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I had a small stone planter box built in to my front entrance. In this planter I had a handful of perennials. I needed to have my driveway torn up and repaved this year, and I thought it would be neat to have the contractor re-do the planter at the same time. In preparation, early this summer I moved the plants from the planter into portable pots and placed these on the front porch above where the planter box had been. I fully expected to replant them in the new box just a few weeks later.

Well, that contractor did a very bad job (I paid them for the driveway, but refused to pay for the planter, and they agreed) so I am going to have to start over with a different contractor next spring. The plants have been in those pots for several months now. I think some have died, but others might be salvagable.

The location is U.S., Ohio valley region.

What to do with those portable pots during the winter, to maximize the chance that at least some of them can be brought back next spring?

  • A. Leave them where they are, as-is.
  • B. Leave them where they are, covered with a tarp or similar.
  • C. Bring them into the house.
  • D. Toss them out and buy all new perennials after the new planter is ready, since the damage is already done and they can't be saved.
  • E. Other?
  • 1
    Could you please specify what specimens we are talking about? – Stephie Nov 6 '15 at 22:01
  • Have you got any soil outside, or a garden, or clear ground where you could sink pots? – Bamboo Nov 7 '15 at 12:59
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Without details about the plants involved it is hard to give definite advice, but let's go through your list:

A. Leave them as is.
Will possibly lead to the death of some because the pots freeze solid, unlike in the soil or in larger planters. Not all plants can handle this. Some will die, some are very frost tolerant. Without details, this is impossible to predict.

B. Cover them.
That depends: If your plants are green(ish) and not totally dormant, they will need light, which a tarp blocks. It may or may not protect the root balls, depending on the setup.
But: Especially dark tarps in the sun can heat the pots, coaxing dormant plants to go into "spring mode" too soon, putting them at risk of freezing.

C. Take them inside.
My last choice for hardy perennials. They usually need a period of dormancy which you would take away. Besides, the conditions inside (too warm, probably too dark) would lead to etiolation and make them susceptible for pests and diseases.

D. Toss them.
If this were your preferred choice, you wouldn't be here. So if you have some plants that are clearly dead or in really bad shape (or you need an excuse to get rid of them), toss them. For the others, see next point.

E. My suggestion.
Get a large container and some insulating material. Either leaves or straw (can go on your compost in spring) or bubble wrap or foam peanuts (not the type that dissolves when wet!). Fill the container with whatever vou are using and place the pots inside. The goal is to protect the root ball from freezing. Place everything in a sheltered spot. You don't want rain to accumulate in the container, especially if you are using bubble wrap, drowning your plants. If your plant is dormant, cover the top as well - loosely, creating insulating layers of air.
Hope for snow and shovel it on your pots: it protects them from the worst frost.
During winter monitor humidity - you might have to water very gently or remove runoff from snow etc.

Should you have a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, this might also be a good choice. Just monitor humidity and temperature, especially in cold frames, because in the sun they can get too warm (see B.) quickly - open the lid on "not really freezing" days.

In short, your main goal is to protect your plants' roots from extreme frost while letting them have their winter season like usual.

Come spring, you hopefully have most or even all of your plants coming back and grow healthily.

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