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Prepare Your Container Garden for Winter

Learn how to transition your fall planters to cold weather and which plants you should lose, keep, or add.

Summer and fall containers may shrink as winter approaches, but that doesn’t mean you have to put away your container garden for the winter. Some plants may need to be removed, but others, such as evergreens or hardy shrubs, may need strengthening to keep them looking good through the winter.

Here’s what you need to know about how to prepare your container garden for winter. We’ve also included some of our favorite winter container arrangements created by landscape designers on RDKLandscaping.

Getting started

The first step in preparing your container garden for winter is assessing the plants you are growing.
Whether you should keep them in containers, transplant them into garden beds, or throw them
away will largely depend on your winter climate.
Here’s a quick guide on how to treat common types of potted plants during the winter.
Evergreens: Store in containers.
Trees and shrubs: Keep sturdy trees and shrubs in containers. Depending on the season, move
tender plants to a greenhouse or sunny room.
Perennials: Some perennials can be kept in containers, while others should be planted in garden
Warm season annual: You can add these plants to your compost pile or toss them in your green
bin. (Fall is a great time to start composting.)
Ornamental grasses: Keep grasses in containers until after the fall display. Then cut them back
to about 4 inches tall or plant them in garden beds.
Vines: Store sturdy vines in containers outside. Move soft objects indoors.
Succulents: In mild climates, store succulents outside in containers. In cold climates, they move
indoors for the winter.
Let’s take a look at how several containers created by (Add Company Name)’s designers put these
ideas into practice.
Preserve evergreen trees and prevent loss of warm-season annual plants.
Remove annuals and retain evergreens by using an existing container design that features
evergreen or cold-hardy shrubs and warm-season annuals (plants that typically live only one year),
such as these from (Add Partner Company Name) container. If the results look bland, you can
strengthen your container for winter by planting small, sturdy shrubs around the base or adding
cut pine branches around the edges of the pot.

When planting new plants that will support needles or leaves through the winter, choose evergreens
such as conifers, boxwood, sugarcane and yew.
Find a landscape designer on (Add Company Name) to help you with your container garden. (Add
Support Links)

Double down for conifers
Potted conifers such as pine, cypress, juniper, spruce or fir require little special care to keep them
looking good through the winter. If your plant has been in a container for a while, consider rotating
it to maintain its shape or pruning it to control its size. Fill around the bottom with decorative pine
cones or other small cascading conifers, like (Add Company Name) did with this container.
If you’re starting with an empty container, use softwood to anchor it all winter. Keep in mind that
most conifers are winter hardy, but some may require protection. For example, the popular ‘Wilma
Goldcrest’ Monterey cypress can only tolerate temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or
minus 17.8 degrees Celsius.
Store perennials in containers or plant them in garden beds.
Containers with a mix of warm-season perennials plants that regrow each year provide a variety
of choices depending on climate and plant health. In cold winter areas, potted perennials are often
treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the season. You can consider planting them in garden
beds as long as the soil is still workable. Alternatively, you can move the containers of perennials
to a greenhouse for the winter.
In areas with mild winters, perennials can live in containers over the winter or be planted in garden
beds. The latter is a better choice if the plant has already been growing in a container for several
years. If you plan to keep your perennials in containers, cut them back after they bloom and move
the containers to the back of the border. Because it won’t be noticeable until spring.
Fill empty spaces with cool-season annuals and sturdy shrubs.
If you’ve removed annuals or planted perennials in your garden beds, there’s a good chance that
holes will remain in your planter arrangements. Plant empty containers with cold-season plants
that bloom until frost, such as pansies, violas, winter-blooming heather, or hardy shrubs that bloom
even in the snow. This arrangement from (Add Partner Company Name) includes both plant types.
Move citrus and other soft potted trees, shrubs and vines indoors.
Provide shelter for potted citrus and other frost-sensitive trees, shrubs and vines by moving them
to a greenhouse or sunny interior. Monitor soil moisture carefully and do not forget to water in
winter. Placing your pots in a dry, heated home will help them dry out more quickly than placing
them outdoors or in a greenhouse.
For gardeners who live in mild winter climates, keep potted trees, tender shrubs and vines in
containers and store them outdoors over the winter to protect them during light frosts.
In cold climates, empty and store ceramic and terracotta pots.
In cold winter climates, ceramic and terracotta containers are at risk of freezing or cracking. In
areas where this is possible, it is best to move growing containers to a greenhouse seasonally. If

not, empty the container, clean it, let it dry completely and store it in a shed or garage until spring.

Spring-blooming bulbs planted in ceramic containers should be moved to a cool, dry place, such
as a garage, and stored safely until spring.
Stone, metal and thick concrete planters generally have a low risk of cracking in cold climates and
can be installed outside or ideally covered under the eaves of a roof to protect them from rain and
Fill the empty container with evergreen leaves.
If you’re left with just a few empty containers after your fall cleaning, consider filling one or two
with evergreen leaves, dried branches or preserved berries designed by (Add company Name). Any
water will cheer up your doorstep or yard.
Tip: In cold winter climates, choose thicker containers or containers made of stone, metal or
concrete to store under your porch.
Tell us: How do you style your container garden during the winter? Show us your best photos in
the comments.123

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