. Usually the mound helps too. Good luck. Tricia

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 7:27PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

What kind of nursery would ship plants to zone 2-3 this time of year?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 9:14AM
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I questioned that too, laceyvail, and then I re-read the original post. If the nursery actually called the plant "Giant Snowball Bush" I think we can guess which company it is.

(or should I say companies -- different names on the catalogs, same parent)

Gloria, I would keep the plants in the garage. Just how cold your garage gets will determine how you want to treat them. You may want to nestle them inside a lawn & leaf bag full of leaves and then place that bag in the warmest part of your garage (keep that bag, and the packaging, open so that they're not suffocating when they break dormancy).

If it's a warmer garage, like mine, it's different. Often I can simply pot them up, give them one good drink, and call it good till spring. I do this successfully with perennials on which I've pushed the zone a bit too much - pot 'em up in the fall and move them into a corner of the garage until March.

Good luck; I hope your plants make it through okay!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 6:03PM
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mitzu(Zone 2-3)

Thanks everyone for all your help!! I don't really want to mention the nursery because I don't want to give them any negativity...they're a great company and have great plants. They told me to return the plants.....but I really want'll be my gardening challenge. I do hope they survive though!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 6:55PM
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Gloria, Your description of temps at the freezing point and below at night really don't sound all that bad for planting out right now. What do the plants look like--they're not bright green, full, greenhouse grown plants, are they? If they are sort of semi-dormant plants with a rootball in soil I would definitely plant out right now. Here in Wisconsin temps are like that right now and and I don't hesitate to plant at this time of year---the ground is nice and warm and won't freeze for quite a while yet. I worked for 10 years at a Botanic Garden here and we planted like crazy this time of year and into November, too. The idea of rule of thumb for planting being 4-6 weeks before First Frost is kind of off-base, since if that were true here is Wisconsin we would have to be done planting in August. When I worked at the garden, our rule of thumb was if you could get your shovel into the ground it wasn't too late to plant. Now this only applies to outdoor-grown, hardened off plant material, not something tender and soft straight out of the greenhouse.

As an aside--about the windflowers--do you mean bulbs? Those definitely need to get planted, and they will be marginally hardy for you anyway, I think.

Whichever you do, have fun and good luck!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 3:44PM
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Actually I think it's 6 weeks before the ground freezes. Suspect you will be better off planting them and then applying mulch to keep them from frost heaves.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 6:16PM
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taryn(S Ontario Z6B)

Yes, 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes solid, not before the first frost. I would definitely plant them. You'll be rewarded next spring! :)


    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 11:38PM
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mitzu(Zone 2-3)

We just had a major snow storm here...I just can't see me going outside and planting LOL.....I think maybe my best option it returning them...unless they'll survive in my cold storage room, but I'll have to wait and see what the nursery says. They have a guarantee and it'll be void if I don't follow their instructions. Thanks for all the help everyone has been giving me. Hopefully I do get to keep them!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 6:21AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Mitzu, don't order from that nursery anymore. There are great nurseries out there, and you'll get better quality plants shipped at the correct time.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 8:50AM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

I hope you can return them. This is not an opportune time to plant. I respectfully disagree with the comments above. Up here, our ground may not freeze "solid" until mid or late December. Going by that rule I could still plant into November and I would never transplant that late - esp. new perennials. We try to get all our perennials transplanted shortly after Labor Day. You can push it, but the weather is too unpredictable and and I don't plant past mid-October. The exception are bulbs which you can plant up until the ground is frozen. The safe rule is 4-6 weeks before your first hard frost for perennials. Call your local cooperative extension and see what they recommend for your area.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 9:32AM
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