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Grower’s Corner: What You Need to Know Overwintering Plants

Overwintering is when you protect your plants from cold temperatures. You can overwinter plants that will remain outside, such as young trees, shrubs, and perennials, and you can overwinter plants by bringing them inside or otherwise storing them. In this post, we’ll be discussing different methods for overwintering a variety of plants.

The goal of overwintering is to help plants survive the colder months. However, home gardeners will likely discover that overwintering may still result in losing some plants. With time and experience, you should find that more and more of your plants are surviving your overwintering efforts.

Who Should Overwinter Plants?

If you live in an area that is susceptible to frost and snow, you may want to consider overwintering your plants—especially if you’ve planted anything that is typically out of your hardiness zone.

Overwintering is good for container gardening enthusiasts, gardeners who have recently introduced new shrubs and perennials, and any gardener that wants to preserve particular plants.

Concerned that it’s too much work? Or that overwinter you plants will take up too much space?

Overwintering will require you to check on particular plants on occasion and to water them as needed. Some plants should also be rotated so they receive adequate sunlight. Overwintering plants in your home will mean that your plants are taking up some space. This may not work for individuals who don’t have spots to place their plants, or who have pets that can’t help but nibble on them. If overwintering plants inside isn’t for you, no problem! You can always replace any plants that don’t survive cold weather. Plus, there are still some overwintering steps you can take to protect the plants that you leave outside or haul into your garage.

What Plants Benefit from Overwintering?

Annuals are generally considered a one season plant that does not need to be overwintered. However, if you want to extend the life of your annuals, you can certainly bring them inside.

In fact, some of the plants we tend to consider annuals are actually tropical plants that are technically perennials in their home zones. Feel free to experiment with bringing in your annuals to see how long they can provide you joy. Trim back any dead stems or buds, place in the appropriate lighting condition for your plant, and water when the soil is dry. Annuals that can benefit from overwintering include sweet potato vine, impatiens, and geraniums.

Perennials, on the other hand, can definitely benefit from overwintering. Overwintering your perennials can help protect them from temperature changes and help to ensure that your favorite reflowering plants survive year after year. Tropical perennials are particularly well-suited for overwintering.

Plants that are placed in containers can also benefit from overwintering. While the Austram fiber-clay planters we sell in the greenhouse can withstand temperatures of 40 below zero, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to subject your plant to such cold weather. Read on for some different tips on how to overwinter your plants.

Tips for How to Overwinter Plants

Overwintering Outdoors

If you’re concerned about perennials that are in your garden bed, you can take two approaches. The first is to mulch heavily around your plant right before or shortly after the first frost. This should help insulate the root system and keep it a bit warmer. (You can also wrap young trees.)

For plants that grow from bulbs like calla lilies and dahlias, you can actually dig up the bulbs once the leaves of the plants have turned brown. After removing the dirt, set them to dry on some paper in a shady area like a shed or garage. After a few days, cut off any remaining tp growth and place the bulbs in peat moss. You’ll want to keep your bulbs in a place that’s between 35 to 50 degrees. Come spring, you can replant your bulbs to enjoy more flowers!

Overwintering Indoors

If you’re thinking about overwintering plants indoors, first consider where you can keep your plants. Some gardeners are able to move container plants into their basements or garages, while others may simply place them in a living room or by a window indoors. Selecting an appropriate spot that will provide adequate sunlight and warm enough temperatures is important. (Of course, if you have a greenhouse, this is the ideal place to overwinter a variety of plants. Be sure to check the temperature frequently and to vent as necessary.)

Plants in containers are easiest to move indoors as they are mostly portable (large containers can be harder to move). Because the soil in containers can get colder than ground soil, overwintering inside can potentially save the life of a beloved container plant.

If you have plants in your garden beds that you would like to overwinter indoors, dig them up before the first frost and place them in containers that are just big enough for their root systems. Water the soil if it is dry. Place them in an appropriate spot indoors that meets their sunlight needs. This method is particularly well-suited for plants like rosemary and other perennial herbs.

Check on your plants and rotate them to ensure that all parts are receiving adequate sunlight. Water them intermittently when the soil is dry and ensure they are draining well.

Once it gets warmer and the threat of frost has passed, slowly acclimate your plants to the outdoors by bringing them outside for small stretched during warm weather and leaving them outside for longer and longer stretches.

Successfully overwintering your plants can lead to larger, more robust plants in the future.  Another benefit to overwintering your plants indoors? You get to look at them more! If you’re able to overwinter your plants indoors, having that spot of green in what can sometimes be a long, gloomy winter reminds us of the promise of spring.

Good luck! And remember, you can always ask us gardening questions when you stop by Multiflora Greenhouses!

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