The recent weather has been quite devastating in our gardens and many of our plants have been struggling to survive. The heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures have caused damage to several evergreen shrubs that have been considered to be hardy and reliable. It may be a good time to have a rethink about the plants we choose when we come to plant up the gaps in our borders that this winter will leave behind. Even with our best efforts there is a good chance that we will lose a plant or two due to circumstances beyond our control.

It is worth considering how you can protect container plants because they are more exposed to the cold, compared to plants with their roots underground. There are a few things that we can do to overwinter container plants.

If you have a suitable spot in your garden you could plant them temporarily for the winter, or sink them in the ground still in their pots. A mulch of bark or leaves will give them further protection.

For small containers and pots you could place them in a larger container and fill the side with compost or mulch. The more soil in the pot, the better insulated the roots will be.

Place your container plants close together so they can insulate each other and position them in a sheltered spot. Near to the house or a south facing wall would be ideal.

If you are concerned about one or two plants in particular then you could wrap chicken wire around the container and fill with dry leaves, mulch or straw.
Another thing to be aware of is that once the ground freezes under a container, water cannot escape from the bottom of the pot. This can cause the pot to fill with water which will turn into a block of ice. The container will then thaw before the ground does resulting in the roots being sat in wet soil and causing them to rot. This can be avoided by tilting the pot slightly or by raising it up off the groung with some blocks, taking care not to obstruct the drainage holes.
If you have a coldframe or even better, unheated greenhouse space, then this is the perfect place for overwintering container plants. Not only can you keep some of the cold and frost off them but you can also control the amount of water they get. It is often waterlogged soil rather than the cold that is the most harmful to our potted plants.

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