Evergreen plants for pots

The Best All Year Round Plants For Pots

Growing plants in pots and containers is a great way to make the most of the space you have at your disposal, both inside and outside your polytunnel. In this article, we will cover some of the basics of growing plants in pots or other containers, before discussing some of the best all year round plants for pots.

Growing In Pots & Containers

When choosing your containers, it is important to remember that not all plants enjoy the same conditions. Some plants will need good drainage and will do better in a terracotta pot, while others will enjoy the extra moisture retained in one made of recycled plastic or alternatively, a rustic planter made from wood. A stone planter will retain heat and help sun-loving plants from warmer climates, while a metal one could overheat the roots of some delicate plants. Understanding the needs of the flowers, vegetables or herbs that you want to grow will be the first step in successful container gardening.

The next decision that you will have to make is where to place your pots. Of course, some pots could be placed on windowsills within your home. Others may find their place on a patio or in a courtyard area. Others yet may be part of your scheme to make the most of the space in a polytunnel. Wooden greenhouse staging or polytunnel staging can be very useful to provide extra space to place your pots and containers.

Caring For All Year Round Plants in Pots

Wherever you place them, one of the best things you can do to ensure the continued good-health of plants in your container garden is produce your own compost using waste from your kitchen and any plant waste that is generated in your garden. Creating or sourcing high quality compost/ other growing medium for your pots is crucial to keeping plants healthy all year round.

Many gardeners go wrong when if comes to watering and this can be especially damaging when gardening in containers. Soil/ compost in containers can dry out far more quickly than the soil in open ground and if you do not have adequate drainage in your pots then they can sometimes become waterlogged.

It is important to grow the right plants in the right containers and to understand how much water each one needs. When the weather is dry, mulching around plants in containers can help conserve moisture.

What To Consider When Choosing All Year Round Plants for Pots

When choosing all year round plants for pots, it is very important to think about:

  • The type, size and material of the pots or containers in question.
  • Where the pots will be placed, and the conditions found there. (indoors, under cover or outdoors?)
  • How much care you are prepared to provide for the plants, and how easy they will be to care for throughout the year.
  • Whether you want to grow edible plants, or are more concerned about creating an attractive visual display.
  • The pests you wish to repel, or beneficial insects you wish to attract, and which plants could help you in your endeavours to create natural balance in your garden/ polytunnel.

One of the main things to consider is whether you would like to grow different annual crops to provide year round interest or year round yield from your pots and containers. Growing annual crops can provide variety and many favourite plants are annuals.

That said, if you are going for year-round plants, you may like to consider choosing perennial plants that cannot only provide interest or yield throughout the year but also take a lot less work. Perennial plants for pots will also endure over time, keeping your pots populated for a number of years.

Choosing Perennial Plants for All Year Round Pots

To give you some inspiration to create your own container garden in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden, here are some of the perennial plants that are great for all year round pots in the UK:

Fruit Trees & Other Trees for Pots

One great idea for pots that can look good all year round and produce an edible yield are fruit trees. If you are growing in pots indoors, or in a heated polytunnel or greenhouse, you could consider growing dwarf citrus trees, peaches or apricots. In an unheated polytunnel or outdoors, you could choose dwarf apple trees, plums, cherries or other common fruit trees that thrive in our climate. Fruit trees not only provide fruits in summer/autumn, they also give visual interest of blossom in the spring. Citrus trees and others, such as a wide range of evergreen trees, can look good all year round.

Perennial Vegetables

You may be surprised to learn that a number of perennial vegetables can also look good throughout much of the year. By growing a selection of different perennial vegetables in a pot or container, you can get edible produce and an attractive display all year round.

Perennial Herbs for Pots

Of course, perennial herbs can also be great for growing in pots and containers. Indoors or outdoors, growing herbs in pots can help you create attractive displays from which you can harvest small quantities of useful culinary herbs throughout the whole year. Perennial herbs include:

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Mint
  • Chives

Perennial Flowers for Pots

There are also plenty of flowering plants for pots. While perennial flowers will remain in your pots throughout the year, to create all year round plantings for pots, you can include perennials that bloom during different periods throughout the year. By incorporating plants that flower in spring, summer, autumn and winter you can create pots that provide visual interest all year round. To give you inspiration for your pots and containers, here are some of the great flowers that bloom in each season of the year:

Spring Flowering Plants for Pots

There are plenty of bulbs and perennial plants that make for wonderful and varied spring displays. When kept in a polytunnel, your plants in pots will flower even earlier in the season and bring the spring more quickly. Some spring flowering plants that work well in pots are:

  • Daffodils
  • Violas & violets
  • Hyacinths
  • Snowdrops
  • Primulas
  • Bergenia
  • Saxifrage
  • Peonies
  • Heuchera
  • Muscari

Summer Flowering Plants for Pots

Summer is, of course, the time when you will have the most choice about what to place in your pots. Many, many plants are in flower during the season. Below are some great choices which have long-lasting floral displays, though of course these options are just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Roses
  • Geranium
  • Phlox
  • Rudbeckia
  • Echinacea
  • Dianthus
  • Achemilla
  • Celosia
  • Antirrhinum
  • Linaria

Autumn Flowering Plants for Pots

Remember, especially in the autumn, that flowering plants are only one option. Plants with attractive foliage can also create a beautiful display. In this regard, small acers and other small trees and shrubs can be a good choice for growing in pots.

Flowers that bloom long into the autumn include:

  • Anemone
  • Daisy family (Asters)
  • Salvia
  • Monarda
  • Aruncus
  • Delphinium
  • Hellebores
  • Helenium
  • Polyanthus
  • Symphyotrichum

Winter Flowering Plants for Pots

Even outdoors, there are a range of plants that you can grow that will provide interest and colour during the coldest part of the year. Not only flowers but also grasses, ferns and trees or shrubs with interesting foliage.

With a polytunnel, you dramatically increase the number of plants that you can grow during the winter months, especially if you make sure that your year round plants in pots are given a little extra protection.

Plants that look great in pots the winter include:

  • Ivy
  • Gaultheria
  • Santolina
  • Festuca glauca
  • Cyclamen
  • Nandina domestica
  • Winter violas
  • Heathers
  • Euphorbia

Of course, in a polytunnel especially, you can also grow a range of winter greens that can also look very attractive in a container display. Try purple varieties of kale and other brassicas, Asian greens like pak choi, mustard and other leafy crops to give some variety in amongst the green.

Using pots and containers need not limit you in what you grow. Whether or not you also have space to grow in the ground, container gardening can be extremely varied and exciting. It can allow you to grow a lot of food or plenty of ornamental plants.

Do you grow edibles or ornamental plants in pots in your polytunnel, or in your home or garden? Share your suggestions for the best all year round plants for pots in the comments below.

Gardening How-to Articles

Dwarf Conifers in Containers: Designing a Miniature Landscape

By Joan McDonald | March 1, 2004

Conifers are among the most popular and dependable of garden plants. Available in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and hues, they offer the gardener year-round interest and color. Dwarf conifers are perfect for building texture in—and giving permanent shape to—confined garden spaces such as patios or terraces. Though small, the plants can also help block wind and screen undesirable views.

Most gardeners use containerized dwarf conifers as foils or backdrops for their potted perennials or annuals. An alternate approach is to create a miniature landscape made up almost entirely of dwarf conifers, perhaps with trailing ivy or annuals planted around their bases. Below is a simple design for a miniature landscape composed of slow-growing conifers with nicely contrasting leaf forms and colors. A heath plant, Erica carnea ‘Golden Starlet’, is added for floral interest.

All the trees grow between three and six inches per year, thus meeting the technical standards for “dwarf” plants. Cultural requirements are similar: They require well-drained soil and should never be left standing in water. Most of them prefer full sun, but Chamaecyparis can tolerate shade. To fertilize, add compost at the beginning of the season and top it off with shredded bark mulch.

All the plants should be overwintered outdoors. Water them on frost-free days. And if you use frost-sensitive containers (such as terra-cotta or glazed pots), insulate the sides with bubble wrap or burlap. Spring is the best time for planting. Pot your conifers in containers that are at least two to three inches larger all round than the nursery pots they come in. And make sure that when you’re buying dwarf plants, you buy them in the sizes you desire, so it doesn’t take a lifetime for them to grow into the design.

  1. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ (Hinoki false cypress)
    This conifer has a dense, irregular, pyramidal habit and rich green foliage. It grows up to ten feet high and four feet wide and is hardy from USDA Zones 4 to 8.
  2. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ (Sawara cypress)
    A low, mounding plant with yellow, threadlike foliage, this tree grows five feet high and seven feet wide and is hardy from Zones 4 to 8.
  3. Erica carnea ‘Golden Starlet’ (winter heath)
    This plant has lime-green foliage and produces white flowers from winter to midspring. It grows up to 10 inches high and 15 inches wide and is hardy from Zones 5 to 7.
  4. Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ (common juniper)
    This conifer forms a compact, narrow cone of gray-green foliage. It grows up to 3 feet high and 18 inches wide and is hardy from Zones 2 to 6.
  5. Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (singleseed juniper)
    This is a compact, rounded bush with silvery blue needles. It grows 16 inches high by 3 feet wide and is hardy from Zones 5 to 8.
  6. Pinus mugo ‘Valley Cushion’ (mountain pine)
    This conifer has tight, low growth and deep green needles. It reaches three feet in height and spreads three feet wide and is hardy from Zones 3 to 7.

Joan McDonald runs a private garden design business, Gardens by Joan, and is a graduate of the BBG Certificate in Horticulture program.

Evergreens For Pots: Best Evergreen Plants For Containers

Looking outside at your barren or snow-covered garden in the dead of winter can be disheartening. Luckily, evergreens grow very well in containers and are cold hardy in most environments. The placement of a few evergreens in containers on your patio will look good all year and give you a much welcomed boost of winter color. Keep reading to learn more about container grown evergreens.

Care for Evergreen Container Plants

When a plant is grown in a container, its roots are essentially surrounded by air, meaning it’s more susceptible to temperature change than if it were in the ground. Because of this, you should only try to overwinter container grown evergreens that are hardy to winters considerably colder than what your area experiences.

If you live in a particularly cold region, you can increase your evergreen’s chances of survival by piling mulch up over the container, wrapping the container in bubble wrap, or planting in an overlarge container.

Evergreen death can result not just from cold but from extreme temperature fluctuations. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep your evergreen in at least partial shade where it won’t be warmed by the sun only to be shocked by plunging night temperatures.

Keeping a potted evergreen watered in winter is a delicate balance. If you live in an area that experiences a hard frost, keep watering until the root ball is completely frozen. You’ll have to water again during any warm spells and as soon as the ground begins to thaw in the spring to keep your plants roots from drying out.

Equally important is the soil for your evergreen container plants. Suitable soil will not only provide appropriate nutrient and water needs but also keep the evergreen from blowing over in windy conditions.

Best Evergreen Plants for Containers

So which evergreen for pots are best suited for this year-round environment? Here are a few evergreens that are especially good at growing in containers and overwintering.

  • Boxwood – Boxwoods are hardy to USDA zone 5 and thrive in containers.
  • Yew – Hicks yew is hardy to zone 4 and can reach heights of 20-30 feet. It grows slowly in containers, though, so it’s a good option if you want to plant it permanently in the ground after a few years.
  • Juniper – Skyrocket juniper is also hardy to zone 4 and, while it can reach heights of 15 feet, it never gets more than 2 feet wide. Greenmound juniper is a traditional zone 4 hardy groundcover that can also be trained as a bonsai in a container.
  • Pine – The Bosnian pine is another zone 4 hardy tree that grows slowly and produces attractive blue/purple cones.

Trees and Shrubs to Grow in Containers

By Bill Marken, Suzanne DeJohn, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Many hardy trees and shrubs are suitable for container growing. When choosing trees and shrubs to grow in pots, remember that the hardiness zones given are for plants growing in the ground, and that plants growing in containers may need protection from extreme cold. Common deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs are listed here:

  • Deciduous: These plants drop their leaves in fall, go dormant in the winter, and begin growing again in spring.

    • Cotoneaster: Creeping cotoneaster (C. adpressus) and bearberry (C. dammeri) can spill from pots and hanging baskets, producing bright berries. They’re small (less than a foot tall). Most are hardy in zones 6 to 9.

    • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica): Plant full-size varieties in large containers to grow as single-trunk or multitrunk trees, 8 or 10 feet tall. The bark develops an interesting combination of scaliness and smoothness, and summer flowers come in rich pinks, reds, and purples. Crape myrtle is hardy in zones 7 to 9.

    • Flowering cherry, crabapple, or plum trees: These trees aren’t for beginners, but their beautiful spring blossoms may tempt you to give growing them a try. Some produce fruit.

    • Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana Contorta): This plant’s contorted branches and shiny brown bark are shown off best when the plant is leafless in winter. In a container, expect a height of about 4 to 6 feet. Harry Lauder’s walking stick is hardy in zones 4 to 9.

    • Hydrangea: Huge flowers and bold foliage make Hydrangea macrophylla a summer show-off in 18-inch or bigger containers. Flowers in clusters a foot or more wide come in blue, pink, red, or white. Plants grow 4 feet tall and larger. Hydrangea macrophylla is hardy in zones 6 to.

    • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum): Japanese maple is just plain beautiful, whether spring green or fall red. And they’re the right scale for patio container plants. Japanese maples are hardy in zones 5 to 9.

    • Rose: There are thousands of roses, and theoretically you can grow all of them in containers. But some varieties are much better suited to container life than others. Rose hardiness depends on variety.

  • Evergreen: These hardy trees and shrubs hang onto their foliage year-round, making them good candidates for background plantings, for privacy screens, or to shield an unsightly view:

    • Aucuba: Aucuba japonica is grown for its bright red berries in fall and big, shiny leaves. Aucuba is hardy in zones 7 to 10.

    • Azaleas and rhododendrons: Consider yourself lucky if you live in an area where you can grow these magnificent, spring-flowering shrubs. Rhododendrons and azaleas are closely related. Check with local nurseries for varieties that do well in your area.

    • Boxwood: Boxwood is a shiny, dark green evergreen that lends itself to shearing in geometric shapes: globes, rectangles, and so on. Boxwood is hardy in zones 6 to 8.

    • Camellia: Grow camellias for their glossy, evergreen leaves and their beautiful flowers. Plants are handsome year-round, and in containers can grow slowly to 5 or 6 — or even 12 — feet. Camellias are hardy in zones 7 to 9.

    • Conifers: Conifers are available in a remarkable array of colors, forms, and sizes. Foliage may be green, blue-green, gray-green, chartreuse, gold, or silvery blue, depending on the species and variety. Look for dwarf or small-statured varieties and check hardiness ratings.

    • Daphne (Daphne burkwoodii): This evergreen shrub is easy to grow and reliable. Growing 3- or 4-feet tall, it produces sweet flowers in spring. Daphne is hardy in zones 5 to 8.

    • English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus): English laurel in a container makes a dense, glossy evergreen screen or backdrop for shady spots. Plants typically grow up to 6 feet tall, but compact types, such as Zabeliana, stay lower. English laurel is hardy in zones 6 or 7 to 9.

    • Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica): Not a real bamboo, nandina is a graceful, erect-growing evergreen shrub that performs solidly in all seasons. Clusters of small, white flowers bloom in spring and summer; red berries and crimson foliage follow in fall and winter. It’s hardy in zones 6 or 7 to 9.

    • Holly: Hollies can grow well in containers if they’re suited to your climate, you satisfy their rather demanding needs, and have enough patience to grow the plants for at least several years. Hardiness varies. In the United States, English holly is really reliable only in the Pacific Northwest and northern California.

    • India hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis): This dependable, versatile landscape plant provides glossy leaves year-round and bright pink flowers in spring. Plants form rounded mounds up to 4 feet tall. India hawthorn is hardy in zones 7 or 8 to 10.

    • Lily of the valley shrub (Pieris japonica): Lily of the valley shrubs always look nice. Their foliage is handsome year-round, tinged with red in spring. Little bell-shaped, white flowers are charming in spring. Lily of the valley is hardy in zones 6 to 8.

Achillea: Yarrow will grow in just about any conditions. Tall feathery foliage with flat flower clusters in a good color range are a great centerpiece in a container. For best flowering do not fertilize. Hardy to zone 3.

Aster: Asters love moist cool summers and are hardy to zone 4. Make sure they get plenty of sun, feed lightly but regularly and allow for good drainage.

Chrysanthemum: Mums do exceptionally well in containers with plenty of sun and moist soil. They bloom in late summer to frost. Choose a dwarf or compact variety and be careful about hardiness, some are not cold hardy at all.

Coreopsis: There are several species and varieties of coreopsis, all should do well in a container. They prefer a thorough watering weekly. Just take note of mature size and hardiness, some are even annuals.

Cranesbill: Hardy geraniums are perfect to form a mound that spills over a smaller container, or as a lower growing filler plant that will sprawl where it can find room in a larger container. Hardy to zone 5, some are hardy to zone 4.

Delphinium: Delphs can be fussy perennials, but that can be precisely why they can do well in a container if you are diligent about their care. A glazed container will help to retain moisture, choose a generous size. Watering should be consistent, usually every few days to keep the soil moist but not wet. Choose one of the shorter varieties and be sure to check on the feeding and care preferences. Hardy to zone 3.

Dianthus: This enormous family of carnations and pinks offers a broad range of bloom type and color that do very well in containers. Keep the soil evenly moist and feed monthly. Be careful of hardiness, ranging to zone 2, 3 or 4. But some are not cold hardy.

Echinacea: Coneflower has many tough varieties to choose from. Be sure to use a deep container and they will do very well. Bloom colors to pick from is broad.

Gaillardia: Blanket flowers are super tough with daisy like blooms and are hardy to zone 3. Do not overwater, wait for the soil to be quite dry before watering.

Hemerocallis: Daylilies will do well in containers, but the soil must be moist and very well drained. Amend potting soil with just a bit of compost. Most are hardy to zone 3.

Lavendula: Lavender loves to grow in containers. But they like it hot and dry with very well drained soil. Water only when the soil feels dry. Prune lightly in the spring before the plant buds. Choose a dwarf variety. Hardy to zone 5.

Nepata: Catmint are terrific container perennials. They are vigorous growers, tough, drought tolerant and some are hardy to zone 4.

Penstemon: Beard Tongue will do very well in a container with adequate drainage. You may want to add a bit of crushed rock to your potting mix. Deadhead the entire flower stalk when spent.

Primula: Primrose are a perfect spring blooming addition to a container garden. Keep the soil moist and feed monthly. Some are hardy to zone 3, but most only to zone 5.

Rudbeckia: Black-eyed Susans will thrive just about anywhere so they are perfect for containers. They can get quite large so you may prefer a dwarf variety and it will still want a large container. Most are hardy to zone 3, but some are biennial.

Salvia: Perennial sage have a long bloom time and a good range of color. Do not over water and choose a generous container size, they like to spread their roots.. Be careful of size, some can reach 6 feet tall when grown in the ground. Hardy to zone 4.

Sedum: Sedum are fall blooming succulents with interesting foliage. Choose a tall variety for fall blooms and height, or a mounding variety for fillers or a groundcover to spill over the container edge. Make sure your container provides excellent drainage and do not over water. Many Sedum are hardy to zone 2 and will overwinter in most regions with little or not protection.

Best Perennials for a Container in Shade or Part Shade

Astilbe: Graceful and delicate looking astilbe will add wonderful tall and colorful plumes of flowers to a shade container. Most varieties get quite large and will need a large container. Provide good drainage but keep the soil moist with frequent waterings. Hardy to zone 4.

Digitalis: Foxglove offer tall spikes of dense blooms. Since it is a biennial you may not get blooms the first year. Foxglove enjoy the cooler regions and does not tolerate heat well. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Feed monthly. Choose a compact variety, some can get well over 3 feet tall. Hardy to zone 4.

Heuchera: Coral Bell varieties are vast, some like more shade and some more sun. In addition to spring blooms, Coral Bells offer very interesting and colorful foliage to a shade container. Make sure you have excellent drainage and do not over water. Hardy to zone 4.

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Potted evergreens take a little more effort than evergreens that have been planted outdoors, or other small trees in potted plants kept indoors. Because these potted plants still have to go through their natural course of growth, it is important that you try to replicate those processes and conditions while they are kept in your home in order for them to survive. As more and more families switch to living Christmas trees that are then overwintered in the home, or if you just liked the look of an evergreen indoors, it is important that gardeners learn how to care for their new plants.

If you have a potted evergreen in your home, use these tips to keep your tree alive and flourishing.

Provide Moisture

One of the biggest mistakes made with potted evergreens is to place them near a constant source of hot, dry air, like a vent. Evergreens lose water through their needles and they push water out through their needles whenever they are becoming dry, so if they are located near a constant source of dry air the tree is going to become stressed. A stressed out tree will begin to drop needles and die. And a tree that has to use up its stored water faster than normal will also drop needles and die.

Always Pot a Size Up

The pot that you keep your evergreen tree in is very important, because it can hamper the overall growth of your tree. When you purchase your evergreen, pot it a size up, and do so at least once a year to ensure that the roots have space to grow. Because evergreen roots do not like to be kept wet, make sure that the pot you purchase has drainage holes and keep a water catching tray beneath the pot to prevent water stains.

Partial Sunlight

Your potted evergreen should be kept in a sunny room where sunlight can reach it, but do not place it in direct sun. Doing so indoors can cause the plant to become overheated because there is not a constant breeze or a way to self regulate like an outdoor existence would allow. Direct sunlight for hours at a time can also lead to the needles on the tree drying out faster than they are supposed to, which increases the trees water output and stress.

Allow for Wintering

Evergreens prepare their roots and trunk for wintering each year, soaking up as much water in the fall as they can hold so that it can be used in moderation during the long winter. Keep your evergreen on this cycle and water well into the end of fall. Add fertilizer to the soil once at the beginning of fall. After winter begins cut back waterings to once every couple of weeks so that the tree is able to get some water, but is not waterlogged or pulled out of its fast.

Special thanks to Sophie Sanchez for sharing her gardening knowledge with this guest post!

Q: I’m considering buying a small, live Christmas tree this year. It is about 3 feet tall and has its roots in a ball in a big container. I want to bring it in the first week of December like we do with cut trees, then plant it outside after the holidays, in January. Will this work?

A: You could do it, but having a living tree next growing season will not happen. A live tree can spend no more that two weeks indoors in a heated house before the tree comes out of dormancy, then the party is over for little evergreen.

While it is indoors, you must keep it watered, which means the tree has to have its rootball in something that will not leak on the floor. It should not be close to any heat sources, like heat ducts or a fireplace or wood stove. The tree can be moved to the garage afterward, but it needs to be an unheated garage with a window.

At that point, insulating the outside of the container with layers of newspaper and watering to keep the soil damp is critical.

The difficulty with planting a tree in December or January is that the ground is frozen — at least partially. And winter winds whipping through the needles can dry them to the point of falling off.

If you really want a live tree that will survive in your yard, wait until spring and buy one that has a better chance of being there next year and beyond. Make some Michigan Christmas tree grower happy and buy a tree you cut yourself or is freshly cut and make a season of it.

Q: I moved this summer to a rural area. There are so many plants, nuts, berries and mushroom growing all over this area, and not just on my property. I don’t know what they are but is it possible to eat some of these? Who can I get to teach me about what I can eat and what I cannot? I don’t enjoy reading. If animals eat it, can I? Can I go online and learn about the plants? I want to be able to forage a good part of my diet starting next spring.

A: It’s important to get over your fear of the printed word. Books will be your best teachers — especially books with good pictures. Those images are critical to seeing what the plants look like.

You can go to classes, but you can’t take the instructor home with you. Do not start grazing until you have done some serious homework. The most dangerous on your list is usually mushrooms. Try to locate a mushroom hunters club in your area and buy the books they suggest. Attend their meetings and learn from the experts. Purchase some books on edible plants and on poisonous plants. Check your library, local bookstores and online for titles dealing with North American wild edible plants. You want something to have and to read. Look at some of the field guides on edible wild plants and the Scout’s guide to wild edibles. Some are pocket size to take on your plant quests.

Any time you eat new foods, start slowly to make sure that it agrees with you. An easy way to start is with common plants that are best eaten young and uncooked. Add these to salads: dandelion, lambs’ quarters, plantain, purslane, chickweed and garlic mustard. Yes, that invasive plant is tasty.

And just because critters eat something is not a cue for you to consume it. Birds, especially, can consume berries that will put you in the emergency room.

Consider this the beginning to a lifetime of learning. Get permission from the land owner if you are hunting on property you do not own. And if you have a job, you may not have enough time to gather plants for most of your diet. But it’s still fun — and you get to eat your efforts.

Questions? Call the MSU Extension Master Gardener Hotline at 888-678-3464. Gretchen Voyle is an MSU Extension Horticulture Educator, retired.

Winterizing and Storing Potted Trees Over Winter

On the worst days of winter, your potted plants are likely a bit jealous of the nearby trees planted in the ground.
Think about it this way. In winter, other trees are tucked underground and coated with mulch, which protects their roots from the cold.
But potted trees sit out in the open. And when it comes to shielding roots from the cold, a container just doesn’t cut it.
Luckily, it’s easy to mimic that cozy, insulated environment for your trees in containers!

How to Overwinter Potted Trees (Including Apple, Maple and Evergreens)

In just a few steps, you can give your container tree a worry-free winter.

How should I be storing potted trees over winter?

  1. Option one: Plant it (temporarily!).
    If you’ve got the yard space, bury the tree in a hole, container and all! Then, spread mulch or leaves on top for extra insulation. This works best if you’d like to plant a new tree in spring. That way, you can re-use the hole you already dug!
  2. Option two: Store in a cool spot that doesn’t freeze, like your garage.
    Lots of containerized plants can spend the winter inside if the temperature’s 30- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. But you should do a little research on your plant to make sure it’ll be OK indoors with limited sunlight–especially if you have an evergreen with broad leaves, like a magnolia or crape myrtle, a tropical citrus tree or a tree that’s above a zone 7. Those trees could be injured by temperatures that approach freezing.
  3. Option three: Make a warm enclosure.
    Grab some chicken wire along with plenty of mulch or straw. Encircle the potted tree with wire, like you’re building a fence around it. Then, drop in the mulch or hay, completely covering the tree from the ground to the top of the container. This insulation should protect the tree’s roots from winter’s coldest temperatures, which are the most vulnerable part of the tree. Your goal is to keep the root system at or above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the mulch or straw you are using is not wet or damp. Excessive moisture may cause tissue rot.

Is that the same for potted maple, fruit or evergreen trees in winter?

Pretty much, but some trees, like evergreens and fruit trees, do appreciate a little extra care.

Before choosing the best way to winterize your potted evergreen or fruit tree, consider this.

  • Potted evergreens are especially prone to drying out. To combat that, use an anti-desiccant spray to help reduce moisture loss and keep them green in winter.
  • While apple trees usually handle the cold quite well, trees like citrus or peach don’t! They’re much more vulnerable to freezing temperatures. So, read up on how cold your specific tree can get. Then, if you need to, give it an extra layer of protection. Consider wrapping the pot in burlap before doing option two or three above.

Anything else I need to do to overwinter those potted or container trees?

Glad you asked! Right before autumn arrives, you should not heavily fertilize your tree with a fast-release nitrogen product. That way, it likely won’t start any new growth too close to winter. It’s still OK to use a slow-release fertilizer if you please.
Also, throughout the fall, water the tree if it hasn’t rained for several weeks. Then, plan for one last deep watering right before the first winter freeze. In winter, water the tree whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.



Search The Iowa Gardener



  • The Flowers Of Fall
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Trees & Shrubs

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  • Overwintering Potted Evergreens


  • Should I Let My Lawn Go Dormant
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Garden Know How

  • Frost Dates In Iowa
  • How to Use Compost
  • Hot Compost vs. Cold Compost
  • Happy Winter Houseplants
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  • Tips for Great Bulbs in Iowa
  • Powdery Mildew Remedy
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  • How to Spend Less Time Weeding
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  • Raised Garden Beds
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  • Starting Plants from Seed
    • Tips for Starting Plants from Seed
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  • Pruning
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    • How to Prune Small Trees
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  • Cool-Season and Warm-Season Annuals
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  • Fall Garden Checklist
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Pests, Weeds, and
Hungry Animals

  • Controlling Purslane
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  • The Evil Japanese Beetle
  • What’s Eating My Plants?
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  • Managing Iowa Wildlife, Moles
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Extra Extra

  • Order Veronica’s Book, “Gardening In Iowa”
  • Gifts For Gardeners
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  • How to Make a Mini Christmas Tree
  • Take a Tour of Veronica’s Garden
  • How to Make an Ice Lantern
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  • 11 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
  • Iowa Gardens to Visit
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