With this warm weather, what’s going to happen to my plants?
The only thing, at this point, that would occur with the warmer weather we’ve had is a delay in plants going dormant. The general trend in temperatures is still going down and the daylight hours are still getting shorter, so plants are still going through the dormancy process, just a bit slower. If all goes well, temperatures will continue to go down gradually before the really cold winter temperatures settle in to stay. That will give plants a chance to shut down and go dormant so they can withstand the coldest temperatures of the winter. Delay pruning trees and shrubs and cutting back perennials until they have gone completely dormant which might take a couple more weeks.
Fall maintenance and Winter preparation –
Make sure all evergreens and newly planted nursery stock are maintained for moisture through the fall until the ground freezes. This is a very important step to help reduce winter burn, especially in windy locations. Don’t assume a little rain will do the trick. You need at least a ½” to soak into the ground to make a difference.
Wrap newly planted evergreens and evergreens that are in more wind exposed areas with burlap. This will help prevent winter burn. Winter burn is caused by an excessive loss of moisture from the evergreen foliage due to wind and very dry air. The damage doesn’t typically show until spring.
Pruning deciduous shrubs can be done once the foliage has fallen. If warmer weather has delayed the foliage from turning color, wait a couple of weeks until the foliage has dropped. Do not prune shrubs that bloom in early spring such as Lilacs, Magnolia, Viburnum, and Forsythia in the fall. You will cut off the flower buds for next spring as they hold flower buds through the winter. The proper time to prune these plants is just after flowering in the spring. Burning bush, Hydrangeas that bloom in late summer (Hydrangea Paniculata), and Rose of Sharon can be pruned in the fall or in early spring before they leaf out.
Hydrangea Macrophylla varieties such as Endless Summer series, Forever and Ever series, and the Cityline series bloom either from new and old wood, or some bloom from old wood only. We recommend doing a light prune in the fall taking off old flowers and shaping the plant, then in the spring if there is any dead growth prune accordingly.
When should I cut back my perennials? We recommend waiting until the foliage has turned color. If the plants are still green, but are browned on the top from freezing on several of the cold nights we’ve had, wait a couple weeks until the whole plant changes color, then cut them back.
If you’re unsure what to prune and when, give Chuck Hafner’s a call.
Preventing Animal Damage
Now is the time to consider preventing animal damage that occurs in the winter. Rabbits, deer, mice, and voles will search for food during the winter and that can include your landscape plants. Rabbits feed above the snow line on the trunks of trees and shrubs. Deer will browse the tips of branches up to 6’ from the ground. Mice and voles will feed on trunks, branches, and roots under the snowline and potentially under mulch. Trunk wraps, wire mesh barriers, burlap, and repellants can all help in deterring animals from feeding on your plants.