While hanging baskets are a wonderful addition to your garden, they can have some unique problems in the winter, especially if you live in a cold climate.
So, what do you do with hanging baskets in the winter?
Let’s go over the simple answer first, then we can look at how that changes in different climates and what else you can do with your baskets in the winter.
Can You Leave Hanging Baskets Up through the Winter?
Hanging baskets can be left up for the winter, but should be moved under a shelter if it’s going to snow or inside if it’s going to dip below freezing.
The biggest risk during freezing weather is root damage.
If your winter never gets below freezing, you can safely keep hanging baskets outside all year.
Other intense weather events, such as strong winds, hail, or heavy storms, may also require you to take down your hanging baskets to prevent damage.
Overwintering in Cold Climates
Cold climates with long, intense winters don’t give a lot of opportunities for growing anything outside of the spring,
If you’re going to keep your baskets up in cold weather, you can winterize them to minimize some of the negative impacts.
To protect against frost, you can cover the soil with a plastic or vinyl sheet, or use a hanging basket cover to completely block out the cold air. Covers should be removed occasionally to allow air to get to the soil and prevent moisture or mold from building up.
Avoiding Deep Freeze
Hanging baskets are at more risk from cold weather than plants in the ground or other containers. Since they’re hanging in the air, they’re exposed to cold air from all sides, with only a thin layer of protection from the basket itself.
While winterizing can minimize some of the effects of freezing air, it may not be enough to save your plants.
One way to keep plant roots from freezing is to bring your baskets inside overnight, especially when temperatures are dipping below 32° F (0° C). You can leave them out during the day and bring them inside at night, or just leave them hanging inside for all the colder stretches of winter.
If there’s snow in the forecast, you should always bring your baskets inside. The freezing temperatures that come with snow are often lethal to hanging baskets.
Overwintering in Temperate Climates
Temperate climates tend to have milder winters with only a short period of intense cold each year and an occasional snowfall.
If you’re trying to keep a plant alive through the winter, covering the soil with a vinyl cloth or putting the basket into a cover will help it to ward off the cold wind.
Even during the winter in a temperate climate, some nights will likely drop below freezing (32° F or 0° C). Check ahead of time for nights below freezing, then bring your baskets inside until it warms up again.
Overwintering in Hot Climates
In hotter climates, your “winter” may actually be an ideal time to start new plants, rather than overwintering the basket. The cooler weather could give young plants a better chance to grow and thrive before the heat sets in.
Treat the winter season as a time when your plants will be able to experience less heat stress. Take advantage of it to do your normal annual maintenance and plant something new in your baskets.
You can also use the cooler months to plant seasonal fruits or veggies that can’t handle the high heat during the rest of the year.
When to Water a Plant during the Winter
During colder seasons, your plants won’t need as much water as they do when it’s hot. They still need a little water to keep them going, so watering once every week or two will likely suffice if you live in a cold or temperate climate.
In hotter climates, you can use the normal method of checking the soil for moisture before watering.
A few tips for watering during the winter:
- Water your baskets in the morning, not the evening.
- If it’s likely to get below freezing or close to freezing, avoid watering. The water you add to the soil can freeze and damage the roots.
- Water less frequently than usual because water will not be evaporating quickly.
What to Plant in the Winter
While a lot of the best plants for hanging baskets don’t do well in cold winters, there are some plants that still look great despite cold weather and snow.
Try one or more of these winter hanging basket plants:
- Evergreen shrubs (i.e. Red Beauty Holly, Hawthorn, Skimmia Japonica, or Spindle)
- Winter-flowering heather (Erica carnea)
- Winter pansies
- Ivy (Hedera) – variegated or non-variegated
Keep in mind that these plants probably won’t be growing much during the winter. They might flower and fruit, but they won’t grow larger during the cold weather. Pot them as larger, more mature plants that are already the size you want.
Off-season Decorative Alternatives
If you’re looking for something else to do with your hanging baskets in a cold winter off-season, you can still make them creative, colorful, and attractive.
Here are a few suggestions of what you can do while you wait for planting season to come back around:
- Seasonal décor
There are a few different holidays that happen while the weather’s cold out, so why not use your hanging baskets as another place to decorate? Christmas décor can look fantastic in a basket, but so can general autumn or winter seasonal decorations.
- Tea lights
Tea lights with greenery or wreaths add a lovely rustic feel to your porch, but you can also combine them with colorful ribbons, covers, or anything else that will sit well in a basket. There’s a lot of flexibility.
- Faux plants
Faux plants won’t struggle with the same issues as real plants during the winter, so you can use them to add a little life and color around your home when it’s too cold to grow much else. Personally, I would prefer not to use faux plants, but well-made faux plants can look fantastic and would be lovely in a hanging basket.
Creativity is key if you’re searching for non-plant alternatives for hanging baskets in the winter. Try out a few different things and see what you like best.
Just because the weather’s a bit different doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your beautiful garden! Take the chance to plant something that won’t normally grow well in your baskets when the weather is warmer.