My Lavender, Heather, Heath, Butterfly Bush, Roses, or Russian Sage Died

My Lavender, Heather, Heath, Butterfly Bush, Roses, or Russian Sage Died

Remember the fall of 2017 when it was warm, warm, warm, even through November? Remember how some PJM Rhododendrons came into bloom and the buds on the Hydrangeas were starting to swell as if it was spring? And perhaps you recall that in early December the temperatures suddenly plunged down into the low 20’s. Well whether that stuck in your memory or not, it was hard on our plants, and many were killed by that sudden swing from warm to below freezing. Many people have found that their  Lavender, Heather, Heath, Butterfly Bush, Roses, or Russian Sage have died. Others see a great deal of winter damage on plants that were newly planted last year.

It’s easier on plants if the temperatures gradually get cold in the fall and early winter, but as our weather changes we’re seeing longer, warmer autumn seasons that can change overnight into winter. I’ve lived on the Cape for 25 years and in that time I’ve seen three seasons where the warm fall transitioned quickly into a deep freeze. In each of those instances the same plants died:  Lavender, Heather, Heath, Butterfly Bush, Roses, and Russian Sage.

There’s nothing to be done but dig up dead plants and replace them…but knowing that these plants in particular don’t do well in those conditions, you might want to replace your health or heather with something that’s hardier, or consider that Lavender or Roses just might be short-lived plants.

This is my Lavender Phenomenal – or should I say an ex-Phenomenal since the plant died. This variety is usually quite hardy, but all six of my plants, three that were mature and three newly planted in 2017, died over the winter. I’ll grow some more of this variety, perhaps planting it in another location. But I know that if the same temperature extremes happen again I could lose this plant.

Note that many of those swollen Hydrangea buds got zapped in that same temperature plunge. By next week you should be able to see if your hydrangeas will flower well, have a few flowers, or none at all. By mid-May any live buds will have grown into leaves. Cut any canes that do not have such leaves on them to the ground, or prune down to any live growth you come to. Those canes with leaves on them at this time of year should flower. This is a good year to see which hydrangeas are more “bud hardy” than others!


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