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Readers Respond: How to Over-Winter Outdoor Plants in Containers.

Responses: 18


Let us know how you protect your outdoor potted plants during the winter months. And please tell us what Zone you're gardening in, so we'll know if it will work for us. Thanks. What's Worked for You?

Our first trees:scared and joyful

HI I am in zone 7 and just got delivered two lil big apple trees, which I must plant into containers for my porch. I come from southwest Michigan farm country, but here in New Jersey in an urban environment/multifamilyhousing, we have no yard now, only our front porch. Landlord wants to use his yard himself, so no access for us- front and back. This is exciting. I am soaking them right now in a pail in the shower with the window open, and will transplant them as soon as I get back with the rest of my mix. I hope I am doing this right. Overwhelmed with all I read. We dont have a garage or cool place to keep them, so I must plant them now in my whiskey barrel halves on the porch. Tonight, on February 21st, 2014. I pray they hold up. I am using as "soil": perlite, moistened peat moss, washed play sand, dolomite lime, and osmocote 17-6-10.
—Guest Kimberley Legaspi

Wintering Over in Garage

Have a part of my garage partitioned off that has a great Western exposure so quite a bit of light available. And the use of Styrofoam containers works for storing tender bulbs...nestle bulbs into dry perlite or similar materials and check once a month. I have a 6 y/o Jasmine vine surviving here in Zone 4.
—Guest Debbie

Winter Proofing Container

Before we fill the containers with soil, we cut pieces of 1" thick styrofoam to do all the walls of the pot. Place the cut styrofoam in the inside of the pot walls,then add your soil and plant. We have grown hydrangea little lamb in pots in zone 5a and have left them outside during the winter. Never had any problems ,even in some really nasty cold winters.
—Guest Suzan

Container Wintering with Plastic

Covering the plants with plastic seems to work here in Turkey(zone 4). Around the base of the plants leaves and other mulch will protect the roots and prevent frost from entering the soil
—Guest matt kay

Tuck Them Under Picnic Table

I put my hibiscus and other fragile plants under our outdoor picnic table on the patio. Then covered everything with clear shower curtain liners. During warm days, I could water the plants and give them some sun, but they were protected from cold nights, cold or blustery winds and the very rare ice/snow we had. I've done this for several years and had good luck.
—Guest Mary Naber

Protecting Cold Crocuses

When winter comes all of my plants die and I wanted to grow some in the winter too, so I bought some crocuse bulbs. To my surprise frost hit and my plants started to die. I figured I'd use a bed sheet to cover them up and keep in the warm air and moisture. Now they look as beautiful as they'll ever get
—Guest Bobby

This leads to other things

I just realized I can try one of these ideas to take care of some of my marginal perennials. I have a bear's breeches which struggled last year to get through the season (Zone 6 plant in my Zone 5). Think I will try putting chicken wire around it and piling with leaves to see if I can help it along this year. I thought it had died over last winter, but it started showing its leaves around August. Maybe this will help it along.

Pros and Cons of Overwintering Plants

I have more than 20 pots which I brought inside for winter, but I have a small house and one day I found 2 caterpillars on my sofa!! Petunias and marigolds smell magnificent, but in a small poorly ventilated room, the smell became overpowering. In one week, I had a sore throat! I have promptly ordered a portable greenhouse! Lets see how that goes!
—Guest Shilpz

Wintering Plants in Alabama

My husband and I have wintered our plants many winters in Alabama by using this method. We take our wooden picnic tables and lift them up a couple of bricks higher than usual, then fill in under the tables with small or mulched leaves or straw. Then take your potted plants and sit them in the leaves making sure to cover all the sides with a good layer. Put pots in as closely together as possible. When all pots are in, finish off with another layer of leaves/straw on the top of the pots. We then use sheets of plastic to cover each table making sure to make it big enough to cover all sides. Then we use bricks to hold it in place. During the day we pull the plastic back on one side and allow for air circulation to avoid burning the plants. We water them about once every 2 weeks. They will be watered some by condensation from the sun onto the plastic. We have had very good luck doing this and seldom lose any plants.They will die back from the tops but the roots are protected.
—Guest Glenda Brooks

Protecting Containers Through the Winter

After Halloween, collect all of the decorative hay bales on the curb. Placed around a bed and stacked 1 or 2 high, I have had brassicas in Jan & Feb here in Arkansas. If it is really cold put a blanket over the top during the night. Sometimes have used a plastic floor protector on top if it going to be a long cold spell.
—Guest packratbob

Inflatable, Portable Greenhouse

We are using the inflatable, well insulated greenhouse, which you can just set up there where your plants are staying through summer. No need to carry them into the house or the garage. I´m living in Austria, but I saw the manufacturer is also in the USA. http://www.greensafe.us
—Guest Peter

Protecting Container Plants with Plastic

I have herbs in containers that I put around my garden veggie areas to attract good bugs/repel bad bugs. I also bought some perennials on sale for 50 cents in late October, which I found out online was too late to plant them. (I live in Chicago where we had a cold October.) We had a warm November, so I waited until the forecast was going to be below freezing before doing the following: I put all my containers close together (allowing a slight space for contracting/expanding if they froze) in an area I grow veggies. This is on the south back side of the house at the end of the patio near the house. the dryer vent also vents into the back yard and I keep the patio lights on at night (use regular bulbs, not CFLs). I then put hardware store 6 mil plastic over the containers. I hold it on by putting the other containers that held annuals on top of the plastic around the perennial/herb containers. Last year I put styrofoam insulation around the perennial/herb border line. It worked.
—Guest Lana

Tomato Cages

Upside down tomato cages wrapped in 6 mil plastic from any hardware store. (Leave the top open.) You can even stake the cage down with landscape stakes. If the night is gonna be cold use a light or Christmas lights to create extra heat and wrap the whole tent in a old blanket. I have started tomatoes a month early with this method and it worked great. Much cheaper than wall o waters and will accommodate a larger plant.

Storage Shed

I put mine in a storage shed with one section of the roof that lets light in. I put in some cheap spot lights that give off heat and set them on a timer to come on every night between 7p and 7a. That way they get more light and more heat. The shed is by no means air tight, so it never gets too hot in there. I live in zone 8.
—Guest Lynn Marie

Winter Under the Lights

I bring mine in also. I have a room in the basement with lights for my favorite potted plants. I don't bring them all in, just the perennials.
—Guest Ron

What's Worked for You?

How to Over-Winter Outdoor Plants in Containers.

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