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Plants and Dormancy

Dormancy is an amazing adaptation in plants so that they can deal with trying conditions- they can go dormant in seasons when conditions are not favourable and still thrive later when the environment suits. Most plants that go into dormancy do so in the winter when temperatures are cold and daylight hours are short. There are some species, however, where dormancy is triggered by extreme heat and drought. 

Dormancy is a temporary state of inactivity or minimal activity and is great a survival mechanism for many perennials, whereby these plants can manage to resist the cold of winter and grow and flower when there is plenty of sun and warmth. 

There are many plants that go into a state of rest, or dormancy, for winter and these have different functions in order to hibernate when the cold weather comes- many lose their leaves and stems and can look dead, but they are simply dormant. 

Deciduous trees and perennials all have the means to store energy when they are triggered by colder weather and shorter daylight hours. The energy from their leaves and stems goes into their roots, bulbs, corms or tubers to be stored for their dormant period. Trees take energy and nutrients from their leaves before they fall and store these in their bark and roots. 

During dormancy, plants stop growing and conserve energy until better conditions arrive. 

While the outer leaves and above ground foliage may die back, life still lurks in the roots of the perennial plant. Most plants are very in tune with the length of daylight. When the daylight hours lengthen and the soil starts to warm up, the plants know that it is time to come out of their dormancy (the exact timing varies for each species). They have enough energy stored to grow new shoots. This is the perfect time to add compost or give the plants a feed to encourage and support their new growth. 

Purchasing and planting perennials and trees when they are dormant is ideal as root disturbance is less than when they are actively growing. As a bonus, the plants are much more economical as there is usually no need for pots and potting mix and often these plants are grown in the field which reduces costs for the grower. 

Dormancy is nature’s way for your garden to stay thriving during the winter- even when on the surface it doesn’t appear to be.

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