Winter Protection for Santolina
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Linda Rankin
Posted on: August 12, 2003

I ordered Santolina seeds for this years garden, to create a Santolina hedge around the rose garden. I had 100% germination, and wonderful success with growing the fledgling plants. They have withstood slugs and dogs and are now approximately 4 inches high. I would like to know how to winter protect these little plants so that next year I have blooms and plants ready for clipping. I live in zone 5 when we get enough snow which is usual. My backyard is a little microclimate with the fences and other protection from the wind.

Santolina is rated hardy in zones 6 to 8 and higher. Your zone 5 will be a challenge for it, especially in the first year. I don’t recommend trying to winter santolina outside because you are likely to lose them. We are in zone 5 also and we have never succeeded in getting santolina to come through the winter outside.

Now that you have been warned, adventurous gardeners are willing to try to push the limits. You mention snow cover: a good snow cover can be a big help. Gardeners in Edmonton, in northern Alberta, tell us that they can winter over plants that elsewhere only survive in zone 4 or even zone 5. This is because they get a good snow cover that protects the plants from repeated cycles of freezing and thawing.

You can enhance your chances by putting the plants to bed with a mulch of dead leaves or straw in late fall when the ground is frozen and the first persistant snow fall is yet to arrive.

Good drainage is important for winter survival also. If you can grade the soil so that water will drain away from the roots of the plants, that will help. Adding sand to heavy clay or muck soils can help too.

If you can’t bear the thought of losing your plants to the cold, then you will have to bring them in for the winter. They need a sunny window and prefer winter temperatures a few degrees cooler than room temperature. Better yet, try convince a friend with a greenhouse to winter your plants. After another summer of growth the plants should be bigger and better able to withstand the winter outside, should you wish to try.

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