Did my plant make it through the winter?

– Posted in: Acquisitions, FAQ, Plant info, What's up/blooming

Spring: when a gardener wonders which of last year’s new plants made it through the winter. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote down a list of things I had planted last year but hadn’t seen make an appearance yet. Here’s the list, with my current thinking on each (click on each thumbnail to enlarge):
missing_plants_carexHedyrotis purpurea-This was planted next to a carex that was thoroughly uprooted by chicken scratching. Found the carex and replanted it, and it seems to be surviving. Wondering if the hedyrotis was also scratched up and I didn’t find it, or if it’s still dormant and yet to emerge, or if it just plain died. Planted early September.

missing_plants_arumArum italicum-A seedling from my local garden buddy. I actually saw this after the snow melted, a single variegated leaf. But I haven’t seen it in a while, and I’m afraid the post-melt cold snaps might have done it in. I mulched the area with some fluffy dry leaves, just in case it wants to come back from the roots. Planted early September.

missing_plants_pachysandraPachysandra procumbens-I couldn’t even remember where I had planted this. Had to look it up. Found one dry stem and the name tag. Planted early September.

Euphorbia ‘Jesse’-The grower says this plant is “hardy in virtually every state in the US” but Nan Ondra told me hers didn’t make it through its first winter, so I’m not real hopeful. Planted early September.

Glacier blue euphorbia last fallEuphorbias ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Glacier Blue’-These two spectacular plants were sent to me as trials last year. Both are rated hardy to zone 7, so I’m not expecting them to come back, just wishing they would. Miracles do happen. And yes, zone envy rears its ugly head.

missing_plants_hibiscus‘Sugar Tip’ hibiscus-this variegated Rose of Sharon was nibbled by something shortly after it was planted the second week of September. The rose of Sharon that was here when we moved in is one of the last plants to leaf out, so the jury is still out on this one.

missing_plants_caryopteris‘Grand Bleu’ caryopteris-I know in my colder climate you are supposed to wait until spring to cut back this woody perennial–but when? Do I wait until I see buds swelling (which I don’t)? Do I just cut back willy-nilly? Most woody plants have not leafed out yet, so probably I need more patience with this one. Planted late May.

missing_plants_buddleia‘Blue Chip’ Buddleia-I planted three of these, all trial plants, at three different times. None of them show any sign of growth, just like the caryopteris. This is another woody plant that you are supposed to cut back in spring. My purple smokebush is starting to break bud, and many people cut that back, too. Dead, or not dead?

Corydalis luteaThe impostor corydalis: AdlumiaCorydalis lutea-A week ago I was looking at a plant that sort of looked like a corydalis, but was around the corner from where I thought I planted the Corydalis lutea last year. And then a couple of days ago, voila! the yellow fumewort showed up right where I thought I planted it. I’m pretty sure the impostor is Adlumia fungosa, a native biennial vine in the same family as corydalis and bleeding hearts.

Black Negligee actaeaActaea simplex ‘Black Negligee’-I was incredulous, viewing the brown, desiccated remains of what I thought was ‘Black Negligee.’ Wasn’t it hardy to Zone 4? Didn’t I plant it in June, giving it plenty of time to get established? Then it emerged from the soil, vigorous and healthy, and I had to figure out what the dead plant was. Foxgloves in MarchTurns out it was a foxglove, one of the foxgloves that looked fine in March. Looking around, I realize that none of my Digitalis purpurea, whether the pink ones I’ve had for years or the ‘Faerie Queen Apricot’ seedlings I planted out last fall, seem to be alive. And they were alive, or at least green, in March. This is not the first time I’ve lost foxgloves to mud season. I wish I knew the secret to pulling them through.

Let’s summarize our findings

Some plants just don’t show up. Some woody plants never break bud. Some plants are just late to emerge. Other plants are there, just not where you remember them. Some plants emerge from the snow cover looking fine, but die before spring really gets underway. And then there is user error, which we really didn’t get into. You don’t recognize it, and pull it out. You forget it’s there, and dig it up.

How many of the above have happened to you? Are there plants you’re still waiting for, wondering if you’re waiting in vain? Are any of them on this list? What is your latest plant to emerge or leaf out? Do you think there’s hope for any of my shrubs?

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.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathryn May 9, 2009, 2:07 pm

The latest for me is balloon flower so I’ve marked it well.

The shrubs may surprise you yet. Although I am north of you, proximity to the big lake makes me a zone higher. I have a few reliable shrubs that you can barely detect growth on it but when I looked more closely, I saw small bits of buds forming.

Kathryn’s last blog post..5%

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 9, 2009, 1:56 pm

I’m still waiting for the double Sanguinaria, but I’m willing to give them until next year. I’ve had a couple of surprises with things I thought were dead spring up miraculously. So don’t count out those things that haven’t made an appearance. As for shrubs that are late to break dormancy, the latest I have are Clethra & Chimonanthus. Neither has leafed out yet, but they have color in the nubs.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter’s last blog post..Morning Jewels

Carol, May Dreams Gardens May 9, 2009, 11:11 am

I don’t think anything disappeared over the winter, but then they could have and one day I’ll wonder “whatever happened to…” and go looking for it. We had a relatively mild winter, and a pretty good spring, so conditions were good overall for plants to return.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens’s last blog post..Enjoy The Spring FOLO Days

Bonnie May 9, 2009, 1:53 am

Hi Kathy
I posted a thank you on my blog for adding me to your directory. Thanks again.


Bonnie’s last blog post..Thank you Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening