Winter Garden Survive and Thrive Guide

Blooming pink Heather covered with the first snow in the garden

If you want your winter garden, filled with favorite winter flowers or evergreens, to survive freezing temperatures, take these precautions.

The Survival Guide

The Roots. For all types of flowers and plants, roots pose a great challenge. If you don’t adequately protect and care for the roots, your plant will not produce well and could easily die. The newest roots grow at the outside of the root ball, so you can see how the most fragile aspect of the roots is also the most exposed.

So what do you do about this and other hazards of winter weather?

Winter Garden Survival Tips:

Use a large pot—more soil, more protection. Also, make sure your outdoor planters have thick walls—avoid thin plastics at all costs. They’ll freeze and crack. Also avoid hanging planters, since they are smaller, normally, than other garden planters and will dry out faster. Plus hanging baskets expose a larger surface area to winter temperatures and so are more dangerous to your plants’ root systems.

Don’t water in freezing temperatures. You want to water before a freeze so the heat generated by freezing water is used by the roots.

Use your flower beds. If you can, put your winter garden pots in the ground. That’s right–up to the rim if you can. In-ground plantings gain from the earth’s heat. Give your winter flowers the best chance of survival by locating them in soil.

Avoid cement. If you can’t do that—and many of us balcony or patio gardeners fall into this category—try to put your garden planters on top of the ground (not cement). What you want to avoid are large temperature fluctuations. On cement or stone, the flower pot will warm in the winter sun, then get those very cold nighttime temperatures conducted through the surface it’s resting on. One big danger is not in how cold it gets, but how large the range of temperatures is. Try raising winter garden pots on wooden “feet” if you can’t avoid cold-conducting surfaces.

Use winter-hardy outdoor planters. Don’t try to plant winter shrubs or sun flowers in clay flower pots or fragile terra cotta pots. Winter gardening is most successful when you use concrete urns, metal, stone, or wood—and insulate your garden planters with Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, or any other insulating material you have on hand.

Use outdoor planters with drainage. This is very important since winter winds and sun can be very drying, and you will be watering through the winter. If the pots can’t drain, you’ll have standing water that will freeze and there goes your lovely winter flowers and container plants.

Locate your plants properly. Cluster them together and, if possible, locate winter pot groupings against some protective structure (a wall, a fence) for added protection.

Mulch is very helpful. Evergreen boughs are wonderful because they let in air and light, but also protect the planting surface. In very cold weather, you can also wrap your pots in blankets, newspaper, or burlap.

Try these flower and plant ideas for winter planting. You can also return to general information about your winter container garden, or visit Ellen Barredo’s suggestions about successful winter gardens.

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