Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick Winter storage for your homeless Plants: Fall Gardening Task #8

Did you buy those extra bargains at the end-of-year plant sales only to get home and not know where to put them?

Do you have more plant cuttings potted up than you have space for in your garden beds?

A potted perennial in the open winter air will get much colder than your other plants in the ground.  So, if you are not sure where to plant it this moment, then an alternate plan is in order. (A side note: A good rule of thumb when buying plants for pots meant to stay outside all winter is to buy plants/shrubs that can handle one or even two hardiness zones colder than where you live.)

One option for your homeless perennials is to "heel in" your plants for the winter months. I believe it is called this because you are burying the pots just a few inches deep, up to their "heels".

First, I like to chose a location with a little bit of shelter (ie. a nearby bush, a fence or wall) but it needs not to be covered completely because you want your plant to be watered by the rain and snow.
My chosen spot: near the fence and lilac bush where they can cozy in for the winter.
 Next, dig a pot-sized hole to 2 or 3 inches deep. Deeper will give them more warmth, so if they are your prized cuttings from your grandmother's rose bush, dig a little more. "Plant" your pots, filling soil back around their edges. If I have more than one pot, I plant them snug next to one another. Some gardeners dig a trench, which would be much quicker for a large number of pots.

Geranium 'Rozanne' and a heuchra planted three inches deep in their pots.
Then, tuck some leaves or other mulching material around your pots to give some more insulation. It is a good idea to do this for all young perennials for their first winter, even those planted properly.

Night, night pretty plants. Cozy wishes for the winter!
In our cold climate, even some of my larger pots with hardy trees and bushes will be safer with a bit of cover. I just potted up a small Japanese maple tree this summer that I would like to ensure makes it thorough the winter. So I buried it a bit and tucked it on the other side of the lilac.
Potted baby tree heeled in for the winter

Fall Gardening Tasks Series:

#1 Planting Lavender in wet climates

#2 New perennials for fall planting

#3 Thin Perennial Seedlings

#4 Bring in the tender plants (more whimsy than informative)

#5 Mowing leaves into Turf 

# 6 Planting Spring Bulbs

# 7 Edging and Removing Turf


  1. Excellent advice. Anything in a pot is far more vunerable to frost damage. I am doing my best to avoid any end of season bargains as I still have some purchases from last year to get in the ground :) Most of them are in a cold frame which I can close over when it gets really cold. The frame is near the house wall which throws out some beneficial heat. Have been busy though as you suggest in your post applying extra layers to some treasured plants in the garden.

  2. When I first moved to the new house I brought many tiny bits of plants I wanted to take and heeled them in...most survived..this year I was lucky to get it all planted...wonderful practice...

  3. What a good bit of advice, have loads sitting here in their pots, now I know what I am going to do today !!

  4. some bareroot plants arrived the same day as the snow Monday, the snow went today so I hope to get into the garden tomorrow to heel them in, great advice as it really does help, I hope your girls don't get their snow until you have all your plants tucked up, Frances

  5. oh no blogger did it again, i should have been Island Threads, Frances

  6. I would never think to do this, so thanks for the idea and the instructions. I love this series, by the way!

  7. Great advice as usual Julie, thank you. Christina

  8. Great advice... needless to say I still have my row of pots sheltered by the wall...


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