Keeping potted plants outdoors throughout the year adds color and interest to bleak, winter scenes. Many types of plants make good selections for a year-round outdoor container garden. Keeping potted plants outdoors through multiple growing seasons saves the cost of purchasing replacement plants every year.
Choose container plants for year-round outdoor gardens that withstand temperatures at least two zones colder on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map than your region. The map divides North Americas into 11 regions based on temperature. Zone 1 is the coldest region and zone 11 the warmest. If you live in zone 7, select plants hardy through zone 5. This is just a rule of thumb, so experiment with plants outside of the accepted range, advises the Fine Gardening website.
Although some gardeners treat perennials in containers as annuals and dispose of them after the growing season, perennials are good candidates for year-round outdoor gardens. Growing potted perennials outdoors successfully depends on the hardiness of the chosen species and good cultural practices. Purple cornflower, daylily and coral bell are all good outdoor container plants through USDA zone 7, states the United States National Arboretum. Lenten rose and bee blossom can also flourish outdoors through zone 7.
Shrubs and Vines
Woody shrubs and vines perform well as outdoor potted plants throughout the year. When growing shrubs, know that they usually do not grow as large in a container as in the ground. The Green Mountain variety of boxwood comes recommended by Fine Gardening for outdoor container gardens because it's hardy through zone 9 and retains dark-green foliage throughout the winter. The clematis vine, hardy through zone 8, has the approval of the U.S. National Arboretum.
Good cultural practices help your potted plants survive and thrive year-round. Use a frost-proof container. Avoid terra cotta pots, which can break in cold temperatures. Choose a container made of stone, lead or fiberglass. Do not water the plants when the container soil is frozen. Avoid fertilizing your plants any later than six to eight weeks before the first frost. Resume fertilizing when plants start growing in the spring.
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