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How to Prepare for Frost and What to Expect

About Frost Dates 

As gardeners, we tend to plan gardening seasons around frost dates. This is when the temperatures dip below freezing and frost appears on the ground. Depending on your zone, you may see your last frost date in spring anywhere between February and June, and your first frost date in fall between August and December. Check out the chart below to understand when frost will first happen and potentially end for your zone.  

It is important to understand when frost will occur as you are planning and caring for your garden landscape. In spring, it is best to plant new shrubs and perennials after your last frost since freezing temperatures could result in the loss of a new plant. Likewise, your first frost date in the fall will force you to prepare your yard for the winter ahead and save any plants you wish to overwinter. The time in between frost dates is when you can plant and enjoy your garden landscape as it grows and flourishes in the warmer weather conditions of your area.  

What to Expect When the Frost Hits 

Even during a light freeze (when the temperatures are around 30 degrees) you can expect to lose any delicate annuals, and the flowers and foliage of any delicate perennials and shrubs will be damaged. You may find a few special annuals and hardy perennials to withstand the cold during your first light frosts, but as the temperatures get lower in the evenings, you will eventually experience a frost around 24 degrees in which all flowers and foliage on your plants will begin to die off. When this happens, perennials and shrubs will go dormant to survive the winter ahead, and your annuals will be done for the season.  

How to Prepare for Frost 

Overwinter or Bring Plants Indoors 

About a month before your projected frost hits, the first thing you might do is bring inside any tropical plants or delicate perennials you want to over-winter. If planted in your landscape, be sure to check for any bugs or insect infestations so you can treat them while they are still outdoors. Once you are certain they are clear of any bugs or disease, dig them up and repot them. Be sure to keep them separate from any other plants for a few weeks just to be sure they do not contaminate other houseplants. For perennials, keep the potted plants in a cool area that gets plenty of sunlight. Only give them a small amount of water throughout the winter to keep them dormant.  

Remove Annuals from Your Landscape Beds 

While some Supertunias and other annuals may last through your first frost, it is best to remove them just before your frost hits. Be sure to compost any healthy plants and dispose of any diseased plants so the disease does not spread back to your garden the following year.  

Cut Some Perennials Back 

Once your perennials have gone dormant, you can clean their leaves and foliage out of your garden beds, and even cut back some select varieties altogether. We recommend cutting down perennials like hostas, lavender, yarrow, and salvia. 

Do not cut back or trim in the fall: 

  • Any evergreen or semi-evergreens like dianthus, heuchera, heucherella, phlox, bugleweed, or red hot poker. 
  • Any perennials with woody stems like hibiscus (Rose of Sharon), Russian sage, or butterfly bush.  
  • Any perennials that have winter interest like baptisia, coneflowers, ornamental grasses, sedum, allium, and hellebores.  

If you are unsure what to do with any specific plant we offer, you can look on their product page on our site for care instructions. This will tell you whether to cut this plant back and when to do so.  

Fall is for Planting! 

Give yourself a beautiful garden display in early spring by planting spring bulbs, and ensure a blossoming garden all season long with new perennials and shrubs. Spring bulbs you might want to consider are tulips, daffodils, and fritillaria. As for perennials and shrubs, fall is the perfect time to plant anew with cool temperatures and consistent rainfall. You can check out this article all about fall planting for more information on why fall is the best planting season.  

Protect Newly Planted or Delicate Perennials and Shrubs 

Once you have established new perennials and shrubs into your yard, you can protect them by adding mulch around the base of these plants to insulate their young roots during the winter. The purpose of mulch is to keep the ground frozen with consistent and even soil temperatures during both periodic warm spells, and abnormally chilly weather conditions. This protects the plants from a harsh winter and waking up too early from dormancy due to the inconsistent thawing and freezing of the surface of the ground. If this happens, they could

begin to grow, only to be hit by cold temperatures later, causing severe damage to the plant.  

This is the same for any shallow-rooted perennials that take a few years  to establish their root systems. We recommend mulching daisies, heuchera, and heucherellas, along with your newly planted perennials and shrubs.  

For more garden tips and advice, be sure to check out our Garden Resource Center and Garden Life Blog for everything you need to know about successful home gardening.  



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