Less Noise, More Green: Will perennials survive a snowstorm?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Will perennials survive a snowstorm?

Will perennials survive a snowstorm?

As I write, Rhode Island is in the middle of a blizzard. My gardens are under several feet of snow  and the wind is whipping through the trees, sending the snow on a manic dance. Somewhere underneath all of that are my plants. It is hard to believe but they are fine. Perennials are amazing and the ones hardy enough to survive our northern climate have adapted better than us humans to the winter weather.

This garlic chive is dormant. I left the seed heads for the birds.

Perennials do two really important things as winter approaches. Firstly, herbaceous plants die back to the soil. All of their energy stays underground until the spring when they push back up through the earth. By doing this, the plant avoids the destructive freezing and thawing that happens above ground (Sometimes this action can cause the soil to heave and force plants out of the ground). In fact, snow acts like a blanket of insulation on the soil, trapping heat and moisture. Deep snow also protects plants from the wind which can be damaging.

Will perennials survive a snowstorm?

Secondly, deciduous trees and shrubs face winter by becoming dormant. Sap is drawn down from the branches and trunk and the leaves fall. This results in less fluids moving through the tree's circulatory system which could freeze during the winter. The gale force winds are more likely to cause damage through branch breakage and dessication than the cold.

Will perennials survive a snowstorm?
Any problems caused by the storm happen once the snow stops falling. Both evergreens and deciduous trees may be weighed down with snow to their breaking point. Don't be tempted to try to knock the snow off straining branches. Instead, gently shake the snow free and wait until spring to prune any damage.

So, if you are waist deep in snow right now don't worry about your perennials, they are sleeping soundly under their toasty layer of frozen precipitation.

The same cannot be said for most annuals, however, which are toast!

Kale will bounce back from a snowstorm
Kale, although an annual, will eventually bounce back from the storm.

Be safe and well!


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