How to Overwinter Plants: A Guide for Beginners
The summer breeze will soon be turning into brisk autumn air. But contrary to popular beliefs, cooler temperatures don’t mean you have to say goodbye to your garden.
Learning how to overwinter your plants allows you to bring your garden indoors and keep it flourishing and thriving through the cold months. By following a few steps on how to overwinter your plants, you can admire your favorite plants all year long.
What is Overwintering Plants?
Overwintering seems like a daunting term, but in reality it is simply protecting your plants from the cold by sheltering them in your home, basement, garage, or anywhere indoors. While some plants can be taken inside and continue growing as houseplants, others need to go through a dormancy period.
If your plant needs to go through a dormancy period, it should be overwintered in a cool, dark environment, like your garage or basement. Some plants may also require that you store their bulbs throughout winter, if you want them to bloom again in the spring.
There are many reasons to keep your plants kicking all year long. No matter what types of plants you may have, the key to keeping plants alive during the cold seasons means learning how to overwinter your plants the right way.
Overwintering your plants means a little extra work for you, but in the long run, it can save you time and money. While there is necessary work required for bringing outside plants indoors for winter, you will no doubt see that it’s worth the effort. Some advantages of overwintering your plants include:
- Earlier spring harvests
- There’s no need for replanting
- You can avoid repurchasing the same plants each year
Once you’ve decided to overwinter your plants, you need to understand the different needs of each plant. This means first and foremost knowing which plants need to be brought inside for winter.
Plants to Bring Inside for Winter
Deciding which plants to bring inside for winter can depend on several factors. You may not be able to bring every plant inside, so ask yourself these questions:
- Which plants are your keepsakes or favorites?
- Which plants are the most expensive to replace?
- Which plants are disease and pest free?
- Which/how many plants do you have room for?
After you’ve determined which plants you ‘re going to keep inside, you need to think about what your plants will require indoors. Plants that can be brought inside fall into two main categories: those that require a winter dormancy and those that can remain actively growing.
Plants That Require a Winter Dormancy
There are certain plants that require winter dormancy instead of simply moving them into your home. This means storing the plants (or their bulbs) in a dark, cool place. Some of these plants include:
- Calla lilies
- Elephant ears
- Tuber roses
Plants That Can Remain Actively Growing
On the other hand, some plants are perfectly fine as indoor houseplants and will continue to grow per usual. You can take care of these plants by giving them the correct amount of water and sunlight, and they will be fine, acting as an addition to your indoor decor. Some of these plants include:
- Fibrous begonia
When to Bring Plants Inside for Winter
A key piece of learning how to overwinter your plants is finding out when to bring plants inside for winter. Typically, the best time will vary depending on your plants’ hardiness and the area where you live.
Plant Hardiness Zone Map
The hardiness of your plants will determine when you need to bring them indoors. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map allows you to see the plant hardiness specific to your zone.
Once you figure out what zone you’re in, you can compare it to the upcoming frost dates. Determining the hardiness of a plant as well as the frost dates will help you to know when to bring your plants inside.
Frost dates refer to the average date of the last light freeze in the spring or the first light freeze in the fall. Freeze temperatures are classified based on their effect on plants. These can be broken down into three classes:
- Light freeze: 29 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees Fahrenheit
- Moderate freeze: 25 degrees Fahrenheit to 28 degrees Fahrenheit
- Severe freeze: 24 degrees Fahrenheit and colder
Frost dates are calculated based on data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. There are many tools you can use to look up the frost dates for your area.
Remember, frost dates are on overall estimate based on climate data, which means they aren’t set in stone. It’s important to keep an eye on your local weather forecast and plan accordingly.
5 Steps for Winter Plant Storage
Once you are ready to bring your plants indoors, there are steps you can take to prepare for winter plant storage. Learning how to overwinter your plants means understanding not only which plants to bring in, but also what to do with them once they are indoors. Here are the five simple steps to remember before bringing your plants indoors for the cold season:
1. Debugging Plants to Bring Inside
You don’t want any bugs coming inside, so always remember to debug your plants first. Check the top of the soil, the top of the leaves, and the undersides of leaves. Look out for anything that is crawling and remove it to ensure your plant stays healthy inside. You can also hose your plants down or spray them with a preventative insecticide.
2. Grooming and Trimming
Make sure you trim off any leggy branches and make any aesthetic cuts to shape your plants. You will also want to trim dead leaves and spent blooms because that is how diseases and insects often find their way indoors.
If any of your plants need to go up a size or two for their containers, you will want to repot before you bring them inside. You should also pot any plants you have dug up from your garden that weren’t originally in a pot.
4. Watering with a Deep Soak
Giving your plants a big drink of water before you bring them inside will help them become established in their new containers as well as release nutrients in the fresh topsoil.
5. Indoor Plant Lights for Winter
The most important thing to remember when you bring your plants inside is to pay attention to the light level each requires. Outdoor plants receive far more light from the sun than indoor plants, so it’s easy to underestimate the light they need. Reading an indoor plant light guide will help you figure out where each plant should be placed in order for it to receive its necessary sunlight.
After you’ve finally brought your plants inside, you can enjoy them all winter long! Having an indoor garden is just as beautiful as one in your backyard, but it requires work as well!
Make sure you are paying attention to each plant’s requirements while they are indoors so you can keep them growing, healthy, and ready for the warm weather when it comes.