The Q&A Archives: Overwintering Bonsai

Question: My 25-year-old holly trees continue to propagate themselves from all the berries that fall, and I am constantly thinning them or growing new shrubs from the seedlings. This summer, I decided to grow a miniature or "bonsai", as I like to call it. My efforts have been successful, and I have an exquisite miniature holly growing outdoors in a pot.

Should I bring this plant in before frost; or, should I mulch it somehow and leave it outdoors?

Answer: Isn't experimenting in the garden fun?

I recommend "planting" the pot right in the ground. Make sure the soil around the plant is well-drained so the pot won't act as a well for moisture from the surrounding area. Don't prune it any more this year, since pruning can stimulate tender, succulent new growth that is succeptible to frost. Water the plant and the soil around it lightly and regularly through the fall. What you want to acheive is a balance - too much water will heave the roots when the ground finally freezes, but too little moisture can result in desiccation of the aboveground parts. Protect the plant with a wrap of burlap or other windbreak. You may wish to use an antitranspirant spray (another opportunity to experiment!) as well. These are best applied in fall, while the air temp is about 40F and the ground isn't yet frozen. Sometimes a second application after Feb. 1 is advized (again, wait for a day that's above 40F). Best of luck carrying your bonsai through the winter!

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