“Is It Dead?” How to Tell if Your Plants Survived a Cold Winter Season

March 30, 2021 Published by Leave your thoughts

Rain, hail, sleet, snow and freezing temperatures can leave your yard looking more like a plant graveyard. Before you start digging up your plants and dumping them on the compost pile, wait—they might just be dormant. Plants often shut down during extreme weather, conserving energy until it warms up enough for them to thrive. How do you tell if your carefully planted shrubs in Chazy, NY are long gone or just waiting for sunnier times?

One foolproof way to tell is by working with a local landscaper who can provide advice and tips—but in the meantime, here’s how to tell if your plants survived the winter.

Two types of dormancy

There are two types of dormancy: predictive dormancy and consequential dormancy. Predictive dormancy is usually triggered by external conditions, like a temperature drop signaling winter is on the way. Consequential dormancy is triggered by adverse conditions, such as cold weather, lack of water and other situations plants don’t like.

Some plants go dormant automatically because they need that “time off” to survive, while others do it when they’re stressed. When your plant goes dormant, it will probably drop leaves, wilt or otherwise look dead.

Two ways to test your plants

One way to find signs of life is the snap test: grab a twig from your plant and bend it. If the plant is still alive, it will bend easily. If you can break it open, it will be green and moist underneath, showing that it’s still alive. You can also scratch the bark of a tree or shrub to see if it’s still alive—like the snap test, it will look green and moist.

You can also inspect the roots of your plant, which is usually easier when you have indoor potted plants. Dig the plant up and see if the roots look healthy, or if they appear to be rotten or shriveled. If it’s the latter two, you’re probably dealing with a dead plant. In some cases, part of the roots might be dead while others are still alive. Cut the dead roots away and repot the plant so it can come back to life when the weather is more favorable.

What to do if your plant is dormant

Your plant only needs one thing when it’s dormant: a once-per-month watering. Do not overwater your plants, as that can lead to root rot. Otherwise, your plant doesn’t even need all that much light when it’s dormant.

As long as you don’t overwater the plants, all you have to do is wait for them to perk back up. You can trim back bare or dead parts to make way for new growth, but ultimately, they’ll come back to life when the weather conditions are right.

If you’re having trouble determining whether your carefully planted shrubs and other plants in Chazy, NY are dead or just dormant, the experts at Rand Hill Lawns, Inc. would be glad to help. Call us today to schedule your next landscaping appointment.

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