Plant a winter container

Create some real drama in your garden with a seasonal planter. Just a handful of plants will establish colour and interest for weeks on end says Jean Vernon.

winter planter
Winter planter. Image: Martin Mulchinock
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There’s a huge variety of great plants to choose for a dramatic winter container, from tightly clipped box balls in formal planters to stand guard by your front door, to pots of wispy grasses and even shallow bowls of low growing alpines such as sempervivums and sedums. Or if you prefer you can choose traditional winter bedding plants such as pansies and polyanthus.

Festive colours

Cyclamen planter
Cyclamen planter. Image: Martin Mulchinock

For some colour and vibrancy choose plants with vibrant flowers and berries such as rich red cyclamen, the red-berried Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana and the checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens). Marry them with deep green evergreens such as winter ivies for a festive feel and add a scented plant such as the evergreen and very fragrant sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) that will add a whole new dimension when it flowers from December to March.

Winter container tips

  • Ensure that all your pots and planters can drain freely. Excavate the drainage holes and raise the planters up on pot feet, or bricks to allow excess water to run through. This helps protect your planter from cracking in sub zero temperatures.

    Plastic pots
    Plastic pots are a good frost-proof choice for winter planters. Image: Martin Mulchinock
  • Move planters containing plants susceptible to cold and frost to a protected position, ideally into a greenhouse, the shed or a conservatory.
  • Other plants in pots can be given extra protection by moving them to the shelter of a house wall, or placing them under the eaves where they benefit from the radiator effect of the walls.
  • Wrap large planters that are just too large to move in bubble wrap or horticultural fleece when extreme cold threatens.
  • Under plant your upper layer of plants, with some spring flowering bulbs such as snowdrops, dwarf narcissi, crocus, species tulips and grape hyacinths, which will push their way through the plants to flower in the first months of the year bringing much needed colour and cheer to the garden.
  • Buy pots of flowering bulbs to plant into container displays that are starting to fade and lose their vibrancy.
  • Move planters that have finished their display out of sight and allow the plants to die back naturally.
Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
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