Beautiful Winter Container Gardening Ideas

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You don't have to put all your flowerpots away just because winter is approaching. There are many flowers and foliage plants that can survive and even thrive in cold weather. By choosing the right plants and combining them in the right pot, you can enjoy beautiful container gardens through fall and into winter.

Choose the Right Pot

If you live in a cold-winter area with long stretches of below-freezing temperatures, you will need to put away your terracotta, ceramic or plastic pots for the winter. These are likely to shatter if exposed to repeated freezes and thaws.

Stick with pots made of wood, concrete or poly resin for your winter garden, and the larger the better. Plants are likelier to freeze in pots smaller than 14 inches in diameter.

Choose the Right Plants

There are many annuals that are bright spots of color through fall and into winter. Many will tolerate even mild freezing temperatures. Look for these at your garden center:

  • Pansies
  • Stock
  • Snapdragon
  • Calendula
  • Cyclamen
  • Candytuft
  • Nemesia
  • Iceland Poppy
  • Ornamental Kale
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Great looking perennials that take to life in a container and will brighten up your winter garden include:

  • Coral Bells
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Sedum
  • Calibrachoa
  • Primrose

You can even mix in small evergreen shrubs to provide form and interest to a winter container. Some to look for:

  • Dwarf Arborvitae
  • Dwarf Hollies
  • Dwarf Junipers
  • Boxwood

Once you have your plants, container and potting soil, it's time to create your winter containers.

Annual Color Burst

Here's an easy pot of annual beauties that will bloom well into winter.

You will need:

3 (4-inch) snapdragons, any variety that grows over 16 inches tall

1 six pack of stock

1 six pack of pansies

16-inch diameter pot

  • Fill your container with soil to 5 inches below the lip.
  • Position the snapdragons in the center of the pot, placing them so they are almost touching. Add potting soil to hold snapdragons in place.
  • Place the stock around the snapdragons, spacing them evenly.
  • Fill in the outer ring with the pansies.
  • Use potting soil to fill in the rest of the pot, leaving a 1-inch lip at the top.
  • Water to settle the soil, and add more to any low spots.
  • Set the flowers in a sunny location.

Perennial Planting

Arborvitae will stay green even in the snow.

You will need:

1 (1 gallon) Emerald arborvitae

3 (4-inch) ornamental kale

1 (1 gallon) coral bells

1 six pack of pansies

24-inch diameter pot

  • Fill your container 2/3 of the way with potting soil.
  • Set the arborvitae in the pot, almost touching the back. Add soil so the plant's base will be 1 inch below the lip of the pot.
  • Position the coral bells on the right side of the arborvitae.
  • The three ornamental kales should be planted to the left of the arborvitae, in a triangular pattern.
  • Plant the pansies in the front of the pot.
  • Fill in with soil, tamping it down firmly with your fingers.
  • Water thoroughly, and place in a sunny spot.

Evergreen Color

Evergreens for winter color will keep your garden going strong.

You will need:

1 (1 gallon) small boxwood

2 (4-inch) holly "Rock Garden"

3 (4-inch) creeping juniper "Golden Carpet"

20-inch diameter pot

  • Fill the container with soil 2/3 full.
  • Position the boxwood near the back of the container, using soil to hold the plant with its base 1 inch below the pot's lip.
  • Set a holly on each side of the boxwood, spacing them slightly forward.
  • Arrange the creeping juniper around the front section of the pot.
  • Fill in with potting soil to hold all plants in place, tamping soil down firmly with your fingers.
  • Water thoroughly, and set in the sun.

You can plant pots of any favorite cool-season flowers, and fill in with twigs and branches off any attractive tree or shrub as the flowers succumb to the weather.

Fall Through Winter

This container will be beautiful through much of the winter season, depending on weather severity. As you lose plants, simply tuck a few twigs with berries or interesting bark into the pot to take their place.

You will need:

1 (1 gallon) chrysanthemum

3 (4-inch) ornamental kale

1 six pack of pansies

3 (4-inch) trailing lilyturf

20-inch diameter pot

  • Fill the container with soil to a few inches below the pot's lip.
  • Position the chrysanthemum towards the back of the pot, keeping the base of the plant 1-inch below the pot's edge.
  • Space the ornamental kale evenly around the chrysanthemum.
  • Set a pair of pansies in each opening between the ornamental kales.
  • Plant the lilyturf around the edge of the pot, spacing evenly.
  • Fill in with potting soil, using your fingers to pat it down firmly.
  • Water thoroughly before setting the pot in a sunny spot.

Winter doesn't have to be the end of your container garden. Start with cool-season annuals and perennials, use small shrubs for evergreen interest, and fill in any holes that develop over the winter with interesting twigs and branches from shrubs and trees in your yard, or purchase them at a crafts store.

You can keep your containers going through the winter with a little imagination, and have color and beauty all season long.

Last Updated: November 28, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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