Master Gardeners: Challenges in a South Texas winter | Home And Garden

Growing up in Pennsylvania, winters were never mild. I bundled up, bowed my head and faced the cold. I am so grateful for the usually mild winters we experience here in South Texas. But as gardeners we need to be prepared for anything.

Southern Texas usually experiences only frosty winters, but there are some “do’s and don’ts” to protect your garden in late fall or early winter.

  • If you do prune, my rule of thumb is to do it before Halloween.
  • Planting of shrubs and trees should be completed 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost. That way, the roots will be able to withstand frosty mornings.
  • This final note has to do with fertilizer. Fertilization should not be done in late fall, as the plant may develop new roots that cannot tolerate low temperatures.

Various conditions during the winter can adversely affect your garden. The frigid that I learned in the frigid of 2021 is one of them. Temperatures below 28 degrees are extremely harmful to plant tissue.

Another danger is temperature fluctuations. South Texas fits right in with 80-degree temperatures one day, dropping to near freezing before returning to mild weather. Plants are more susceptible to insect and vegetative damage due to tissue damage caused by sudden temperature changes.

Southern Texas has strong winds that dry out plant leaves. Winter drought can stress dormant plants that do not have deeply developed roots. On the other hand, plant damage can also be caused by winter moisture. Too much water can interfere with oxygen exchange to the roots. Plants that do best in relatively dry conditions will rot in moist winter soil.

On the bright side, here are some examples of perennials that can withstand winter temperatures.

1. Sedums like full to partial sun and need moist, well-drained soil. Depending on the variety, it can be a ground cover or a tall plant.

2. Beebalm, Monardia didyma, has white, orange or purple mophead flowers that enjoy full to partial sun and grow up to 4 feet. Suitable for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

3. Coral bells or Hewthera have pink or white flowers on leaves of yellow, orange and multicolored shades. Reaches 18 inches in full or partial sun.

4. Moonbeam coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillate, grows up to 2 feet tall in medium moist soil and produces yellow flowers in full sun.

5. Baptistia or false indigo, Baptisia australis, displays grey-green foliage with a spray of blue, purple, or yellow flowers. Grows up to 4 feet tall in full to partial sun in moist, well-drained soil.

6. Heliopsis, also known as Heliopsis helianthoides, oxeye daisy or false sunflower, produces clusters of yellow flowers in full partial sun and well-drained soil.

7. The New England aster, Symphyotrichumnovae, is a good nectar source for migratory monarch butterflies. Grown in full sun, these pink or purple flowers grow up to 8 feet tall.

8. Coneflowers are drought-tolerant and bloom from summer to fall, producing pink, purple, yellow and orange flowers in the sun that attract pollinators.

As a gardener, winter isn’t my favorite season, but it’s the season to learn how gardens and gardens survive.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County’s educational outreach. Please mail any questions to Advocate. PO Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or or comment on this column on

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