Gardening: ‘Most obvious’ signs your plants are ‘shutting down’ for winter

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Autumn is a great time of year to plant many kinds of hardy plants in the garden. The soil is still warm new plant roots will develop quickly and get your new plants established. However, other plants will start to “shut down” now as the days start to get shorter.

Rather than concentrating on growth and leaves, plants instead concentrate on their roots.

Plants begin to “shut down” and go “dormant” at different times depending on the temperature.

In the winter, plants will live off the stored nutrients until next spring.

Water is also scarce when the ground is frozen making it difficult for plants to absorb water.

The cold weather sees plants drop their leaves and go dormant.

Dormancy is vital to most plant’s survival.

Evergreen plants keep their foliage but they have thick leaves and needles to reduce water loss.

Managing Director of Hopes Grove Nurseries in Kent, Morris Hankinson, explained exclusively to signs your plants are “shutting down” for winter.

Hopes Grove Nurseries was established 27 years ago and grows approximately one million hedge plants in 50 acres of land in Tenterden.

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The nurseries regularly supplies plants for ITV’s Love Your Garden which features Alan Titchmarsh and David Domoney.

Morris said “pretty much all plants” shut down for winter.

He explained: “All the woody plants will go into varying degrees of dormancy.

“The most obvious sign of that is when all the leaves start falling later on in the autumn.

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“That’s a sign of them shutting down.

“The evergreen plants are never truly dormant in the same way.

“Things like laurels and box and plants like that.

“But it’s pretty much everything really.”

Some people can mistake a dormant plant for a dead plant.

Indoor plants as well as outdoor plants go dormant too.

To check if your plant is dead or just dormant, Oklahoma State University has suggested something called a “snap-scratch test”.

They said: “Start by selecting the tip of a twig the size of a pencil.

“Grasp the twig and bend it sharply back on itself. A living limb will bend easily and eventually the stem will split showing moist wood within.

“A dead limb will snap cleanly with very little pressure and appear dry within.

“The scratch test is another common method. Use a knife or fingernail to scratch the bark on a young twig.”

If the tree is alive, the bark will be green underneath the scratch.

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