The Difference Between Plant Hardiness and Chilling-

Michael Hagedorn

Chillin’ isn’t just for teenagers…plants need it too. Spelled a bit differently, though.

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For plants, this is serious, un-boring business. Without chilling, the plant won’t be able to grow in the spring. Without hardiness, the plant may be damaged by cold weather. Let’s break this down a bit.

There are two things at work here. Hardiness. And Chilling. 

  • Hardiness: The ability of the plant to survive cold. Light frosts improve the ability of a plant to withstand deeper cold. Once plants begin growing in spring they gradually lose their cold hardiness.
  • Chilling: Time, in hours, needed in the 33-50 F range before the plant will grow in spring. Freezing has no effect on chilling, and time spent below freezing is not ‘logged’ in the plant’s countdown. Temperatures above 60 are detrimental to chilling. Unmet chilling requirements are what prevent a plant from growing too soon in the spring, and if…

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