Overwintering Perennials in Containers


by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener



Growing perennials in containers is a very popular practice.   Containers do not provide the roots with the protection they need during cold weather.  A layer of mulch and snow can act as a blanket that protects perennials in containers during the winter months.  Snow in the winter is what wood chips are in the summer….think protective mulch.

After a couple of killing frosts, make sure your pots are well watered then group your potted perennials  together along an area of your house, out of the wind and not subject to the warmth of the sun.  Cover the pots with two to three inches of shredded leaves or straw.   Cut off the boughs of your Christmas tree and lay them on top of and around the potted perennials to give them extra protection and keep the mulch in place.  Avoid placing the pots on a raised location such as a deck as the exposure to the cold air from below can be detrimental.

During late fall, before the ground has frozen, potted perennials can be placed into holes dug in the ground.  The soil acts as an insulator to protect the roots.  Just remember to remove them in the early spring.  If left in the ground too long the roots can begin to grow so much that they will grow through the drainage holes and anchor themselves to the ground.  I have placed pots in a  protected area from wind, turned them upside down to keep the pots from cracking, then covered them with a combination of  wood chips, leaves and pine boughs with much success.  Once the weather has warmed a bit I start checking my overturned pots for signs of growth.

Potted perennials can also be stored in a garage or outbuilding, however it has to be a cool location or they will not overwinter properly.  Always keep in mind that the tissues of some plants, especially trees and shrubs, are more susceptible to cold weather damage in their youth or the first couple of years after transplantation.  It is only when they have reached a certain level of maturity that they are then fully hardy.

Never overwinter perennials in a greenhouse or other warm place as perennials need a period of dormancy which is brought on by cold weather.  Perennials in plastic pots can be overwintered outdoors in those pots.  Plants in terra cotta or stone pots cannot be overwintered outdoors in them as the pots will crack.  Remove the plants from the terra cotta or stone containers and plant them directly into the garden.

As always, Happy Gardening!


More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs   The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

Scale Insects

  by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener     Scale insects are sap-feeding insects named for the scale or waxy, shell-like covering that hides their bodies.  There are more than 60 different kinds that occur in Indiana and yet are many times not noticed or ignored until tree or shrub branches start to die.  When …

Read More >

Ribs @ Rogers

Ribs. Brisket. Pulled Pork. Chicken. Is your mouth watering yet? Then you missed a great opportunity to have a full-on feast. The first ever Ribs @ Rogers event was a great success! The David Rogers Memorial Park filled up early in the morning with 14 vendors firing up their grills. I was lucky enough to …

Read More >

Compost Tea

  by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener     Any gardener worth his or her salt knows the many benefits of a good compost.  But what about this stuff called compost tea?   Well, it is something you can use on your plants as a foliar application or as a soil drench and it’s a way …

Read More >

Get your official copy of our

Destination Guide

Request Printed Guide

View E-Guide

Stay informed and sign up for the


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.