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Planting Tips for the Late Winter and Early Spring Season

What you need to know about planting native plant species in the late winter-early spring for BC’s South Coast climate.
Image by Pixabay

On February 26, the Wild Bird Trust of BC (WBT) hosted an online event on planting tips. Indigenous Plant Diva and Squamish ethnobotanist Cease Wyss, WBT Nursery consultant Erin Kendall, and Saanich Native Plants’ Owner-Operator Kristen Miskelly shared planting tips for native plant species under seasonal conditions.

Here, we present a summary of planting tips for the current late winter-early spring season for BC’s south coast climate. Watch the full presentation online for more information and discussion spanning all seasons.

Tips for planting native plant species during the late winter-early spring for BC’s south coast climate

  1. Cold weather isn’t terrible for native plants—in fact, they’re used to it. This presents a great opportunity for enthusiastic native plant gardeners to plant in cooler months when imported varieties may not be as receptive. Look to natural seeding times for most native plants (late Summer/early Fall) so seeds have a chance to germinate with the cold stratification that they would experience in the wild. Potted plants also do well being planted in Fall – and even through mild winters – so as the plant starts to transfer its energetic work to its roots, these have a chance to develop and establish in their new home.
  1. Gardeners can start planting potted plants in the soil any time now so the roots can adjust and begin to establish themselves in their new environment. The plants can be supported with a layer of mulch to protect them from frost, or be located in a sheltered spot on your balcony. The last frost of the season usually happens in the last 10 days of March for the Vancouver area/South Coast. 

Adding a blanket of mulch, such as alder leaves or maple leaves, and vegetative matter provides good nutrients for seedlings and protects plants from harm by frosts. Special tip: for growing Red huckleberry, include cedar shavings and cedar boughs.

  1. Native plants, though hardy to the specific conditions of this environment, still require essential nutrients and proper care. Plants need an appropriate soil type to their natural habitat, and sufficient water during establishment (but be careful to avoid over-watering). Seeds should be planted at the recommended depth and timing as advised on seed packets. Many of them want to be in the soil by Fall, but will still germinate if planted out in February/March at the coast, as with our Pollinator Mix and Self-heal seeds (Prunella vulgaris). A handful of them are happy being direct-sown after the last frost, including Farewell-to-Spring, Nodding onion, and Prairie coneflower (echinacea).
  2. Plants that flower early in the Spring drawing from underground storage, such as bulbs, experience a generous amount of growth during these early months. When possible, get these in the ground by the Fall as you would other bulb-forming plants. These include Camas, Chocolate Lily, and Nodding onions

Stay tuned every 3rd Saturday of the month for new episodes from our monthly series, “Let’s Get Gardening!”.

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