Garden Maintenance · Perennials · Shrubs · Trees

Overwintering Plants in the Garden

Well, it has happened again. Some plants will not get planted in their permanent homes in the landscape before winter has put an end to the gardening season. I will explain, step by step, how I overwinter these plants in the garden. (My success rate is pretty darn good.) But first, let me introduce you to the plants (or victims of circumstance, as I think of them) whose roots are still in their pots instead of exploring their new digs (pun intended).

Victim Group #1: 25 boxwoods in one gallon pots

These poor babies were to be planted as edging at the back of two beds of hostas. In order for them to be planted, however, several hostas had to be moved so the boxwoods could be arranged in an attractive, curving, low wall of green. The hostas were not transplanted, so the boxwoods will have to spend the winter waiting and hoping their move is high on the priority list in spring.

Victim Group #2: An assortment of freebies

When garden writers attend various events, they are often fortunate enough to be given seedlings or small plants to trial in their gardens. As hard as I try to find a place in the garden for every one of these treasured gifts, there are times when a few specimens remain homeless with winter on the horizon. They will have to spend the winter waiting to move into their new spaces while I sit in front of a fire pondering their future addresses.

Victim Group #3: A river birch and a katsura tree

 The river birch was to be planted in an area left vacant when a dying weeping willow was cut down this fall. But to save several hundred dollars, the weeping willow will wait to be cut down until January. The katsura was a little sapling generously given to me by folks when I visited their garden this past summer. I planted it in a large pot and it has already tripled its size while waiting, along with the river birch, for the removal of the weeping willow. They will both have to spend the winter dreaming of their roots settling in to their new homes in spring.

Here are the steps I use for overwintering trees, shrubs and perennials in their pots when time, and the gardening season, gets away from me.

  • Find a spot in the garden protected from harsh winter winds.
  • Make larger holes in the bottoms of pots to allow for better drainage.
  • Dig a hole in the garden as wide as the pot, but no deeper.
  • Set the plant, pot and all, in the hole and fill in any air space around the edges with soil.
  • If the soil in the pot is dry, water thoroughly. If it’s already moist, don’t overwater.
  • Mulch heavily, but not right up against the trunk or stems of the plant.

If you have any plants, like mine, that are victims of your circumstances and won’t get planted before winter, try overwintering them in the garden. Garden with me!

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