Graf Growers

How to check if perennials and shrubs survived winter

Is it alive?
Will it come back?
How long should I wait?

Here is how to check if your perennials and shrubs survived winter!

We had a very mild winter followed by a very early spring resulting in many questions about plants in our garden and landscape.  It is very important to investigate whether there is still life in the stems before giving up on plants and to have patience waiting for plants to emerge from dormancy. Knockout roses are just now breaking dormancy. I am still waiting for my  Here are a few tips on how to investigate and make decisions about plants in your landscape.

To check your roses, we suggest cutting incrementally from the top down to see if you come to stems with green in them. Most of the roses I have looked at have had green stems and new growth about 3” – 6” from the base. If you find this to be true for your roses, they will recover, however, they will take longer than usual for them to fill out and blooms will come later. Fertilize them with organic Rose-tone or another fertilizer for roses to encourage growth.

It is important to remember that some perennials such as perennial hibiscus and buddleia (butterfly bush) are always late emerging, even in a normal season so be patient and wait a little while longer to determine if it is still viable. One other perennial we have had a lot of questions about is lavender. Lavender is unique as it grows new leaves from the old stems and also sends new growth from the base. You can cut them back to shape them, but leave the old stems until the new growth emerges on the stems. Once again, encourage growth and vigor as they begin to grow by fertilizing with organic Plant-tone fertilizer.

Large beds of English Ivy ground cover are brown and reduced to a bed of stems. Once again, you can use the same process to test the stems to see if they are green, just under the outer layer. Twice this past week I have examined English ivy that was completely brown, however it had new growth just beginning to emerge with just a few leaves. Most likely the ivy will recover completely. Keep an eye on it for a little while longer before ripping out old stems.

If you are not sure about your plants, we encourage you to email our Garden Experts at with photos and details about your plant. Our experts will get back to you with recommendations within two business days!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *