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Winter Perennial Prep for Springtime Success

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at BrighterBlooms.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way!

Written by

Sarah Logie

Perennials are tried and true plants favored for their tenacity and resilience to overcome all that life throws at them and then some! Surviving the cold and bare winter months is no easy feat, but perennials do it with gusto. In this article, learn all about how to care for perennials and keep them coming back year after year. 

Biennials, Perennials, and Annuals, Oh My!

The term perennials is used to describe any plant that’s resistant to cold temperatures and is likely to survive for at least two growing seasons. Perennials are distinguished from annuals because they’re much more likely to survive the winter frost and return come spring. 

The term annuals is used to describe plants whose roots, stems, leaves, and flowers die each year. Annuals provide a wonderful addition to your landscaping, but without supplemental planting next year, most of them (aside from self-seeding annuals) won’t return. This is why perennials are often favored - they're persistent and provide year after year enjoyment!

Brilliance Autumn Fern
Brilliance Autumn Fern

Perennials Are Here to Stay 

Let's take a closer look at perennials. There’s several distinctive categories of perennial plants that are worth understanding. These classifications make it easier to categorize these plants according to the unique characteristics of their growth.  

Some of the most popular perennials can be classified as: 

  • Evergreen: Evergreen perennials maintain their foliage year-round, adding a vibrant splash of green to your landscape designs. 
  • Deciduous: Deciduous perennials lose their foliage each year, often resulting in a dazzling show of colors as the seasons change. 
  • Semi-Evergreen: Semi-Evergreen perennials fall somewhere in between the first two categories with varying degrees of foliage maintained throughout all seasons of the year depending on plant variety and climate conditions. 
  • Woody: Woody perennials are distinguished by strong stems that are unlikely to be easily bent or misshapen. 
  • Herbaceous: Herbaceous perennials have flexible and bendable stems, with no woody tissue.

Gardeners love working with perennials because they’re hardy and resilient. Because gardening can be tough, it always helps to work with plants that have that extra staying power!

Check out a few of our favorite perennials:

Phenomenal Lavender
Phenomenal Lavender

Nurturing Perennials Through Winter 

Perennials are likely to survive for at least two growing seasons, but in order to achieve this, there’s a couple of things you’ll want to understand. Winter is a very challenging and stressful time for many plant and animal species. 

Perennials that are lovingly prepared for winter are much more likely to survive after temperatures plummet and snow begins to fall. Taking care of perennials during the winter isn’t extremely challenging or time consuming, but it's very important. In this next section, learn about proper winter perennial care. 

Know Your Plants & Location

First and foremost, it’s key to understand that caring for your perennials through the winter will have different requirements depending on where you live and what specific varieties you’re growing. Be sure to look up the conditions of your growing zone. Knowing the first frost date and the average temperatures in your location during the winter will help you provide the best care to your plants. 

Before the Start of Winter, Cut Perennials Back 

Once the ground starts to freeze and you’re experiencing the first nights of winter frost, you’ll want to cut back dry stems of your perennials using a sharp pair of pruners. Be careful not to damage leaf stems that have seed heads on them, as some of these may produce growth during the winter. Your goal is to make a clean cut near the soil, leaving around 2 inches of the previous year’s growth. Removing dead material from your plants before the start of winter helps them to bounce back and grow even more vibrantly in spring. 

Peaches & Cream Honeysuckle Vine
Peaches & Cream Honeysuckle Vine

Protect Your Soil by Mulching 

Mulch is an organic material that’s used to help insulate your perennial and shrub beds before the start of winter. Many gardeners use items like pine needles, chopped leaves, or cut grass as an inexpensive mulch. Mulch helps to protect the soil by regulating the temperature. Apply mulch in a 2-3” layer, making sure to leave a couple of inches of clear space around the trunk to prevent future issues.

Mulching might seem like overkill, but there’s a reason seasoned gardeners rely on this step. By protecting your soil, the damaging effects of colder temperatures and excess moisture won’t be as negatively impactful to your plants.

Set a Plan in Place for the Spring 

After your fall growing season, you may notice some of your most beloved perennials have gotten a bit unruly. Prior to winter, trim back overgrown plants and divide ones that have outgrown their current locations into separate plantings. 

If you would like to make additional design changes to your garden, it can be a great activity to work on as the days begin to get shorter and the temperatures start dropping. Additionally, planning is made easier with most of the plants cut back and dormant - you can better see the structure and layout of your planting area. 

Carex Evergold
Carex Evergold

Leave a Neat and Clean Winter Garden 

Taking the time to clean up your garden for winter is beneficial for a number of reasons. Quick and easy tasks like removing old, unwanted growth and weeds, as well as treating any possible bacteria or fungal issues will serve your landscape well. You’ll have a healthier and happier garden come spring when you take the time to tidy up ahead of winter.

Getting Your Perennials Revved Up for Spring 

After a long rest, life will slowly return to your garden at the start of springtime. It’s so exciting to see once dormant plants pop back up as warm, sunny days settle in! This is the time of year you’ll want to remove any dead foliage or debris that has accumulated over winter. You'll also want to remove any weeds that may have taken root in your prime growing locations. 

Once you see the first signs of new growth on your perennials, use a high-quality fertilizer to nourish them back to good health. Giving your perennials a little love and attention in spring will revive them towards new, flourishing growth!

Perennial Gardeners are the Best Gardeners!

When perennials are left alone during the long and cold winter months, they may not always survive. Sometimes, even if a gardener does everything they can possibly think of to promote health for their plants, it simply isn't enough to sustain them. 

But don’t sweat it! After all, the best gardeners are perennial too - they keep coming back to their plants and never quit. Even when things don’t turn out exactly as planned, they get down into the dirt time and time again. 

Gardening with perennials is both fun and rewarding. By following this guide and giving your perennials the proper care and attention they need, your plants will be more than grateful, guaranteed!

Need some perennial plants to get started? Shop our Perennials Collection!

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at BrighterBlooms.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way!