Many gardeners have containers in their gardens, patios and entrance ways. There is no need to give up on them just because winter is approaching. In fact, this is the time our gardens are in most need of some color and winter interest. You can even use the containers that held your warm season plantings, as long as they are frost resistant.
Creating a winter design is not difficult but plants are less cold hardy in a container than when planted in the ground because the roots are not insulated from the freezing temps. The general rule for plant survival through the winter is to use plants hardy to at least two zones colder than your USDA Hardiness Zone; which is zone 7 here in Maryland.
The good news is that winter containers usually only need to be checked monthly for water to make sure they haven’t dried out. When the soil becomes frozen solid, watering is no longer necessary.
When it comes to designing your winter interest container, keep in mind the same combinations of “thrillers, spillers and fillers.” Small evergreens such as boxwoods, small arborvitae and dwarf spruce trees can be the backbone of your display. Evergreens are not limited to trees and shrubs though. Hellebores, ground covers and some ferns will maintain their foliage through the cold months to provide the fillers and spillers for your container.
Other foliage plants like ornamental kale and cabbage can add color and interest as well. Old favorites like pansies and violas will last well into the winter months. There are also plants like Hellebores that only bloom in the winter. For a little more longevity, place some spring blooming bulbs in the container.
This time of year it is easy to find interesting stems like red twig and yellow twig dogwoods that you can add for height and color. In fact, you can make an entire winter interest container out of fresh cut greens like pine tips, holly, magnolia leaves, juniper branches and pinecones.
If you’re still not convinced you can do it yourself, Patuxent Nursery has some great combinations already potted for you.