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Winter Care for Perennials

Posted February 07, 2022

Perennials can give us years of enjoyment with proper care. We can’t neglect the fact that they need special attention when dormant as well as the growing season.  

When the first winter frost comes in the fall, I don’t jump to clean up leaves and cutting back perennials to the ground, I let the spent flower stocks and seed heads stay erect on the stems through most of the winter time. They add interest to the otherwise blank winter slate, they provide food for the birds with their seed heads, and some protection to the roots below. Fallen leaves are left on the surface to serve as a natural blanket for the root systems and later provide a rich layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the coming months.

On warm days in February or March, before new growth begins, it is time to cut back the spent stocks and begin mulching and feeding the soil. When cutting back the dry stocks and old growth, don’t cut back to the soil level. Cut 1 to 2 inches above the soil level. This ensures you don’t damage any new emerging growth. Layering with mulch, compost, soil conditioner, coconut coir or small bark are some excellent choices.  

Once you begin to see new growth popping out from the base, it’s time to fertilize.  Use Rose & Flower 4-8-4 fertilizer for a general food. This can be worked into the soil or you can add a layer of compost or mulch over the fertilizer, then water in.  

Water perennials through the winter if rain is scarce, being sure not to create a soggy soil. 

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