DOUG’S BLOG – Caring for Your Container Gardens in the Winter


Anybody who knows me then knows how much I love container gardening. I have a total of 15 assorted container gardens in an array of different styles, sizes, and make of containers. Most of my containers are colorful, glazed containers. But, I also have concrete, cast iron pot, and plastic terra-looking containers. You may notice that I do not use terracotta clay. I have found terracotta clay to be too fragile, especially for the winter.

Speaking of winter, winter is officially here. Typically, here in Virginia, our winters are very fickle in that we can have some abnormally warm days to go along with some very frigid days – sometimes all in the same week. It is just the way our winters can be in Virginia. With this said our plants can be confused by these up and down temperature changes as well.

One important piece of information to keep in mind is that these containers are sitting up out of the ground and the plant roots are more susceptible to the cold winter temperatures. The bottom line, the roots of our plants are more susceptible to cold damage than any other part of the plant.

TIP #1

Use very hardy plants in your containers. Here in Central Virginia, we live in what is considered Zone 7 on the plant hardiness zone. Use hardy plants and not marginally hardy plants in containers. Tough, hardy evergreens such as boxwood, spruce, cypress, juniper, and other plants make excellent container plants and can normally withstand Virginia winter temperatures. In my assortment of containers, I have different varieties of boxwoods, Japanese Maple, daphne, and rosemary.

TIP #2

Never let plants go dry in containers – even in the winter – no matter if they are in a dormant state of growth. You need to keep container gardens watered periodically year-round.

Some of you may think about bringing inside your outdoor container gardens for the winter. DON’T! Though theoretically possible, you have a slim chance of success. Evergreen plants rely on a period of cool winter to go dormant and stay dormant. Being indoors is far too warm for these hardy evergreens. For the winter you may want to position your containers in a more sheltered area – such as up against the house. Personally, I leave my containers in the same spot year-round. I use large containers, which means more soil in the containers for better insulation for the root system of the plants.

TIP #3

During the winter there is no need to be fertilizing the plants. The plants are not trying to grow.

Container gardens become part of the overall landscape of your gardens. Enjoy them year-round. If enough room, you can switch out different annuals seasonally. Right now, my containers have pansies for color, and ornamental cabbage for foliage color and acting as a filler.

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