The Q&A Archives: Outdoor Planting of Hardy Perennials

Question: I have started severals perennials, such as Chinese Lanterns, and was wondering if I could plant them outdoors prior to our last frost date? They are hardy plants so I would think they could tolerate cold nights. I have seedlings growing in every available space in my home and I would like to make more room to start other plants.

Answer: Since these are still seedlings you risk their demise from frost. If they were full grown there would be no problem, but they're not. They really need to be "hardened off". By this we mean that they need to be gradually toughened up for transition to the garden. If you don't do this the tender leaves will probably be damaged by temperature, sun or even wind.

Is it possible you could rig up a cold frame or other protected area? You could them put them out for part of the day, gradually increasing their time outdoors over the course of about a week. I know this isn't helping you make more room for seedlings inside right away, but it would be awful to lose all the ones you've already worked so hard on!

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