Potted plants add decorative dimension to outdoor living spaces. Gardeners place a variety of plants into containers. Perennial shrubs and flowers have the potential to return each year for another round of beautiful foliage and blooms. Potted plants, however, do require protection from cold winter temperatures. Outdoor potted plants need special care during the winter to keep the plant healthy for the following growing season.
Water the outdoor potted plants regularly through the fall months and monthly through the winter. Soil should be moist to the touch. Do not overwater to the point where soil becomes soggy. The University of Massachusetts Extension Service explains that plants use water as a source of heat as it freezes. Dry soil freezes faster than damp soil. Freezing heaves the soil and causes potential damage to tender plant roots.
Allow the foliage of the plant die. Perennials return each year with new growth from the roots upward. Do not prune back dead or dying foliage since this material acts as another form of insulation. Dead foliage also captures snow that forms an excellent insulation blanket over sleeping plants.
Protect the plants from cold winter temperatures by digging a trench in the garden to sink the pot into the soil. Use a spade shovel to dig a hole at least 12 to 15 inches deep. Hole depth should accommodate the pot up to a level 2 to 3 inches beneath the rim.
Place the pot into the hole and fill in around the pot. Pile mulch around the exposed portions of the pot and across the top of the pot. This protective layer of mulch helps maintain a sustained temperature and retains moisture.
Above Ground Winter Protection
Choose a location with southern exposure against a structure. This location provides consistent light during winter days to warm the soil, and potted plants can survive with a light protective covering.
Move the potted plants to this location after the first frost. Allow foliage to die before placing a protective covering over the pot.
Mound loose straw around each pot to cover all the sides and over the top. Fill in the space between the pots with straw.
Water the plants monthly to ensure adequate moisture in the potting soil.
About this Author
S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.