potted plants

How to Keep Outdoor Potted Plants Alive in Winter

potted pansies
Potted Pansies

When the temperature drops in winter, keeping potted plants alive is a concern for many.  All you have to do is give them some extra care to withstand the cold temperatures.

One reason potted plants need extra TLC (tender loving care) in winter is that there is not much of a shield between the roots and the freezing temperatures.

It is always advised to watch the weather forecast and take preventive measures well before the first frost.

If you’re wondering which plants to put in containers, check out this article titled, Plants That Stay Green in Winter.


Placement is Important

Even indoors, the temperature is low in the entrances and corridors, and it will be too cold for non-hardy plants to survive.

Ornamental plants are particularly vulnerable to the cold.  Put these plants in a warm place.

Another thing to consider is the temperature at night. At night, the area near windows is chilled by the cold.  It is best to move any plants that are near windows to the center of the room at night.

Also, avoid places where the air conditioner blows directly. If it is too dry, adjust the humidity with a humidifier or a spray bottle.


Mulching is the process of covering the soil around a plant.

There are two types of mulch; organic and inorganic.  Organic mulch is made from materials that were once alive, such as leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips, etc.  Inorganic mulch is made from black plastic or geotextiles.

Plants that are placed outdoors should be mulched in winter to protect the roots and shoots from frost.

Cover plants

Covering plants is a great way to protect them from freezing temperatures.  Plants can be covered with frost cloths, burlap, blankets, bubble wrap, or even plastic bags.

More Lawn Tips:  How to Preserve Seeds for Future

Plants need to be covered before nightfall, so the warmth from the sun will be trapped in with the plants.  Remove covers during the day to prevent moisture buildup.

Start from the bottom and go up when covering plants.

Winter Watering

In winter, reduce the frequency of watering. Even if the surface of the soil is dry, if the leaves are not wilting, you can wait another day and then water it.

Water plants around the middle of the day so that the water will be fully absorbed before the temperatures drop in the evening.  The temperature of water is above freezing, which means that it gives off heat and helps to insulate the roots.

When the forecast predicts freezing temperature, make sure your plants have been watered well before the freeze hits.  Dry plants will suffer more damage from a freeze than a well-watered plant.

Heavy watering is not good for the health of your plants and can cause fungal diseases.  During winter, water with lukewarm water, near the base of the plant.  Don’t splash water over its leaves because that can cause foliar leaf spots.


Most plants do not need fertilizer during the winter months.  If you choose to fertilize in winter, fertilizer should be applied once or twice and in a diluted form.

When shopping for fertilizer, a 1-2-1 NPK fertilizer is a good nutrient mix to use.  Make sure you read and follow the label instructions.  Don’t forget to wear protective clothing when handling and applying the fertilizer.

Insect Pest & Disease Control

Potted plants usually have poor drainage.  It is easy to accidentally overwater a potted plant.

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Heavy watering may result in fungal diseases like root rot in outdoor potted plants. Proper pest management is necessary to control insects using the least toxic way at its early stages.

Although pesticides/fungicides are very effective, use them only when necessary to minimize insect pest attacks in your garden.

Weed Control

Weed control is more than just handpicking weeds and who has time for that? Weeds can take over quickly, so start weeding before things get out of control.  Select an herbicide that can kill weeds and use it according to the directions.

Does a covered porch protect plants from frost?

A covered porch usually provides protection from light frost, but the garage or sunroom is better for freezing temperatures. A few days in the dark won’t hurt plants.

Even just moving plants to the side of your house will give them extra protection from the weather.

If cold temperatures persist, move plants outside during the day and back inside at night.   

Final Thoughts

potted succulents
Potted succulents

Potted plants add a sense of style and flair to our outdoor gardens that cannot be beaten.

While many plants and flowers go dormant in winter, potted plants are typically full of green and pops of color. Because these plants have not gone dormant, they require extra love and care to survive the winter weather.

Follow the above mentioned tips and your potted plants will be bright and vibrant all winter long.


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