Landscape Planning In Winter: Using Containers

Many gardens and yards flourish all summer long only to look barren in winter. By then, it’s too late in many climate zones to plant trees and bushes for a winter landscape. But the dormant season is also the perfect time to plan your future winter landscape.

When the bare outlines of your yard are exposed, it’s easier to see where hardier trees, shrubs and plants could add dimension and color. Before you let your winterscaping vision fade into spring, seize the season by buying some young tough winter plants for outdoor containers—which, you can transplant into the ground in springtime. Watch as your winter container plants transition from being outdoor decorations to being the backbone of your yard’s landscape through all four seasons.

Winter Container Plants with Colors and Shapes for Every Season

Winter-hardy plants come in every size, shape and texture—in endless colors and subtle variegations.

Green foliage warms a landscape in any season, but shows especially well in winter when deciduous plants go dormant. Evergreen trees and shrubs are perennial fillers in every style of landscape. They form a lush backdrop in summer and become prominent focal points in winter, often popping with colorful flowers and berries. Evergreens—as well as the tougher evergreen conifers, grow in countless hues of green—from blue green to lime green and gold to silver.

No matter what region you live in, you could easily fill your winterscape from among the countless forms of evergreen plant species: A stately blue spruce tree grows to be a strong focal point and provides wind cover for a property. The low-growing wintergreen plant provides red and purple groundcover, with the added benefits of edible red berries and broadleaves, harvested traditionally as therapeutic tealeaves. Many types of evergreen English-ivies retain their colors year round. And old-fashioned boxwoods are one of many evergreen shrubs, which make a sturdy garden border.

For flowering plants, try holly or winter flowering pansies. Whichever types of winter plants you choose, native plants are natural choices for planning a winter landscape. Check local parks and nurseries for ideas and resources. Choose plants which will look as elegant in containers as they will when full grown in the design of your yard.

Keep Winter Plants at Home in the Right Climate Zone

To determine the climate zone which plants are most likely to survive in, refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, plant encyclopedias, or local nurseries list each plant’s designated zone—(the minimum temperature a plant can be expected to survive).

Since container plants aboveground are exposed to colder temperatures than plants under the ground, try to choose plants which are hardy, both in your local zone as well as another colder zone. The zone map is a good guideline, but plant survival varies with local conditions and microclimates.

Keep Your Container Plants Insulated from the Cold

Winter container plants need as much insulation as possible, since the roots do not have the benefit of being buried beneath the earth’s surface where temperatures are more constant. The bigger the container, the more soil there is to insulate roots from cold temperatures and fluctuations. More mature plants, with somewhat developed roots, will survive better in containers during winter.

Wood containers make good insulators. Impermeable materials like concrete, metal and plastic are also good shields from the elements. Keep all winter container plants off of the cold cement.

Hardy winter plants add dimensional beauty to your yard, whether they are in containers, transplanted in spring, or full grown in the ground through all the seasons. They balance and enhance the interesting patterns of bare branches and other interesting structures in your yard.

Make it easy by planting next year’s winterscape with this year’s decorative winter container plants.


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Heirloom Gardens, LLC

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