8 Tips for Fall and Winter Container Gardening

  • 01 of 08

    Growing Fall and Winter Container Gardens

    Tiered garden shelving with geraniums (Pelargonium) and mixed houseleeks (Sempervivum), late Summer
    Abigail Rex / Getty Images

    If you live in a cold climate, you might think you have to give up container gardening once the temperatures dip. However, there are lots of things you can do to garden in pots year 'round.

    Fall is a great time to experiment with texture and color in your container gardens. While mums and asters can be spectacular and classic in a fall container garden, there are lots of other choices that will last well beyond the first frost. Winter is tricky as many pots will break apart if they freeze,...MORE but there are some that will hold up to even the most frigid temps. Here's our best advice for keeping your garden growing all winter long.

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  • 02 of 08

    Choose Cold Hardy Perennials

    container garden picture of grouping of fall container gardens
    Kerry Michaels

    While summer is a terrific time to go crazy with flowering annuals (those plants that only last one season in cold climates), fall is a wonderful season to try hardy perennials that will stand up to the cold in your container gardens. Have fun experimenting with color combinations you didn’t use in the summer. Purples and oranges, mixed with bright greens and deep reds can look stunning. Think texture by using grasses and interesting leaf textures like fuzzy lambs ears.

    For the best chances that...MORE your plants will survive a cold winter, choose perennials that are rated two zones colder than your area. Life in a pot is harsher and the roots aren't as protected as they are in the ground.

    For fall containers try some of these cold hardy perennials:

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  • 03 of 08

    Add Cool Looking and Cold Loving Annuals

    Container garden picture of flowering cabbage
    Kerry Michaels

    While there are lots of annuals that instantly give up the ghost at the hint of frost there are plenty that scoff at the cold and look great and will last well past the first frost. Some will even look fabulous and sculptural with a coating of snow. Try combining different heights and forms, or go simple and pot a single dramatic plant in a beautiful container.

    Try some of these cold-loving annuals:

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  • 04 of 08

    Use Containers That Tolerate Cold

    Container garden picture of group of log containers filled with plants
    Kerry Michaels

    Make sure that your containers are made of material that will withstand freezing and thawing. Ceramics, terra cottas and thin plastics probably will not survive. Instead try containers made of the following materials:

    • Fiberglass
    • Metal
    • Thick plastic
    • Stone
    • Concrete
    • Hollow logs

    Also make sure that drainage holes are clear and use pot feet to elevate your containers. That way they won't freeze to the ground, which can break even the hardiest pot.

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  • 05 of 08

    Plan for Frost

    Kerry Michaels

    While you can’t buy your plants tiny down coats, there are things you can do to help them survive the winter. In the fall you’ll want to continue watering your container gardens. However, you should stop fertilizing containers, particularly those that contain perennials, about six to eight weeks before the first frost date is predicted for your area. You don’t want to encourage new growth, which is tender and won’t survive cold temperatures, and could even weaken or kill your plant.

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  • 06 of 08

    Understand What "Freezing" Means

    Kerry Michaels

    According to the "Farmers' Almanac," here's what to expect...

    • Light freeze (between 29°F to 32°F): tender plants are killed, other vegetation is not dramatically effected.
    • Moderate freeze (between 25°F and 28°F): heavy damage to tender and semi-hardy plants.
    • Severe Freeze (below 25°F): only the hardy survive.
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  • 07 of 08

    Replant Your Perennials As Needed

    Succulents in Concrete Planter
    Succulents in Concrete Palnter. © Kerry Michaels

    If you have a delicate container filled with perennials, dig the plants out and put them into a garden bed before the soil freezes. Or, depending on the plant, you may be able to turn it into a houseplant. Some plants that go dormant will survive in an unheated basement or shed. Just do some research on your plant to see what it's best chance for survival is.

     

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  • 08 of 08

    Be Ruthless

    Trader_Joes_Bag.jpg
    Kerry Michaels

    Even if a plant is a hardy perennial, if it doesn't look great, or you just aren’t crazy about it - chuck it. Add it to your compost pile and at least it will become food for some other plant down the line.