Overwintering Plants in Containers

Stacey and Rick tackle the question of whether  it’s possible to overwinter shrubs in containers. The answer is yes! If you can, sink the pots and/or plants in the ground to overwinter them; another possibility is to move them to an unheated garage or similar space, provided they offer good natural light. Your main goal should be to protect the roots against the freeze-thaw cycle.

Here are a couple of helpful guidelines:

  1. Use large containers, and make sure they are made of a weatherproof material that can withstand winter weather. This means typically avoiding ceramics and terra cotta.
  2. Choose a shrub or perennial that’s ideally be two zones hardy than the zone you live in. While this is more of a guideline than a rule, it helps ensure the plant can withstand any excessive cold it may experience due to a lack of insulation.
  3. Perennials and shrubs are best overwintered outdoors, but an unheated garage, buried in the ground, or transplanted are also viable options.
  4. Check the plant every 10-14 days for water. If the soil is dry, water only enough to wet the soil surface. Don’t attempt to water until it flows out the bottom, as you would in summer.
  5. Do not fertilize through the winter. When active growth begins in the spring, start fertilizing the plant.
  6. Huddle for warmth. If you have multiple containers, group them together and place them in a protective corner. Also, they’ll be more protected from cold if you put them on the ground rather than up on a deck. And avoid locations with prevailing winds. In some climates, it may also be beneficial to cover them with mulch to provide even more cold protection.

The Word of the Day is: geotropism, sometimes called gravitropism, is the response of plants to gravity. Stems that grow upwards, away from gravity,are said to be exhibiting negative geotropism. Roots grow downwards, towards gravity, and are said to be positively geotropic.

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