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protecting container plants in winter (that can't be moved)

Posted by joeschmoe 6 (Ohio) (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 10:39

If you have a plant in a container that cannot be moved in winter, say it's too large, for example, and it's normally hardy in your zone, is mulching around the pot usually sufficient?

Say you have a "patio" or dwarf type fruit tree in a container hardy to zone 6. It's reached a point where it's large enough that moving it is difficult or it's too large to store in a garage, coldframe, etc.

The old rule I've heard is that you are really two zones colder, effectively, for a plant in a container, since the pot is exposed on all sides, whereas an in-ground plant only has cold exposure from the "top" of the, if this plant is in zone 6, it would have to be approximately zone 4 hardy to survive.

If, rather than attempt to move this plant, you mounded up some type of mulch around the sides of the pot, maybe a little on top as well, has anyone done this? If so, what are the best types of mulch, and how much would you need to be effective?

What about other methods?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: protecting container plants in winter (that can't be moved)

I overwinter plants hardy to zone 6 (same zone I am in) in pots, using chopped-up leaves as mulch. Pots are sitting directly on ground, I only put a layer no more than 1-2" on top of soil, but more around the pot itself. Also surrounded by a 'cage' made of chicken wire to make sure the leaves don't get blown away.
Grouping pots also helps, leaving some space between pots filled with leaves too.

Most important, I think, is to make sure there is good drainage. If water sits in the container, the roots may rot.

I don't think more than that would be needed unless you try to overwinter plant rated for lower zone than yours - like the fig tree: friend of mine built a wire cage around his fig slightly taller than tree (after pruning so it's not so wide); wrapping this cage with burlap and filling it completely with leaves (straw is good too), covering top of the tree with few inches of it too.

I read (maybe here on GW?) that you could build enclosure and have christmas lights inside (not led) and they would warm-up inside sufficiently...and here is a link to thread using fluorescent lights in styrofoam enclosure:


RE: protecting container plants in winter (that can't be moved)

I have some tree seedlings in 1 gallon fabric pots (both Roottrappers and Smart Pots). My plan is to put them as close together as possible, and mulch between the pots and around the outside edges (making a mount that slopes down to ground level, reaching the ground about a foot away from the pots on the outside of the cluster) and maybe about an inch over the tops of the pots as well.

I'll also put them in a place that, in winter, is in 100% shade to keep the temperature cool enough that the pots won't heat up on warm days all that much.

RE: protecting container plants in winter (that can't be moved)

I read somewhere on a website that you can use that bubble wrap packing material to wrap around the outside of the container. Supposedly this helps insulate the container and soil from winter wind and cold. I've not tried this so I don't know if it would actually help insulate the soil and roots or not.


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