Overwintering Perennials
Overwintering Perennials in Containers

Are you interested in keeping your favorite potted perennials alive through the winter? There are a few factors to consider when overwintering a potted perennial, and while the process isn’t foolproof, it is doable! This guide offers some tips on how to successfully overwinter potted perennials. Check out six ways you can improve the odds your plants will make it through the winter.

• Overwintering Guide •

Tip 1

Plant Selection
  • The 2 Zone Rule: To be on the safe side, choose plants that are 2 zones hardier than the climate zone you live in (e.g. if you live in Zone 5, choose a plant that is hardy in Zone 3).
  • Start with plants you’ve had success with in the ground

Tip 2

Timing & Plant Preparation
  • Going dormant: Once temperatures are around freezing for a couple of weeks, potted perennials and shrubs go dormant and are ready to prep for overwintering.
  • Watering: If you’re bringing your plants inside, wait until a good rain has soaked them through or water them if no rain comes.
  • Pest and disease control: Check your potted perennials for signs of pests and diseases before overwintering them. Treat any infestations or infections before the winter sets in.
container collage

Tip 3

Container Selection
  • Bigger=better: The bigger the pot, the more likely the plant will overwinter due to extra soil insulation.
  • Thicker=better: The thicker the container walls, the better the odds.
  • Material makes a difference: Wood, plastic, resin, and metal do better than ceramic. The freeze/thaw cycle can cause ceramic containers to crack.
  • Drainage: Use well-draining soil in your pots to prevent water from accumulating and causing root rot.

Tip 4

  • Find a sheltered location for your potted perennials, such as a garage, shed, or covered porch.
  • Avoid placing them directly on the ground. Direct contact with the ground can expose the roots to freezing temperatures.

Tip 5

  • Protect the roots: Insulate your pots with bubble wrap, burlap, or other materials to help protect the roots from freezing temperatures. You can also use foam insulation or wrap the pots in blankets or towels.
  • Huddle plants together. Grouping plants will help them protect one another from the elements.

Tip 6

Care & Maintenance
  • Water, but not too much. Plants need water through the winter but should not be kept too wet. Excess moisture can lead to root rot. Make sure you place the pot in a location where it can drain.
  • Do not let the soil get completely dry. Water the plant sparingly throughout the winter, and avoid letting the soil completely dry out.
  • Do not fertilize during the winter. Start fertilizing when active growth begins in the spring.
  • Pest Control: There is a chance rodents will take an interest in your overwintering plants. To keep them at bay during the winter, use repellant or traps.

Overwintering Alternative 1

Bury a Pot
  • Dig a hole in an empty or out of the way spot in your garden. Place the pot (with the plant in it) into the hole.  Make sure the lip of the pot is either slightly above the ground or even with the ground. Place the soil around the pot so it is secure. Since the pot is buried it will remain the same temperature as the surrounding soil.

Overwintering Alternative 2

Transplant into the Soil
  • Wait until fall and then transplant the plant out of the pot and into the soil. Leave it there through the winter and then dig it up in spring and put it back in the pot, or leave it permanently in its new home.
Video: Overwintering Perennials with Laura of Garden Answer

Check out how Laura of Garden Answer overwinters plants at her home. She shares some tips and tricks that will help you succeed with your own potted perennials!


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Looking for even more info? This in-depth article from Proven Winners gets into the nitty-gritty of overwintering potted perennials.

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