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Winter Container Garden

I have something to add to your fall garden to do list. You may protest now, but you'll thank me in January. Pot up at least one container with plants that are interesting in winter. Place the container somewhere you can see it from indoors and where it will be easy to water. Do this in autumn and you'll have a spot of color to carry you through the winter months.

Select the Right Container Material for Winter

First select a pot that can hold up to freezing temperatures. Concrete, stone, wood, fiberglass and cast iron are good choices for winter. Avoid containers that are cracked and terra cotta because it is soft and porous. Frozen water in cracks and pores can cause the terra cotta to chip or crack.

Cold Hardiness of Plants in Containers

Plants in containers are less cold hardy than those planted in the ground because the roots are not insulated as well. For the best results choose plants that are suitable for regions that are at least two zones colder than your own. For example, red twig dogwood is cold hardy to zone 4 so I can plant it in a container in my zone 7 garden and expect it to winter over. If you are not sure what your zone is, click here to see a cold hardiness zone map.

Using a large container will provide the roots with more soil for insulation and a layer of mulch on top will keep them extra cozy. Be sure to keep the mulch away from the plant crown to prevent rot. The crown is the area where the stems meet the soil.

Caring for Your Winter Container Garden

Try to pot up your container in time to give the plants several weeks to get established before the first hard freeze. Water the container once a week if the weather is dry; check on it once a month if rain is plentiful. If it gets cold enough for the soil to freeze, you can stop watering all together. Spraying evergreens with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf will help them retain moisture.

Winter container garden recipe

Because blooms and color are minimal in winter be bold with form and texture. This plant combination contrasts vertical, round and cascading elements. The yellow twig dogwood provides a spark of color.


Winter Container Garden

'Tempelhof' Hinoki False Cypress (cold hardy to 0°F in a container)

'Flaviramea' Yellow Twig Dogwood (cold hardy -30°F in a container)

'Rainbow' Leucothoe (cold hardy to -10°F in a container)

'Golden Baby' Ivy (cold hardy to -5°F in a container)

'Ogon' Acorus (cold hardy to 5°F in a container)

24-inch diameter container

Cold Hardy Plant List

Good to Know

Gardeners who live in extremely cold areas can fake a winter container garden. Insert cut evergreen branches and berried stems into a pot filled with soil. Spray the branches with an antitranspirant to help them stay fresh. Cover the soil with pinecones or mulch.