Hardy plant law helps gardeners select surviving species - KMSP-TV

Hardy plant law helps gardeners select surviving species

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Many Minnesotans are anxious to get back in the garden again -- but nobody wants to be stuck with a brown thumb as a result of buying plants that just won't survive in this climate.

Now, a state law is saving many time, money and frustration by making sure planters know whether the seedlings they spend their money on have a chance of taking root.

The new law requires nurseries to label plants that cannot survive a Minnesota winter or reliably produce fruit here. Ask Highland Nursery President Sue Hustings which tree can survive this harsh spring, and she'll point at a contorted larch.

"This is a larch, which is like an evergreen," Hustings explained.

A plant's hardiness determines its wherewithal against chills and winters. So, if a plant can't be expected to survive year-round, the nursery needs to tell anyone who thinks about buying it.

"If they aren't viable, we don't want to have them out here," Hustings told FOX 9 News.

At Highland Nursery, Hustings labels her plants by zone.

"All of Minnesota up to Duluth or so would be Zone 4, or more cold-hardy. Actually, in the inner city here, we have mini pockets here that are Zone 5."

Anything rated higher than Zone 5 typically can't survive in this state.

"The reasons they're having the zones on here is because so many of the plants from Texas and the warmer climates are brought in," Hustings explained. "They can grow them much cheaper than [we] can up here. They can sell them here, but they're not going to grow here in Minnesota."

So, Hustings gave FOX 9 a crash course on plants that can brave the chill.

"Any of the tree shrubs, evergreens, fruits, vines and perennials are fine," she said.

Looking for a strong, colorful bloom? Try pansies.

"Those can stay in the snow," Hustings said. "They've been out for a month taking everything we've had. As soon as it gets warm they just pop right up and they're just smiling at you again."

The same can't be said for other greens unless gardeners wait to plant.

"Anything that has moisture in their leaves -- such as coleus, tomato, the basil -- many of them don't like it colder than 45 degrees," Hustings explained.

With spring temperatures finally starting to arrive, Sue hopes the state-mandated labels will help green thumbs keep their gardens lush. .

"It's important to have the consumer protected," she said. "A plant, if it's not going to survive the winter and they spend a lot of money for it, you want something that's going to come back year after year."

For a direct link to Minnesota's plant hardiness list and a map of zones, click here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/licensing/licensetypes/nurseryprogram.aspx

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