I made a beautiful tropical shade garden for a client, (my 1st time using these), that i don't want them to lose. I've planted some so-called annuals for this area and had very good luck by cutting them back, mulching them really well and watering them through the winter especially when we were to have a hard freeze, snow etc.. However, this is a bit different. I have very large upright philodendrens, austalian sword firns, and other various firns, I'm not sure about. I read an article that frost will hurt the philodendrens but come back in spring. Is this true? All are still looking really well but, I also need to start putting in my winter garden. So how can i go about this? Can i cut them back now and mulch ? or should i wait till they go down alone? can they be saved at all? These folks put a lot of money into this garden and I'd like to save as much as I possibly can. Also my elephant ears are gorgeous can i cut them back now as well? I need a bit of advice and inspiration. Can this be done. I'm in a zone 7. A town, 50 miles north of Lubbock, TX. Please help ASAP, it's a work in progress, I must get finished up right away! thx much GmaRau (-:
O.M.G. GmaRau, I dont want to put a damper on things but I would have researched all your questions BEFORE planning the lovely garden that appears to have cost a lot of money BUT, not knowing the area and given the description you have like, (in town maybe offering shelter from cold nights etc) It would be silly to cut everything down that MAY withstand the winter with just a little damage.
Is there any way you could make shelters by hammering in stout canes etc and draping horticultural fleece over around the most tender of plants, this lightweight fleece allows water and light into the growing plants but IF your in an area where there are feal frosts and the plants will be rotted by freeze then thawing in a short period of time as this is what would cause more damage to tropical plants.
Are you able to go look in the same area for how they treat the same type of plants in that neighbourhood, this is always a good indicator as to what how and IF plants will survive the local conditions.
I grow tree ferns, and other tender or what we call tropical plants but I read up on there limit of boundry pushing regarding there hardiness or heat requirements to survive, end of summer around September I start to prepare the tender plants for big sleep. I use (im about zone 3-4 winter) straw tens that I wrap around the ferns after I have cut down the fronds from each one, they grow in pots so I can if I have room, place them indoors, but I do try to leave them out but protected,
I would go to the library and look for books dealing with winter protection or maybe there's a forum here on Dave's that people from your area/ zone would give better advice than I can, but I can tell you I have had more disasters than had hot dinners by planting tender plants that are totally unsuitable for my region and trying to push the boundries beyond what is reasonable, but then I have not spent someone else's money doing that, so I truly wish you the best of Luck, just don't cut everything back till you know for sure they wont survive at all.
I am 140 miles south of Lubbock and I would not be able to keep them alive here in Odessa even with heavy mulching. We get heavy freezes here in the winter. Temps can stay below freezing for several days in a row and sometimes in the teens for extended periods of time. I know in your area you will get quite a bit more snow than we get here. You also need to dig up your elephant ears and store them indoors for the winter.. they will not make it that far north. I am able to keep things like cannas in the ground without any problems here but not EE's. My yard is VERY protected also. There are a few bouganvilla (sp) that survive in the ground here but they are planted in protected areas on west facing walls that get lots of sun.
Philodendron selloum frosts occasionally here (mostly zone 9) and in our 'Once in 10 year freezes' it is killed. I do not see it surviving zone 7 unless it is in a heated greenhouse. Similarly most of the tree ferns are too tropical to survive outdoors in your area. Almost every year here they get a little 'nipped', just the upper fronds though. The growing points are usually fine. Mostly these are grown in somewhat protected areas, even here in zone 9.
There are other ferns that might get by with a thick mulch, but it depends on the species.
If it is not too late, and you really have to save them then I would try building plastic enclosures for as much of it as you can, but really, the answer is to admit you did wrong and give them their money back.