Perennials in Whiskey Barrels- Zone 5?

mmqchdygg(Z5NH)October 27, 2009

Just wondering what types of Ps will do well in WBs, or if I should not consider it because of the 'container' aspect of things freezing?

While I love changing up my WBs each year, I'm finding some great looking perennials that I'd consider stuffing into them if suitable.

Thanks for the tips!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

its all about winter drainage ....

and the effects of winter sun on the barrel ....

the trick with all plants... [not annuals ] .... is GET THEM DORMANT >>>> KEEP THEM DORMANT ...

so a pot that thaws in the middle of winter.. in z6 or colder ... will have big problems ...

and.. if the pot freezes solid ... and rain or snow melt.. builds up water levels in the pot .... then death can occur.. roots need air.. as much as water ...

in other words.. big stinking holes in the bottom.. and potting media that can deal with the whole process ...

i knew i was going to move.. i grew a tricolor beech and a larix in huge pots for 2 years ... no problem ... and in fact.. the beech as in a half whiskey barrel ...

good luck


    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 11:11AM
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The key is to select plants that are fully hardy - at least one to 2 zones lower than your own is the recommended cutoff - and provide the best possible potting medium. As Ken notes, very good drainage is key. I wouldn't worry too much about dormancy - even with an extended thaw period, it is unlikely the soil in the whiskey barrel would heat up enough to push the plant out of dormancy early.

You might want to visit the Container Gardening forum for some ideas on an appropriate potting mix. I cannot emphasize enough how critical this is to successful long term container plantings.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 12:33PM
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I've had good luck with the "usual suspects," ie the tough as nails plants like daylilies, sedums, perennial asters, Acorus, coral bells.

Hostas have been iffy -- some made it, some didn't.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 12:34PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I must respectfully disagree with the above post ;-)

I have had no problems whatsoever with thawing. In fact, it takes quite awhile for it to thaw out, even once it is starting to feel spring-like outside.

Water can pool up on the top of the dirt if it freezes as snow starts to melt. But then again, that often happens in my garden as well in early spring. Never seems to harm anything, thank goodness.

Ken is right about soil and drainage holes. I put quite a few holes in the bottom of mine. I also put a few inch layer of river rocks at the bottom. I think I might have also put some 'filler' soil in there from my yard. The soil here in places is sandy, so that will also help with drainage. I mixed compost, top soil (didn't happen to have any good potting mix on hand) and a bit of fine gravel.

I have planted mostly annuals in them over the years, but a few perennials have seeded themselves in there from a few years ago. There are several Eupatorium in there (bloomed this year!) that is really happy, which is a problem ;-) I also have tulips in there and they are also fine with the conditions.

I think plant selection is important if you plan to put a perennial in your barrel. I think just planting one of those super-hardy, do-it-all perennials would work. As long as it doesn't mind fluxuating conditions it should be fine.
Hope this has helped you some.
Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 12:52PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I have a whiskey barrel with a really big Rodgersia in it. It's gorgeous! Has been in that big 'ol pot, for oh maybe 6-7 years now. I leave it on the patio all winter. It's on my lower patio, so I cannot drag it up the stairs, obviously. I push it against the wall of the house and barricade it with bags of leaves or straw bales (which I subsequently use in the spring as mulch).

I've grown so many things in pots over the years - tree peony, roses, etc. - and have overwintered nursery pots of unplanted stuff I didn't get planted. when I moved years ago, you should have seen the amount of stuff I potted up in the fall, kept in the garage over winter, and then dragged to my new house in the very early spring - perennials, roses, even a couple Japanese maples.

If I need to overwinter something in a pot, I drag what potted plants I can into the unheated garage to overwinter (this year, just a tree form hydrangrea, I think that's all). I have never lost any potted plants over the winter in the unheated garage, and they freeze solid in there. I just make sure they're well watered before dragging in there, and come about end of January of February I pack a couple inches of snow on each pot so when the spring thaw comes, the melting snow slowly and gently waters the pots. The barricading method works well, too, if you don't have garage or shed space for storage.

The point is: Go for it! :0)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 2:23PM
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I'm surprised hostas didn't do better in a container. That's one of those very tough, very cold hardy perennials that seems to be tailor made for container plantings. But again, the incorrect potting soil or inadequate drainage can certainly have an impact on how well plants will do in a container regardless of zone.

I'd encourage the OP to visit the Container Gardening forum and read some of the posts discussing appropriate potting soils as it will greatly increase your chances for long term success with perennials in containers. Garden soil should be avoided in any container planting and there are some interesting tips there on what other additives/soil amendments will do for drainage and aeration.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 5:06PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

I've had good success with hostas in pots. I agree with gardengal that you need to look for plants that are 1 to 2 zones lower before even starting. Could you experiment with perennial divisions from your garden to see what may/may not do well? That way it's free and you won't feel too bad if you lose them.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 6:53PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

I have these plants growing in WB for several years:
- Asters
- Bearded Iris
- Sedum
- Curly Willow
- Creeping Phlox
- Garden Phlox
- Carex muskumiensis
- Rudbeckia hirta
- Liatris spicata
- Rudbeckia triloba
- Orange Tiger Lily - Lilium lancifolium

The barrels are left on the patio out in the open all year.
Yes, drainage is the key and use the hardiest plants you can find. I killed a beautiful hosta left in a barrel, so don't do hosta.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 7:08PM
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Interesting -- I grow all sorts of hostas in containers, most not nearly as large as a whiskey barrel, and never lost one :-) I tend to plant them by themselves since they fill out and take up so much room and then move the pots to "decorate" portions of my shade garden that have too many tree roots to plant in the ground easily.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 7:17PM
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Thanks all, for the tips! I keep forgetting about the container forum- simply because I've resolved myself to the fact that I suk at container gardening in general, so it never occurs to me to visit that forum. The only thing that comes close is the whiskey barrel plantings that, because they are so big, I don't have to "maintain" so it works for me. I usually only stick one type of annual in them- nothing fancy like a 'real' container planting LOL.
For now, I stuck a few tulips in there, and will certainly take note of all the suggestions given. THANK YOU!
FWIW, I have a mixture of compost, a little leftover loam, and some leftover pro-mix in all of my whiskey barrels. They get top-dressed each spring with another few scoops of compost, and stirred in as much as I can reach down with my little shortie kodiak shovel. I'll stir in what's laying around in the fall- some mowed grass and a few leaves, too.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 8:34AM
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