Make sure trees, shrubs are hardy before planting

Michelle Mielke

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is encouraging homeowners to research products before buying and planting nursery stock for their property.

“Many varieties of trees and shrubs adapt well to North Dakota’s climate and soils, but before you plant, you may want to talk with a trusted nursery dealer, horticulturist or local extension agent,” Goehring said. “They will help you select nursery stock that you will enjoy for years to come.”

Goehring said the North Dakota Department of Agriculture receives numerous complaints every year from both consumers and dealers about non-hardy stock being sold in the state. North Dakota is in plant hardiness zones 3 and 4.

When trees start leafing out from their branches, it is a sign of distress. A tree like this might not survive further stresses, like a drought.

State law requires that all trees and shrubs, designated by the agriculture commissioner as non-hardy must be labeled “non-hardy in North Dakota.” The penalty for violating the law is up to $500 per incident. Repeated violations can result in denial of a nursery license.

“Some plants are not adapted to surviving our North Dakota winters when the temperature can drop to 25 degrees below zero and colder,” Goehring said. “Some plants may not tolerate our soil types or dry winter conditions. Plants not adapted to our environment can also make them more susceptible to plant pests and diseases.”

The most common, non-hardy trees and shrubs offered for sale in North Dakota include emerald arborvitae, dwarf Alberta spruce, eastern redbud, oakleaf hydrangea, Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum), dappled willow and certain varieties of fruit trees. Emerald arborvitae and dwarf Alberta spruce are sometimes labeled as hardy from 30 to 40 degrees below zero, but they tend to winter burn badly resulting in death or severe dieback.

NDDA nursery inspectors will be out visiting nurseries and checking for non-hardy nursery stock as well as other compliance with North Dakota nursery law, including proper labeling, pests and disease, and plant health and viability.

A more detailed listing of non-hardy trees and shrubs and a list of all licensed nurseries is available on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website at https://www.nd.gov/ndda/program/nursery-program. A plant hardiness zone map is available at http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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