Snow is good for dormant plants

– Posted in: FAQ, Weather

You can barely see the hill, it's snowing so heavily

You can barely see the hill, it's snowing so heavily

“Finally, a decent snowfall.” That’s my first reaction as an ornamental gardener, thinking about the dormant plants. Snow is a great insulator and keeps the soil–and the roots of plants–warmer than if that same soil were exposed to the air.

This is one reason why Ellen Hornig of Seneca Hill Perennials can grow many plants from South Africa that are supposedly not hardy for her area. Oswego, NY gets a tremendous amount of snow, and those South African natives have no idea it’s below zero two feet above them.

I had to change my plans today because of this weather, but I’m glad for my plants.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Rich Young January 8, 2009, 8:36 am

Hi Kathy, love your snow pictures. Here in Colorado Springs our snow generally does not stay on the ground very long because the sun comes out and melts it. We just love it when it does snow though, because we love our mositure. We are considered a semi-arid zone.

LINDA FROM EACH LITTLE WORLD December 28, 2008, 11:50 am

Kathy — I so agree about being glad to see that first good snowcover. We are about to break our Dec. snowfall record so I am getting a little tired of it. But, having lived through winters with no snow and freezing temps, this is preferable. Ellen H. was in Madison this fall and we got to see her great images of plants in the wilds of S. Africa!

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" December 27, 2008, 4:21 am

Keep educating me Kathy!

lisa December 26, 2008, 1:36 pm

We have a nice blanket of snow too, about 18″ so far. My plants really enjoy it, I just have to shovel some onto the plants under the eaves….but it helps me push one zone at least, sometimes two.

Bloomin' Blogger December 25, 2008, 1:26 pm

And now, under the snow that has fallen recently in the garden I have a layer of fertilizer just waiting for the spring thaw. More at my new blog. In the years when there was little snow cover the plants really suffered wind burn. Looking forward to spring.

Kathy Purdy December 25, 2008, 12:35 pm

Sue, I think we all get behind in blog reading this time of year. Thanks for thinking of me!

Sue December 25, 2008, 12:22 pm

I was just starting to sort laundry, when I came across my book, Cold Climate Gardening, and it made me think of you, and I couldn’t remember if I’d been keeping up with your posts. I had gotten behind in all my blog reading, and I’m not caught up yet.

Merry Christmas!

Annie in Austin December 22, 2008, 11:29 am

There are no snow blankets in Austin, Kathy, as we rocket between near eighties and frost with tearing winds.
But your lovely photos and words remind me how grateful I was when snow covered the Illinois garden before a dip into minus degrees Fahrenheit.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Sweet Bay December 22, 2008, 10:49 am

What beautiful snowy scenes!

dlyn December 20, 2008, 1:51 pm

I am always relieved when we get a good covering early in the winter – and we surely have that this year!

KatWolfdancer December 20, 2008, 1:20 pm

OH I so agree! My poor perennials were so sad with the freeze, but they are now nestled in their downy, snowy coats. Happy Gardening!!


Gail December 20, 2008, 10:42 am


The irony of having a zone 7 garden…we appear to be able to grow less hardy plants, but they die off from exposure to our extreme temperature fluctuations…It was 73 yesterday and Monday it will be 17! What the temps don’t get …the wet winters kill!

Beautiful snowy scenery Kathy!



Kim December 20, 2008, 8:45 am

Beautiful snow. I wish we had some, but it’s been day after day after day of rain. I’m mildewing, I’m certain, and I’m hoping my plants don’t rot. I worry about all those bulbs I planted. . . . . And some snow would be great for all the baby perennials I planted this fall. You are absolutely right about the benefits of a good snow blanket!

Cindy, MCOK December 19, 2008, 6:02 pm

I’m stunned by your snowy vistas. That plants can not only survive but thrive under such conditions is just amazing to me. Dormancy is an alien condition down here in south central Texas.

Jim December 19, 2008, 5:43 pm

I’ve never heard that expressed, but I always figured a good snow kept plants more snug than being wind-whipped and exposed. We finally got our first decent snow with this storm too. There’s about 6-8 inches now and it’s still coming down. I heard you might get as much as 14″ where you are! Those’ll be very protected plants!

mss @ Zanthan Gardens December 19, 2008, 5:38 pm

Looking wistfully at your snow…and your dormant plants.

Helen/patientgardener December 19, 2008, 5:32 pm

I hate snow if I have to drive in it

Mr. McGregor's Daughter December 19, 2008, 5:10 pm

Yes, it’s one of the few things that keep me from completely hating snow. It’s also good for plants that aren’t dormant. After our first heavy snow melted, I was suprised to find so many things looking healthy and fresh, such as Columbine leaves and Epimediums.