Overwintered perennials - anything that needs to be done?

Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

This is my first winter since I started gardening. I have 3 columbines (hardy zone3) and a tender perennial. I'm in Zone 5.

So I had insulated the columbines for the winter, and I've removed all that as the weather heated up (unusually) and two of the 3 are growing new leaves already. They all have crispy, black spikes of last year's stems where I cut them off, and 2 of them have leaves growing out of that.

I wanted to know if I'm supposed to pull out that dried old foliage or leave it there.

The tender perennial I've kept inside at a slightly open window to try to give it a milder winter. I don't know if it'll come back or if I'm watching a dead plant. How do you know?

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

You can cut back the crispy black spikes to just above the new growth. What kind of perennial plant do you have?

Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

I had already pulled the ones that were really loose, but left the ones that were still stuck-on to the plant.

The one set are columbines (aquilegia). Two are in the same long planter and one is doing great, the other has no leaves. I don't know how one could die right next to another doing so well.

The tender perennial is anagallis monelli. It's half-hardy to 8a, so with the plant inside at the window, I don't think it would have gone below zero. I don't know what is supposed to trigger it to start growing again this year.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The Anagallis shouldn't have died back if it had been kept in the right conditions (I grow them here and they stay green all winter...and although I'm in zone 9 we get quite a few nights close to freezing). They do tend to be rather short-lived perennials though (each plant typically only lasts a year or two) but they reseed for me so that keeps them going. I suspect yours either got too cold or something else like too much water killed it. I wouldn't give up on it yet, but if it does make it and you try to keep it again next winter I'd try to keep it warmer. Right next to a window can be surprisingly cold, especially if you kept that window partway open the foliage was exposed to pretty close to whatever temperature it was outside which in zone 5 was probably quite a bit too cold for it. Keeping the window closed and keeping the plant back a little farther from it would probably work better. In answer to your question of how you know if it's dead or not--there's a good chance it didn't make it, but there's no way to tell for sure except leave it be for a few months and see if it comes back.

Same for your columbine--you could hang in there for a bit and give it a little more chance but since the others have come back it's very possible it's dead (I never like to give up on things though and sometimes they'll surprise you, so if you don't mind waiting I'd give it a bit more time). Although you had it right next to the other plants there are lots of things that could have happened--might not have been covered quite as well, uneven moisture distribution in the planter kept it wetter or drier than the others, roots just might not have been as well developed in the first place which made it have a harder time coping with winter, etc (probably lots of other possibilities too)

Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

Thanks for the reply.

I had cut the anagallis down to about 2" from the soil surface, so there's not any foliage on it. I read to do that in the fall, was that wrong? Should new branches form on the stumps or would they come up from under the soil?

The columbines were in 2 matching long planters pressed against a wall with a radiator on the other side. Both were completely covered with a comforter and a plastic tarp covering all of that. The weird thing about it is that the one in the middle is the concern. You'd think one of the end ones wouldn't be getting enough heat or something. It was started quite early last year, like Jan-Feb so was pretty developed. My best guess is that it's either a slow riser or i didn't water them evenly.

Could I dig down and feel the roots to know if it's alive?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I never cut my Anagallis in the fall. They usually get a haircut mid-season when they've gotten too overgrown but that's it and they stay evergreen all winter (except one winter where we got some extra cold temperatures--then they died and didn't come back). I'd wait and see with them--I'm still concerned about your partially open window being too cold for them, and overwatering is also a definitely possibility since plants without leaves don't go through water very fast, but it's still early enough in the spring that I wouldn't give up on them yet.

As far as the columbine--if you overwatered that one and the roots rotted you could probably figure that out from looking at the roots, but if it's something else then it would be harder to tell. Personally I wouldn't disturb the roots, I'd either be patient with it and see if it comes back, or plant something else there if you don't want to take a chance on having an empty spot in the planter.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Blake, you don't need to protect columbines in winter in zone 5 or even in zone 2. They are extremely hardy.... save all the fuss of protecting plants for things that need it, if you grow them someday. Rather than pulling off foliage, which can pull up growing tips, just cut the foliage off near the ground.

Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

@ecrane3 oops I meant to say, I was thinking that I needed to give the plant some kind of winter so it would know to go dormant and when to come back. Maybe I should have kept it warmer instead. I'll move it away from the cold but still with some light.. although the coldest weather has already hit it. Maybe I'll sow some new seeds just in case, though I would prefer a second year to a bunch of new ones.

@altagardener - I read that in containers, plants are hardy to 2 fewer zones. So when I read mine are hardy to 3b, and I'm 5b, it was right at the border and I wanted to give them a better chance by insulating them. They'll certainly come back in a higher zone.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Blake, they'll come back in much lower zones without any protection at all even in raised planters, which is what I was trying to convey. As you continue with gardening,through the years, what I'm saying will eventually become clear.

Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

I hear ya, I was just explaining what I was thinking when I covered them up in the fall.

Thanks for all the responses.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Did ya save any seed from the other two? Could plant your planter up this spring and then sprinkle some seed in and see if you get some babies.

Just to let ya know....My state flower (COLORADO)..happens to be Aquilegia carulea, the blue form of columbine. They grow wild all over the Mountains here. They are very hardy, it might be considered about a z3, tho not sure but they grow up to 10-12,000ft. I am here at 6800ft just east of the Rocky Mountains about 60 miles, and mine bloom all summer when deadheaded. They just bloom and bloom and bloom.

Are any of yours the newer varieties that are fragrant? They are yummy. Kathy

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Kitchener, Canada(Zone 5a)

Mine are Swan Blue & White hybrid, Spring Magic Navy & White hybrid, and Blue Barlow.

Since the hybrids don't come true to seed, I tried to cross pollinate them with the barlow, and got some seeds late in the season, but it had gotten cold and the seeds were very small. Still I did get 2 to germinate so far, one died though.

I was just looking forward to see the blooms of a second year plant, as they only barely bloomed the first year.

I like your plants! The first pic is my fave. None of mine are fragrant.

This message was edited Mar 26, 2012 9:42 AM

Woodhull, IL(Zone 5a)

Blake I live in zone 5 and have left columbine I have dug up to move in pots next to the house all winter..they have done just fine. I have some right now that are up and some that aren't....I don't think I'd give up on yours just yet.

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