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Storing Your Pots for the Winter

by | Jan 25, 2016 | Garden Maintenance

Have you ever left your pots out all winter and found them cracked in the spring? One year I resolved to use plastic and planted some tulip bulbs in them. The pot didn’t crack but got water logged and the tulips rotted.

Donna Rudek's tufa pots stored in the garage for the winter

My tufa pots stored in the garage for the winter.

There are two ways to overwinter pots: You can buy 18 ” diameter resin or pots and plant some hardier perennials or shrubs in it, such as hardy dwarf shrub roses, host as, some grasses, day lilies and more. Just remember that the zone needed will be at least one zone colder than your region because the roots are less protected by the pot than in the soil. For central MA, that means you should look for a zone 4 or less plant. A foam or resin pot works better than plastic. Make sure there are extra drainage holes too.

Secondly, if you have a concrete or clay pot, the freeze-thaw of water in the pot causes the cracks. So, you can cover them with a wood box or tightly fitted top. Or, you can bring them into a protected space, such as a garage or shed. The latter is the obvious choice for smaller pots, if possible. In this case you might be able to get away with zone 5 plants. Covered spaces are really good for starting bulbs. Plant in the fall, water until hard frost and wait until spring.

Make sure that pots are well watered in the fall. If there is a thaw, check the soil in covered spaces, but I’m usually pretty lazy. Once spring arrives, say mid- to late March, see if the soil is starting to thaw. Once it’s pretty well thawed on the top, you can give the pots a small amount of water. This will get the roots growing. Pull out pots about the second week of April.

It may (not) be too late to start bulbs. You can plant indoors in slightly moist potting soil, and place in your garage, so long as the bulbs have a six week chilling period, colder than 40 degrees F. However, a brief scan of mail order options shows serious lack of availability at this time of year, with some availability at Amazon (mostly without Prime).

potted tulips brought out for the spring