Darrell Blackwelder: Irregular winter weather takes a toll

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2019

Irregular weather patterns take a toll on landscape plants and flowers, especially those that have just been planted.

This fall presented a myriad of varying weather conditions — from extreme drought and high temperatures to almost record freezing temperatures, seemingly within a matter of weeks of each other.

Many are concerned on what can be done to protect our landscape plants during uncertain weather conditions. Below are a few tips that may help reduce winter damage from extreme weather fluctuations.

Select plants that are hardy to our region. Rowan County is in climate zone 7b. Many landscape plants are marginal and burn easily with temperature extremes.
Apply at least 6 inches of coarse mulch to insulate roots and conserve moisture during the winter months.

Do not fertilize in late summer or early autumn with excessive nitrogen. However plants need to be healthy, so keep the plants well-fertilized and free from insects and disease during the peak growing season.

Avoid heavy pruning. Pruning stimulates new growth which is often killed by late frosts and freezes. Crepe myrtles have been killed outright by excessive fall pruning.
Keep plants irrigated during dry winter weather conditions. Drought-like conditions predispose plants to winter injury and cankers.

Water acts as an insulator, protecting roots during periods of extreme cold weather.


Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.