COLD – GOOD OR BAD?
There is no hard or fast answer to the question asked in the title to this article. The real answer is whether you like the cold or not, cold is necessary for almost every plant we grow outside to perform as we want them to.
Most of the plants we grow outside need a certain number of cold hours to grow and produce as they should. A cold hour is defined as an hour below 32 degrees. Even our best lawn grasses, turf type fescues, need a few cold hours to perform at their best during the summer.
Apple trees must have cold hours to bloom and produce as they should. The amount needed varies slightly according to the variety of apple. The same is true for peaches, pears, plums and more. Fruit breeders have tried to come up with an apple that will do well in Florida. They have produced some that will survive in the upper part of the state; however, the fruit is sparse and not very tasty.
Citrus fruits on the other hand cannot handle cold hours. They only live and produce well in warm climates. So, the result is we grow apples and other fruits and ship them to Florida, and they grow citrus crops and ship them to us. Seems to work out well.
The same thing is true of our trees and blooming plants. A good example would be azaleas. There are azaleas that are beautiful in Virginia but will not bloom and do well further south. The ones we grow need cold hours to bloom and look their best. There are other varieties grown in warmer climates that will not survive our winters.
Oak trees grow over a large part of the country. Different varieties grow in different parts of the Country. There are varieties that need colder winters than we have, that grow further North. There are varieties that cannot survive the cold of our winters that do well in warmer climates.
Lilacs and crape myrtles are examples of what can be done thru plant breeding. Lilacs were originally plants that needed colder winters than we have. Crape Myrtles originally struggled to survive our winters. Through plant breeding there are now many varieties of both plants do well in Central Virginia. There are still limits on both plants as to the climate where they are suitable.
We tend to enjoy seasonal weather. After all, without seasonal weather we wouldn’t have the variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers that we enjoy here in Central Virginia. It is hard imagine living where there is only one season.
In summary before you complain to much about the winter weather remember that before you bite into a delicious apple or sit in the shade of that yard tree next summer that a certain amount of cold was necessary for them to perform. Mother Nature dictates climate needs for plants.