Past Articles Library | Learn to Grow Wintergreen
When one thinks of wintergreen, I bet you are not thinking about a perennial ground cover. Instead, you are thinking about a candy. While the flavoring for wintergreen candy, at one time, did come from the wintergreen plant, today this perennial ground cover is grown for landscaping.
If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 7 then you can grow wintergreen without much difficulty if you plant it in a location that receives partial shade to some sun. On the other hand, if the area that you have selected seems to become sunnier, you will have problems with this ground cover.
Also, some experts say that the trick to growing wintergreen is strictly the soil pH. This requires an acidic soil around 4.5 and a planting medium that is high in organic matter.
Believe it or not, wintergreen can be grown from seed and plants. Both techniques will be covered below.
Planting Wintergreen Seeds
When it comes to propagating your wintergreen from seed there are a couple of techniques. The first two will deal with preparing the seeds indoors while the latter will be centered on outdoor propagation.
Wintergreen seeds need to be exposed to the cold. This process is called stratification. When you go to stratify seeds indoors, you must first put them in some type of planting medium. This medium holds the seeds in place while providing moisture. The first technique to seed stratification is to take a paper towel and moisten it. Twist out any excess moisture and open the towel up. Place the seeds on the towel and fold the towel over. Place the “planted” towel in a resealable bag and put in the refrigerator. Keep there for 8 to 10 weeks or until you see the seed germinating.
The second indoor stratification technique is different from the one described above in one aspect and that is the “planting “medium. In this example, you will fill a resealable bag with a mixture of sand and all purpose potting soil. Moisten the “planting” medium and then place the seeds inside. Seal up and place in the refrigerator.
The third technique requires one to have a cold frame. In the cold frame, you will “plant” your wintergreen seeds in a planting medium that consists of sand and all purpose potting soil as noted above. Water the seeds in and keep moist until you see signs of seed germination.
Regardless of which technique you decide upon, be patient. Wintergreen seeds can take 2 to 3 months to germinate.
Once you see roots coming from the seeds, it is time to plant them in pots. A 4 to 6 inch container will work and should be cleaned and sterilized prior to filling with soil. The cleaning and sterilizing process is easy and only requires one to fill a basin with water and a little bleach. Put the pot(s) in the basin of water and allow to soak for a few minutes. Next, scrub the pot(s) to remove any soil and rinse in clear water. Allow to dry in the air.
While the container is drying, mix up your planting medium. A good one to create is a 1 to 1 ratio of well seasoned compost and all purpose potting soil. Once the soil has been mixed and drainage material has been added to the pot(s), fill the container with soil and lay your germinating seed on top. You do not want your seed to be any deeper than 1/8 inch. Water the soil to remove air bubbles and place on a windowsill that receives partial shade to indirect sunlight.
Keep the soil evenly moist and as the seed breaks through the ground, back off on the watering but do not let the soil dry out.
About 2 weeks prior to your local frost free date, gradually expose your wintergreen seedlings to their new environment. Once your local frost free date has passed, plant your wintergreen seedlings in your landscaping.
Planting Wintergreen Plants
When it comes to propagating wintergreen plants, you will first need to find the best area. Keep in mind that wintergreen is a creeping plant that never gets any taller than 3 to 7 inches. If the environment is perfect, the wintergreen will spread and fill in but if the conditions are not right then your wintergreen plant will struggle a little. The best environment for this plant is a well draining soil that is rich in compost. It also needs to be in a location that receives partial shade. While this plant can handle some direct sunlight, it will change its growth.
To begin this planting process, one must first get their wintergreen plants. After you have purchased them, pick out the garden space and prepare it as needed. For each wintergreen plant you plan on planting, you will need one foot of space between plants. Next, dig a hole that is two to three times the width and the same depth as the container that the wintergreen is in. Once that is done, remove the wintergreen plant from its container by cutting the pot away. Now that the plant is freed, tease the roots gently with your fingers and place the root ball in the hole. If the hole is not the correct size, adjust as needed. Plant the wintergreen in the hole and fill in once the hole is the proper size. Water the plant in and add more soil as needed to keep the soil level even with the remaining ground.
Monitor the soil moisture throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist. In the early spring, topdress the wintergreen with leaf mold and/or well seasoned compost.
To get the most out of your wintergreen plant in your landscaping you may want to combine the wintergreen with another ground cover. The reason for this is the fact that the wintergreen will not be able to suppress “weeds” during their early stages of growth. While you may feel that this is not a problem and you can simply weed the area, this garden task can be enough to damage the roots of the plant. To avoid this, combine your wintergreen plantings with annual ground covers until the wintergreen takes over.