It was a pretty brutal winter this year (2022-2023), reaching -2 this December, then the usual up-and-down warm and cold weather in February and March.
For two good weeks this year the early spring bloomers were just fantastic. Quince, flowering almond, magnolias, and the forsythia were having one of the best parties I’ve been to in a while. Then of course the cops came and it’s back to winter again.
The talk of the town is plant loss this year. Many people lost a lot of plants, even very established evergreens like holly’s and skip laurels that are supposed to be able to handle the cold
While -2 degrees isn’t common for us in Asheville, it does happen every decade or so. Here are a few tips to help your plants survive if it does happen again.
- Mulch, every time. This doesn’t help the top half much, but protecting the roots gives you a better chance of the plant bouncing back in the spring.
- Go for plants rated to zone 6. Yeah, much of Asheville is in zone 7, but that little extra hardiness can make a difference.
- Provide some wind protection, particularly if it is a plant rated to zone 7. The wind can be brutal in the winter and is a big factor in survival.
- Plant in the spring. Trees and shrubs love the cool nights and warm soil of the fall, but they don’t get the same chance to get established for the season that they do when planted in the spring. Particularly smaller plants like 1 gallon size.
- Plant bigger plants. Bigger root systems often means better growth and survival. We don’t have the best soil in the world. It helps to have a head start.
- Look for plants that bloom in late spring. We love the Japanese magnolias, but it’s hard to justify fooling with them up here on a ridge in the mountains. Many plants have a number of cultivars- look for varieties the bloom in mid to late spring, or on new growth in the summer.
- Be careful with fertilizing, particularly in the fall and early spring. New growth is particularly sensitive to frost.