Are your plants dead or dormant?

Spring has been here for almost two months, and yet in many parts of the country spring is just arriving now.

As the weather becomes more seasonal, we’re all eager to head outside to see what’s blooming. Unfortunately, it’s been a slow process for flowers, shrubs and trees this year as many still look dead and beds feel empty due to an abnormally cold spring.

While an increase in moisture and higher temperatures will certainly help trees and plants explode rapidly to catch up with the season, some still aren’t budding out or popping up from the ground just yet.

This can be cause for alarm to many inexperienced homeowners, who begin to wonder if it’s time to head to the local garden center for a replacement or to schedule to have a tree removed all together.

Not all is lost.

Just like people, plants need to rest and every plant has different requirements before the warmth of spring awakens them from dormancy. But when the temperatures are still cool through much of April, plants can get confused and convince themselves that dormancy is still the right place to be.

Additionally, plants tune in to the length of daylight present in any geographic area. They won’t emerge from dormancy until they sense the proper amount of sunlight is available to accommodate their sun-bathing needs.

It’s also important to remember that plants will not emerge from dormancy at the same time every year. Weather and moisture will severely impact that date. Here are a few tests you can try to see if your plants are dead or still in dormancy:

  • For trees and shrubs, try to snap a branch. If it snaps easily and is greyish/brown inside, the branch is dead. Note, that doesn’t mean the entire tree or shrub is dead. If the rest of the tree starts budding out, it’s only that one section that needs to be removed.
  • Also for trees and shrubs, you can use your fingernail or a knife to scratch away the bark down to the center of the branch. If you find fleshy green white coloring, it’s still alive.
  • As for perennials, you’ll need to dig up the plant and look at the roots. If they are dry, brittle, mushy or just look dead, it’s time for a new plant. Otherwise, just replant it and wait a little longer until the plant wakes up.
Just because we’re all ready to head outside to start gardening, doesn’t necessarily mean our plants are. Performing these simple tests will definitively tell you what impact the spring of 2018 has had on your landscape.