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Written by Dave Gs • October 21 Will My Plants Die Over the Winter?

As the days shorten, and the nights turn cold, gardeners in cold zones start to worry about their plants. Will they survive the winter? Will they flower next year? There are lots of reasons why plants don’t survive in winter, or never flower, and when choosing what to grow, and how to grow it, knowing what these reasons are, and which plants they apply to, is valuable knowledge. Let’s take a look:

Hydrangeas are more complicated, as some types flower on older stems, and others on new ones. The forms of Hydrangea arborescens, like the well known ‘Annabelle’, flower on new stems, and they are easy to grow and bloom in colder zones. The forms of Hydrangea macrophylla, the blue or pink mophead hydrangea, mostly flower on side and terminal shoots from older stems, so with some exceptions, like Endless Summer, it is harder or impossible to see much flowering below zone 6, since the stems tend to die to the ground in winter. Since these two species look very similar to gardeners, it is no wonder this issue is so confusing.

The solution is to look for varieties of the plants you want that flower just a little later, and so stay dormant longer and usually miss those pesky late frosts. Among the magnolias, look for trees with girl’s names, like ‘Anne’ or ‘Susan’, which were bred specifically to solve this problem. With other plants, look for the varieties that flower the latest, as these will be the most likely to be successful.

With sun scorch, the rapid warming on the south side of a plant when it is hit by the sun after a very cold night, can warm the cells enough to thaw them. When the sun drops below the horizon, temperatures fall rapidly, and the rapid cooling makes big ice crystals in the cells, which rupture the walls, killing them. Slower cooling makes small crystals, that fit comfortable inside the cells, and no damage is seen. If you have plants that are prone to this problem, screening from the sun will usually prevent it. Luckily buds will usually survive, and the branches won’t die, so once seen, you can take precautions the following winter. Bark damage too, if not extensive, will heal, so this condition is usually not fatal unless it keeps happening every year.