The Q&A Archives: Container Plants In Winter

Question: I have been looking through gardening catalogs and I notice that a lot of flowering shrubs are recommended to do well in a container. Are there special considerations to be taken with the container during the winter? I would like to leave the shrub in the container outside. Please inform me what is the best way to care for the plant over winter such as is a large pot the best way to protect your plant, should it be wrapped in burlap, or if it is a shrub that is container recommended will it do well on its own? Any info you can share will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Answer: Most hardy plants can withstand very cold weather just fine when planted in the ground, but when their roots are not insulated by the ground it may be a different story so you are right to be concerned. Container grown plants are subject to additional stresses as well. You may find that some plants come through just fine, especially if they are in very large tubs or barrels with ample soil around their roots, but this will also depend on the low temperatures and the amount of sun and wind exposure they receive. The best thing to do is to sink the plants into the ground for the winter. The next best is to move them into a sheltered location out of the wind, be sure they are well watered before the soil freezes, and try to insulate the roots by heaping mulch around the containers or some similar method. Another possibility is to move them into a cold frame. Finally, some people have luck wintering them in an unheated garage or very cool basement. It may take some experimentation to see what works best for you. In any case I would not usually expect a container shrub or tree to live as long as it would if planted in the landscape without truly exceptional care including frequent repotting and optimal maintenance.

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