If You Can’t Take the Frost,
Get Out of the Garden

– Posted in: FAQ, Plant info, Weather

Lily foliage damaged by cold

These 'Black Beauty' lilies were tricked into emerging too early in the season

Don’t get me wrong–I love snowdrops, winter aconites, crocus and all the very earliest bloomers that signal the end of winter’s dominion. But here in the land of late and unseemly freezes, plants that emerge later have the advantage. Those poor ‘Black Beauty’ lilies in the photo above were seduced by the atypical but not that uncommon April warmth. And now look at them! They are getting pummeled every night by the frosts and freezes that are expected at this time of the year.

‘Black Beauty’ lilies are hardy to USDA zone 4 or 5, depending on whose catalog you are reading. But getting through a harsh winter does them no good if they can’t handle the vagaries of a northern spring. If it were the third week of May and we had a hard freeze, I’d cover these plants. But sorry, this early in spring I’m not babying anything, because for it to do any good, I’d have to consistently cover them every night from now until the end of May. I know I’d forget at least once, so why start?

Old House Gardens praises these lilies for “wonderful vigor and long life in all sorts of gardens,” so they may pull through. I’ve got my fingers crossed for my bleeding heart, as well. Call it tough love, pragmatic horticulture, or hard hearted cruelty–it’s not enough for a plant to make it through winter in my garden.

It has to be tough enough to make it through spring.

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.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donalyn May 2, 2010, 10:57 pm

Gah – you should see my poor daylilies. They look like they have been partying too hard or something. I hope they will grow out of it – I don’t coddle either..
.-= Donalyn´s last blog ..The word for today is… =-.

Sue April 22, 2010, 2:21 am

I so agree with you-I’ll “baby” things a week or two before my last frost date (June 1), but I will not coddle things that choose to come up this early…….and there has been a LOT this year! And like you, I know I would forget eventually!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter April 21, 2010, 4:20 pm

A different location may be the key. I think the stone may have warmed it too much. My ‘Black Beauty’ Lilies are about a foot tall now, but any frost won’t bother them because they are protected by the trees.

Christine B. April 21, 2010, 1:42 am

I’m not sure whether it was spring or winter that killed my ‘Black Beauty’ lilies off, maybe too much shade. It’s so fetching I may have to try them again. I just received ‘Orange Valley’ and ‘Eudoxia’ lily bulbs in the mail and had to put them in the fridge for warmer temps. We still have a lot of snow, ugh.

Christine in Alaska
.-= Christine B.´s last blog ..I’ve been benched! =-.

Kathy Purdy April 21, 2010, 7:51 am

In checking the hardiness ratings, I came across two pictures of ‘Black Beauty’ that make me want to try them again, too, in a different location. I am sorry you still have a lot of snow. You are one hardy soul!

Leslie April 21, 2010, 12:51 am

Tough love is sometimes best. I know I’d forget at least once too so I completely understand your decision.
.-= Leslie´s last blog ..Garden Blogger Bloom Day April 2010 =-.

Teresa April 20, 2010, 11:58 pm

You are so right Kathy! I love to see those pretty colors so soon, but it also makes me nervous because you know there will still be more frost and these brave souls have emerged way too soon. You just have to hope for the best!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings April 20, 2010, 9:45 pm

Good point Kathy. Excellent in fact. I hope your lilies pull through.~~Dee