Is it too late to plant perennials in Western New York?

butterfly on purple coneflower in West Seneca NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

I got this question from a reader:

I bought some perennials that I didn’t get a chance to plant: leopard’s bane, hardy aster, cone flowers and Munstead lavender.
It has already frosted once I believe. Is it to late too plant outside? If so, can I store them indoors in the same containers that they came in?

In the two days since I received this question, Western New York has had snow as well as frost. I decided to address this question because I think a lot of people will be interested in the answer.

“No, it’s not too late to plant,” said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. “The perennials are probably better off planted than trying to carry them over in a garage.”

The rule of thumb, he explained, is that if the ground isn’t frozen, you can plant perennials. You’re not going to lose them to the cold. You can also plant deciduous trees and shrubs as long as you can dig in the ground.

Farfaglia suggests that after you’ve got the perennials planted, spread bark mulch, leaves, pine needles or other mulch around the plants. The mulch should be a couple of inches deep. The reason for the mulch is that when you plant perennials this late in the season, the plants are more prone to being pushed out of the ground due to freezes and thaws. Mulching helps keep the ground at a more stable temperature, protecting the soil from wild fluctuations in temperature.

If you don’t plant the perennials in the ground, you’d have to keep them in place that’s quite cool or downright cold, like a garage, Farfaglia said. If you keep them in the house where it’s too warm, the plant won’t go dormant as it should during the winter. It will try to grow and the plant will become weak.

The weather should be nicer later this week. Go outside and get those perennials planted!

How you can find answers to your gardening questions

I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on

Often people ask me questions I can’t answer. Generally I will post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise by leaving a comment.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

A more efficient route for getting your questions answered is to turn to Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension or to turn to your local garden center.

For Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County, call (716) 652-5400 from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays or email them at For Chautauqua County, email your question to; call the Helpline at (716) 664-9502, ext 224, or stop in to the Ag Center, 3542 Turner Rd., Jamestown,  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays.

There are helpful Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in other counties, too. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

The businesses that support this magazine have very knowledgeable staff. Check out our Gardening Directory and Garden Resources or click on an ad and you’ll get more information about their products and services as well as how to contact them.

by Connie Oswald Stofko


2 Comments on “Is it too late to plant perennials in Western New York?

  1. Donna, thanks for the reinforcement. People are timid about planting anything at this time of year, especially after we have seen snow. It’s important for people to realize that the gardening season isn’t over quite yet.

  2. As a MG for Niagara County, I appreciate you also listing this office and interviewing John. It is good to support and utilize the local Extension office. As a designer, we have installed landscaping jobs into early December. As long as the ground remains where it can be worked, trees and shrubs benefit, and most perennials have no problem.

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