polar vortex and perennials

Kensington, NY

I wonder if everything one year old and younger has died. anyone?

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

HeatherY, I did a lot of transplanting last year so we have many young plants, but everything above ground looks normal. We live in zone 5b Massachusetts so although it has been an exceptionally cold winter with lots of snow, the vortex hasn't dropped the temperatures below normal range for MA. I don't know how others are faring in areas where the vortex was strongest like the Midwest. However, since our outdoor plants are dormant I won't know the extent of possible winter damage till spring.


Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis
Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

I live on the coast in South Carolina and in the 8 years I have live here, we haven't ever experienced such cold temperatures like the ones we've been having this winter. In fact, we rarely have frosts and I can't recall ever having a freeze except once in 2010. This winter has been a tough one all over the US. It was the first time I actually had to cover my plants and even then, some bit the dust, or at least they look like it. All damage is due to frost/freeze and wind. We haven't had any snow at all.

The survivors, several Autumn Ferns, were not covered and look pretty good. Other survivors were pansies, petunias, snapdragons, dianthus and Heucheura, and surprisingly my Dusty Millers look fabulous! Also, the rosettes of the Cardinal Flowers are looking good too. And although I did cover my Chamaedorea radicalis palm, it has survived unscathed so far.One other survivor are my 2 Yucca 'Adam's Needle'.

A few of my plants had a lot of the foliage turn to mush, but also have new green growth at the base. These plants are Philodendron Xanadu, Alstroemeria, Plumbago, Salvia, Maiden Hair Fern, Lemon Button Fern, Mahogany Fern, and Gerbera Daisies. Some of the Gerberas even have flowers even though most of the foliage is black and mushy.

For my rose bushes, all survived, but any new growth at the time of the freeze wilted and died. The Salvia Black and Blue completely died above ground, but I am hoping the roots survive and it will grow back in spring. New growth on several Azalea 'Formosa' died, but the older foliage looks great. All 3 of my Cordyline 'Red Star' show frost/freeze damaged leaves but I'm hoping the below ground portion is ok and survives the rest of this unpredictable, crazy winter.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Heather, all your perennial plants will be under the ground fast asleep till the soil warms up, young trees will be different, depending on where the tree's came from, native or ornamental makes a huge difference especially when a severe cold / freeze hits them.
Native trees are normally hardier and can take a little short spell of really cold weather but year old ornaments / tender young tree's would need a shelter or cloch / tent made up to cover then from the freeze, made from garden canes like a wigwam and clear plastic will go a long way to help protect the young tree's, make sure there is air hole at top to allow airflow.
Everything else can have a few inches of leaf mould or compost thrown over the root area as this acts as an insolation and prevents root freeze, don't pile this onto the trunks or stems of plants as it will be wet against the living bark.
Hope this can help you out a bit and good luck.
Best Regards, WeeNel.

Kensington, NY

Thanks everyone.
Nel, my plant selection skews toward bioregion native if I can, with similar or colder climate/soil hardy if I can't. I also favor hardy perennials. I re- mulched right before the last snowfall during a warmish two- three days when the snow melted.

Now I can't get to the back without wading through a foot of snow.
Shoveling seems pointless.
I have some small lavenders in pots, inside milk crates with leaved packed around them.
I have some black weed repelling cloth wrapped around all that like a blanket.The top is open to the sky for precipitation-this worked a few years ago when the bib lavender was small.

The weird thing for my region is that there is a temperature drop ( the second one)combined with a large amount of snow sitting for about two weeks now, usually these things do
not overlap, we have a warmish snowy winter or a very cold clear one with deep wind chills and insanely bue skies.Unlike Do Gooder we are well below average here _though not breaking all the records.

I am struck by the statement "all damage due to frost/ freeze/wind...no snow at all".

Dave, I am encouraged by your plumbago and Cardinal flowers surviving.Are you back to winter normal temps by now?

Oh BTW the weather authorities are saying this cold snap is not a polar vortex, as the center of the chill is up at the pole where it should be, the center is not being inverted down south-it is just arctic air the Jet Stream is bringing further south than usual. Oh, yes, we are all burning our "brown fat" - those hard to lose reserve calories if we are active in the chill. I would be content with burning off the new holiday calories _before_ they get put into cellulite storage!
Going easy on the hot chocolate

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)


Since our 1st bout of shockingly cold weather on January 6th, 7th and 8th, we were above the historical average of 59 & 60 degrees for January highs for the last 17 days. Daytime highs have been mostly been in the 60's and low 70's with the exception of 2 days that were in the 40's.

On the other hand, our nighttime lows have only been normal 5 out of the last 17 days. Our historical low average for January is either 39 or 40 degrees, and it's been running in the low 30's with 3 days in the mid 20's.

One Plumbago mostly died back except for 1 branch that is still green and growing. Another one only had 2 branches die back yet had 10 or so more that stayed healthy, green, and continues to grow. The Cardinal Flower rosettes continue to do well and haven't showed any signs of damage from our earlier freeze. And despite our unusual winter weather and especially below average lows, 2 days ago I noticed that a gladiola had emerged and was poking out about 2 inches above ground. Weird!

Unfortunately, we are getting hit with that 2nd round of cold wintry air on Tuesday January 28th, 29th and 30th. Daytime highs expected to be 40, 34, and 38 with nighttime lows of 29, 20, and 21. On top of that, we are expected to have a "wintry mix" of sleet and snow for 2 of those days. We will probably get more sleet than snow, though, since we are closer to the coast. However, come Feb 1st, we will be back in the 60's and low 70's during the day and high 40's and 50's at night for at least a week. Hope that warmer weather continues longer than a week! I dislike cold weather, especially frigid cold weather!

Anyway, in anticipation of the upcoming wintry mix starting Tuesday around noon, I will spend Monday, high of 65 degrees, attempting to build some sort of covering for my Autumn Ferns, healthy Plumbago, and 2 mini rose bushes to protect them from the ice, sleet and snow. The remaining smaller plants, I will be covering with milk jugs and 2 liter soda bottles - with the lids on, of course.

I dug up my Chamaedorea radicalis palm, potted it, and brought it inside yesterday. I know it is pretty cold hardy, but don't want to chance it with ice, sleet and snow. I'm thinking about doing the same with my 5 Dianthus, as well. They are so healthy and still blooming and I would hate to have them die back this week. Oh yeah, I also dug up my 3 Gerbera Daisies, cut off the dead foliage, and brought them inside yesterday as well. I wanted to move them elsewhere come spring anyway lol

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Heather I've only had 1 night that would of bothered zone six plants and I don't think it was long enough. I don't know if you are zone 6, 7, or 8 but I farther north and I think colder. I think you should be in OK shape.

Kensington, NY

Hey Doug, glad to hear your plants are okay. I am in zone 7A.

The five boroughs are NOT like any other climate in the state, they are warmer
generally with sometimes a 5- 7 degrees warmer in Manhattan than Brooklyn.
But again, my area does not have the exposure to ocean generated wind or
sandy soil that you find on greater Long Island and New England.

I would call my area inland Mid Atlantic. I think "colder" also, I figure that cold hardy
species will be happy in mostly warmer climes if I can give it the soil it needs.

Also I figure
that cold weather species both plant and animal are running out of habitat, planting cold weather perennial species can assist in carbon capture and working back the urban heat island effect just a little bit. Planting these plants where I can take care of them might
help to keep the niche open; if the temperature goes up overall the cold weather plants
will die off and warm to hot weather plants will take their place.

If I had a flat roof I'd plant it.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images