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Care for Perennials in Containers During the Winter

I grew a variety of perennials in containers this summer. I would like to keep them for next year. Will they survive the winter in the container or do they need special care?

Your perennials and containers may need a bit of extra care to survive the winter. The small amount of soil in a container garden is usually not enough to protect the perennial’s roots from winter damage. First make sure your container is winter-proof. As soil freezes it expands and can crack clay and ceramic pots. Plastic pots can crack if knocked about when frozen.

Here are a couple tricks I like to use. The easiest option is to plant the perennials in the garden this fall. You will get added value by giving them a second life in the landscape and have a great excuse to buy new plants next spring. I sometimes grow my perennials in nursery pots set inside my decorative containers. In fall I lift the potted perennials out of the decorative container, sink the nursery pot into a vacant spot in the garden and cover the pot with soil. The plants are ready for winter.

You can also overwinter tree, shrub and perennial containers in an unheated garage. Add a bit of insulation (packing peanuts, bagged soil or other potential insulation you can find in your garage) to protect the roots when the temperatures plummet. Water whenever the soil is thawed and dry. I always have extra shrubs and perennials in fall waiting for space to open up in my landscape. I shove these plants against my brick garage and surround them with my annual pots, bales of straw from fall displays and bagged compost for insulation. Woodchips also work well. Then as it snows I cover the whole collection with snow. This has worked great for many years. And since this is a private area no one but me sees this unique winter display.


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