FROSTY FOCAL POINTS: Winter container gardening

  • Written by Molbaks garden+home

As the leaves are falling and the heady days of autumn come to a close, do you find yourself staring at unsightly outdoor planters on your doorstep?  This winter, why not use your containers a full four seasons and add excitement to your entry with some easy-care color!

When planting winter containers, you’ll need to prep them a little differently than your summer containers.  Rain and fluctuating temperatures, freezing and thawing can stress some plants and your pots, but if you choose wisely, you’ll be rewarded with winter-long beauty.   

Freezing weather can be tough on pots, so be sure to start with containers that are frost-proof.  Fiberglass, metal, wood, plastic, stone and some glazed ceramic pots do well in the mild Puget Sound temperatures, but if you are in an area that experiences hard freezes, be sure to check with the manufacturer or sales associates about your pot’s frost-worthiness.  Unglazed terracotta is not recommended.  

Next, remember that good drainage is key to healthy pots and plants.  Choose a potting soil that is high in organic matter or pearlite and make sure the drainage holes are unobstructed.  Use Potting Pearls in the bottom to give some insulation and allow your containers to drain properly.  Also, remove any saucers under the pots and consider putting them up on “feet,” to avoid water collecting and waterlogging your plants.  And if your containers sit under an eave, please make sure to water them regularly.

Knowing the hardiness of your plants is the next step to winter container success.  While many plants are hardy in the ground, in containers, their roots are more vulnerable to temperature changes.  Unless your pots are in an area that protects them from freezing, choose plants that can withstand temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than what you experience in the winter.

Experiment with cold weather-hardy conifers like Hinoki cypress and Japanese cedars. Their unique, textured foliage comes in bold colors that brighten up even the darkest winter days.  Coralbark maples, and red or yellow twig dogwoods add a spark of elegantly slim color while Pieris, Nandina and evergreen grasses such as Sweet Flag add a shock of texture and a splash of warmth.  Ornamental cabbage and kales are winter garden go-tos, and ruffled, cold-hardy Heucheras come in so many color combinations they are sure to complement any container design.  Soften the edges of your pots with graceful spilling Vincas or red berry-dotted wintergreen.  And don’t forget winter wonder-flowers like pansies, heaths, heathers, cyclamen and especially hellebores draped in luminous blossoms that laugh at winter weather.  
Once they are planted, you can dress up your winter planters with a bit of holiday magic.  Fragrant freshly-cut boughs of pine cedar or juniper, colorful twigs of crimson winterberries or sprays of holly all add a natural holiday flair that dresses up your front door.

So as temperatures start to drop, come into Molbak’s. We carry a wide assortment of beautiful winter-hardy plants, colorful containers, potting soil and more to keep you gardening all winter long!

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