How to: Overwinter Your Annuals

Annuals offer fast growing, bright blooms, if only for a single season. When cold weather arrives, we tend to say farewell to our beloved annuals until we can replace them the next year. But what if we didn’t have to? Yes, as their name implies, annuals are known to last a single growing season, so it seems impossible to keep them alive longer than their allotted time. But, if we overwinter our annuals, we might just be able to enjoy them for years and years to come.

What is Overwintering?

Overwintering is the process of bringing annuals indoors to protect plants from frost damage as a result of freezing temperatures. Frost damage is detrimental to annuals and bringing them into our homes can prolong our plant’s life beyond a single season. While overwintering annuals feels a bit like bypassing the system, it is a lot easier than it seems and, because you are growing them yourself, can even save you money!

Overwintering annuals

Examples of annuals that overwinter easily:

  • Geraniums
  • Impatiens
  • Coleus
  • Calibrachoa

When Should You Bring Annuals Inside?

When overwintering annuals, timing is key! If we try to transport our plants too early, they could miss out on potential nutrients. On the flipside, if we try to transport them too late, our annuals may have already kicked the bucket. At the first sign of a light frost, our annuals begin to make nutrients in an attempt to survive the cold weather. This is a great time to begin the overwintering process because the available nutrients that would have otherwise gone to waste outdoors will help plants survive indoors instead.

Grooming Your Annuals

When our annuals have dead, dried out leaves, this means our plants are spending a lot of their time, energy, and nutrients on healing that particular unhealthy area. The best way to ensure your annuals survive the winter is to trim them substantially before repotting them. Groom your plants and remove any dead leaves; this is where a lot of the disease is and removing these leaves will ensure your plant focuses its energy on new, healthy growth. When overwintering a flowering plant, like Geranium, you can also cut off the flower itself, as this will ensure your plant is sending its nutrients to establish a healthy root system. Another thing to be on the lookout for is pests. If you notice any bugs crawling on the surface of your soil, you will want to inspect the leaves thoroughly before overwintering to avoid harming your other indoor plants.


When repotting your annuals, you will want to take your plant’s specific needs into consideration. Different plant species have different soil and container needs. Succulents and cacti, for example, do best in terracotta pots and well-drained soil. While many annuals will need to be repotted into the soil, some cuttings, like that of the coleus, can be placed directly into a cup of water and will sprout roots ready for planting by next spring.


Tip: Covering your plants with plastic helps retain moisture when indoors

Location, Location, Location

This step is pretty simple. Your annuals need lots of sunlight in order to survive the winter season, and so placing your plants in the brightest spot of your home will ensure they thrive. A windowsill that receives plenty of bright light will do!

Caring for Indoor Annuals

The good news is, your annuals will technically go dormant during the winter months, and so caring for them is relatively simple. Because they are inside, you will not need to water them as much as you normally would and, because they won’t be growing as much as they would outside, you will not need to add any fertilizer.

Who says we can only enjoy our annuals for one growing season? When temperatures dip, this does not mean we have to say goodbye to our plants. Overwintering can seem like a daunting task, but we hope these tips demystify the process and help you enjoy your annuals for many years ahead.

For more information on how to overwinter annuals, visit Patuxent Nursery today and chat with one of our many helpful plant specialists!

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