10 Tips How To Care For Potted Evergreens In Winter

Potted evergreens in Clay pots of different shapes and sizes

Growing potted evergreens require special care during winter. Evergreens in containers can add life and provide a feeling of permanence and beauty in your space, especially when you place them out on patios, decks, or used to accent front doors.

However, containerized shrubs often experience severe winter injury that leads to death if left unprotected from the extreme cold.

When the temperatures dip below freezing, the roots of shrubs planted in containers are susceptible to the extreme cold, causing the roots to heave out of the soil leading to the plant’s death.

Unprotected roots are vulnerable to drying winds, and branches are prone to breakage. Besides, sudden fluctuations of the temperature can also cause damage to the containers causing it to crack when the soil freezes during the frost months.

How To Care For Potted Evergreens During Winter

Shrubs in containers can make for an attractive green screen on a balcony or a gorgeous frame for a doorway.

Also, evergreens thrive well in containers and are cold hardy in most environments. But growing shrubs in containers makes them more susceptible to the sudden change of temperature.

So if you have a potted evergreen or considering one in your home, take a look and see how you can use these helpful hints and tips to keep your potted evergreens flourishing come spring.

1) Provide The Right Container

Potted evergreens in plastic containers
Image by: fafard.com
  • When selecting containers for your evergreens, check the potential size and height of your plants when it reaches maturity before making a purchase. Evergreens have naturally large root balls and require a lot of soil to thrive.
  • Use containers at least 2 or 3 times wide than the root ball of your plant, and make sure to pick one as deep as you can find.
  • Size up the container at least once a year to ensure the roots have room to grow.
  • Evergreen roots do not like to stay wet, so make sure to choose a pot with adequate drainage.
  • You can put a piece of wire mesh over the hole to hold the soil before filling the potting mix.
  • You can also provide a water catching tray under the pot to prevent water stains that may spoil the beauty of your space when you place them on your patio.
  • Also, containers can get extremely heavy when filled with potting mix. So position them in the place where you want them to be before adding the potting mix.
  • Or you can invest in a container caddy with wheels to move the plant effortlessly every time you want to change the plant’s position.
 Types of Containers to Choose From
  • Plastic

Plastic containers are typical to many potted tree growers, but light-colored plastic containers do not absorb heat more than dark colors. It helps keep the soil and roots from overheating during the summer.

However, you can cover them with dark-colored materials, or you could dig holes and sink the pots in the ground with just their rims showing during the winter.

Some evergreens potted in large plastic containers fit inside decorative pots during the growing season. And in winter, growers bring them inside a sheltered but unheated building to protect from the frost.

  • Concrete

Concrete containers are durable and can last for many years of use. You can also paint the planter to enhance the look and match the theme of your garden.

  • Wood

Wood containers create a natural yet elegant look. You can paint or stain to enhance or preserve the quality of the planters.

  • Terracotta & Clay

Terracotta or clay are typical for potted tree growers. They come in attractive styles and can be glazed.

However, the materials are porous and will likely expand when it freezes, cracking the container. When potting evergreens with terracotta or clay, store them in the shed or cover with frost cloth over the winter.

2) Use Disease-free Potting Soil

Hand holding the potting soil on the brim of the clay pot.
Image by: triblive.com
  • Use enriched or disease-free potting soil that can retain moisture and allows proper aeration. Conventional garden soil is heavily compacted, lacks aeration, and does not hold the moisture your plant’s need.
  • Adding compost is also beneficial to your plants, but make sure it is free from harmful organisms. Of course, you do not want to introduce disease and pests to your sterilized potting soil.

3) Mulch & Water Before Winter Begins

Mulched young evergreen tree
Image by: extension.umn.edu
  • Water the plant generously until the fall.
  • And toss a generous amount of mulch on the top surface of the soil.
  • Also, do not fertilize the tree after mid-summer. Doing so will encourage your plant to cease growth gradually and harden off in preparation for winter.

4) Harden Off Your Plants Gradually

Potted evergreen living Christmas trees.
Image by: thestar.com

Help your evergreens survive by making sure the plant is going into the winter in a healthy state.

Some evergreen growers tie up the branches of their plants to protect from the weight of snowfall. But if you’re a bit fearless, incorporating snow into your tree care is also beneficial.

Snow can protect your evergreens from the harsh elements and insulates them from freezing temperatures.

The winter sun can dry out the needles, turning them brown come spring. So if an upcoming snowstorm is in the forecast, letting go of your worries and embracing the flurries can help save your plants.

5) Provide Partial Sunlight

Two white chairs and a potted cypress
Image by: hgtv.com
  • You can move small potted young plants in a sheltered area when a snowstorm is in the forecast.
  • Place your potted evergreen in a sunny room with partial sunlight to penetrate inside, but do not position it in an area with direct sun.
  • Evergreens that are under direct sunlight for a few hours can lead to needles drying faster than they are supposed to. Thus, increasing the plant’s dehydration and stress.

6) Take Advantage Of Frost Cloths 

Young evergreen trees covered with burlap
Image by: gardeningknowhow.com
  • Larger plants are heavy and hard to move inside, and protecting them can be challenging. However, you can cover the plant and container either with frost covers or tree wraps to protect them from sunscald and other possible frost injuries.
  • You can also add a cylinder cage tall enough to enclose the entire plant to protect the branches from possible breakage.
  • Gently tie the branches together so they won’t get damaged when you pack the frost cloths around the young tree.
  • Wrap the outside of the cage with burlap or frost cloth and secure it with twine or staples. Doing so will prevent the covers from blowing away when the strong wind blows.
  • However, this measure is not enough with tender plants or when the climate in the winter is unusually harsh.
  • But doubling the tree covers can make a huge difference in protecting the shrubs from the danger of frost.

7) Protect From Hungry Animals

Wrapping paper wraps on the bark of the young tree.
Image by: lowes.com
  • In winter, animals have limited amounts of food options. And it is the reason why some opt to munch on the bark of young trees when the weather turns cold.
  • This activity can be detrimental to the health of your young potted evergreens when left unprotected.
  • Wrapping the tree is an excellent way to protect vulnerable bark, and to stop rabbits and voles from making a buffet out of your tree.
  • Using chicken wire can also help prevent invading animals from attacking the roots of your evergreens and stop deer from rubbing on trunks.
  • But make sure to pick breathable wrap materials that allow your tree to breathe.
  • You can use cloth and paper straw, and when you opt for plastic materials, make sure it has a slotted design that supports aeration of the trunks. Otherwise, the wraps themselves will damage or kill the tree.

8) Keep Rock Salt Away From Your Tree

  • Rock Salt can interfere with your tree’s ability to absorb water, oxygen, and the primary nutrients your plant’s need to survive winter.

9) Unwrap The Tree When Spring Arrives

  • When spring arrives, unwrap the tree covers gradually.
  • Remove the frost cloths or the tree wraps gently around the tree and untie the branches.
  • You can either leave or take off the fencing in place, and don’t forget to water if the soil is dry.

10) Prune Damaged Branches

A red pruning scissor
Image by: agardenforthehouse.com
  • When you find broken or damaged branches after removing the burlap around the tree, prune to prevent the possibility of disease.
  • Broken branches are susceptible to various diseases and infections.
  • And when you do the pruning, make sure to get rid of dead, diseased, and damaged branches and foliage to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and the possibility of insect infestation.

Final Thoughts On How To Care For Potted Evergreens In Winter

Evergreens tend to flourish in the summer and spring, and you don’t want your hard work to go to waste once the climate turns cold.

However, figuring how to care for potted evergreens in winter may seem challenging to new homeowners.

Yes, trees go dormant throughout the winter months, and the life-preserving process that includes metabolism, growth, and energy consumption slows down significantly.

Evergreens do not make food during the winter, and even if the needles do not shed to store energy in the winter months, they too follow the pattern of going dormancy like other trees.

While many trees survive the coldest days of winter using this process, some do not. But these useful tips above will help care for your evergreens and ensure to keep them in a healthy state come winter. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask below!


About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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