The Q&A Archives: Overwintering Asters And Mums

Question: I'm in central NJ (zone 6). It's mid November and the flowers on my mums and asters are pretty much gone. Both plants were very tall, not the low, bushy mound that is characteristic of these plants. Is this a good time to cut both of these plants down to 2 inches off the ground and continue to cut them back until July 4th? Also, I'm re-arranging the garden where the asters and mums are, can I transplant now or should I wait for the spring?

Answer: Here's some pointers on overwintering from "Perennials for Dummies" by Marcia Tatroe and NGA.

1. Cut back on watering as temps. cool. This signals plants that it's time to go into dormancy and helps "harden" them off.

2. If you had any insect problems, remove any plant debris and mulch from that area so eggs and disease won't overwinter.

3. Place a fresh 4-6 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants.

4. If your temps. are regularly below 0 degrees Farenheit, don't cut back the perennials until late winter or early spring. The dead foliage helps protect them from cold.

5. After the ground freezes, cover the whole bed with a loose layer of straw or hay. Leave it until early spring and then gradually remove it as temps. warm. Don't remove it all at once.

It's pretty late to transplant as plants need time to establish root systems before really cold temperatures.

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