Fall is here already, bringing with it Halloween and Thanksgiving, along with cooler temperatures and maybe even some snow. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday preparations, neglecting your outdoor potted plants this time of year can leave you with flowers, herbs or perennials that are beyond saving.
Use these simple plant care guidelines to keep your potted plants healthy and happy all year ’round.
First Step: Evaluate
In order to know what kind of care your outdoor potted plants need, you need to know whether they are considered annuals or perennials for the climate where you live.
To do this, check the USDA hardiness zones for each plant, which will be included on the tag that came with the plant.
If you don’t have the tag, the National Gardening Association’s plant finder is a good resource. Each USDA hardiness zone is represented by a number between 1 and 13; if you aren’t sure which hardiness zone you live in, check the USDA’s web site.
Annual Plant Care
If a potted plant is not considered a perennial in your climate, you need to bring the plant inside in the fall or it will not survive the winter. Care for the plant as one of your house plants during the winter.
Make sure you give it the amount of water and sunlight it needs. Keep in mind that some plants go dormant during the winter and need less water.
When warmer temperatures return, you will be able to move the plant back outside to enjoy on your deck.
Perennial Plant Care
Maybe you have some perennials in outdoor pots because you haven’t decided where to plant them yet. Or you could just like the look of potted plants.
Either way, if your outdoor potted plant is classified as a perennial in your climate, the roots will most likely need more protection from the elements than the pot can provide. This is because the ground stays warmer much longer than the air and also insulates the roots from the chilling wind.
While gardeners in tropical climates don’t have to worry, the rest of us need to take steps to protect our potted plants during the winter months.
If you live in zone 6 or 7, clustering the pots together and packing mulch around them can help. For zones 5 and below, the easiest way to keep potted perennials’ roots safe is to bring them indoors.
Don’t have the room indoors or don’t want the extra house plants? Gardening expert Marie Iannotti recommends making temporary homes for the plants in your dormant vegetable garden.
Simply dig a pit or a trench in your vegetable garden, the already-loosened soil will make digging easier. Cluster the potted perennials together, and bury them up to the tops of the pots.
This will allow the earth to protect the roots the same as it does for the perennials you’ve planted in your garden. When spring returns, you can remove the pots from the ground and transplant the perennials where you want them, or keep them in pots.
Keep in mind, though, that winter’s freezes and thaws can damage some decorative pots or crack terra cotta.
You don’t need a “green thumb” to take care of your outdoor potted plants during the winter. Just use these easy plant care guidelines to keep enjoying your potted plants all year!
(Photo by Drilnoth)