keep perennial plants in containers alive through the winter
In the Garden

How To Keep Perennials Alive Over the Winter

Want to keep your perennials in containers alive through the winter?  They are definitely easier to kill than their counterparts in the ground. The ground insulates and protects plants more than a container does. If you would like to keep your potted perennials for next year we’ve got tips that should help you.

Choose the right pot for perennials

The bigger the pot, the more likely you will be successful overwintering. This is because there is a larger volume of soil in a bigger container to help insulate the roots, which protects them from freezing and desiccating. Be sure the container material can withstand freezing temperatures.

Water plants before the ground freezes, but not after

Containerized perennials should be watered just before the ground freezes to give the plant a reserve supply to use during warm winter spells. If possible, overwinter them under cover so they don’t get much water from rain because they will not need it during cold temperatures and you don’t want the roots sitting in cold water.

Move containers to a protected area

You can overwinter perennials by moving the pots into a cold frame, shed, or unheated garage for the winter after the first hard frost. You don’t want to bring them inside or anywhere too warm because they require a period of dormancy to bloom. They don’t need light during this time, but keep an eye on the soil. If they dry out too much they will die. Ideally you’d keep the soil slightly damp, not too wet.

Group perennials together on the ground

If you have to overwinter your containers outside, place a grouping of pots as close together as possible on the ground so they can huddle together and absorb the heat from the ground. Don’t bring them onto a raised deck or balcony because they’ll be too cold and exposed.

Insulate the container

You should cover the pots with some sort of insulating mulch like leaves or straw.
Try wrapping the pots themselves in insulating material for extra protection.


Now is the time to move your perennial containers to safety. Get them hunkered down for the winter and, like most of us, they’ll be happy once spring arrives again. If you have any other advice on ways you have successfully overwintered your pots, let us know below!


    • Laura

      Ficus trees aren’t perennial here in zone 7. We had a customer who always had them around his pool, but we would put them inside his house once it got chilly. I’m afraid just covering it wouldn’t protect it enough. If you are able, you should bring it into heated space. What have you done in the past?

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