From late autumn, many plants begin a kind of hibernation. They switch to the back burner, reduce their energy and hold out until it gets warmer again in spring. Many of our garden plants do not need any help during the winter. You’re fine on your own. However, some are more sensitive. They need protection and special conditions to survive the cold season unscathed. Then there are the plants that do not tolerate frost and need a suitable winter quarters. They are usually cultivated as tub plants, so they are mobile and can be brought to an appropriate quarter.

Which plant how to overwinter?

When buying a plant, a decisive criterion is whether the desired specimen is hardy to survive in the garden. You can always buy inexpensive plants again, but it’s annoying when an expensive purchase doesn’t survive the winter because that’s not possible. So you should always do your research before you buy.

Hardy plants in the garden

Most shrubs, perennials, roses, shrubs and flowers are sufficiently hardy to survive outdoors without shelter. However, you should prepare them well for the winter. This includes

  • that the fertilization is stopped in good time so that all shoots can mature. Otherwise it can happen that they freeze to death. Fertilize for the last time in August, for many plants in July.
  • An exception is the fertilization with patent potash in autumn. This fertilizer, in turn, helps the plants survive the winter well.
  • Many plants are also cut back in the fall. This includes most perennials.
  • With others, it makes sense to only cut them in the spring so that the shoots do not freeze back. They include roses, buddleia, garden hibiscus, panicle hydrangeas and many more.
  • It is always useful to inquire about the needs of individual plants. This avoids maintenance errors.

Sensitive plants in the garden

Sensitive plants need protection in winter. Covering with brushwood is usually sufficient. Many of these plants don’t like the wet because the tubers or bulbs rot. This is the case with many lilies, for example. A covered floor prevents permanent wetness. Others do not tolerate the frost well. Covering helps here too. A thick layer of leaves or brushwood will help. Camellias, hemp palms, many young plants (also trees and bushes) and roses should be protected in winter.

  • Roses are piled up in November. The graft site is covered with soil or mulch as it is very delicate. If the shoots freeze, that’s not a problem, they can be cut back. The grafting station must survive!
  • Standard roses need special protection. With them, the finishing point is under the crown at the end of the trunk. Fir branches are tied between the shoots and the entire crown is protected with fleece.
  • Young trees, especially fruit trees with smooth bark, often get frost cracks in winter when the temperatures are below zero and the sun is shining. To avoid this, the trunk can be coated with a so-called white coat or wrapped with jute or special mats.
  • Evergreen shrubs face a similar problem in winter. They continue to evaporate water through their leaves. Normally this is not a problem. But if the ground is frozen, it becomes more difficult. When the sun comes into play, evaporation increases. However, no water can be absorbed through the frozen ground. Dry damage occurs. In the worst case, the entire plant dries up. Therefore, it makes sense to shade the trees. A shade net does a good job.
  • Plants that are not quite hardy, such as camellias, viburnum bushes or mini kiwi plants, survive the winter better if you wrap them up a bit. The root area receives a thick layer of mulch so that it does not freeze too much in winter. You can also wrap or pack the plants above ground. There are special films that make it possible for larger trees and shrubs to be packed well.

After almost all of my summer lilacs froze to death for two consecutive years, I packed them up last year. They all survived and bloom much earlier than those of my neighbors. The winter snowball has also bloomed like never before. Our mini kiwis, mostly damaged by late frost, have produced more fruit this year than in the last three years combined

Non frost resistant plants in the garden

Plants that are not frost-resistant include many exotic plants that are kept in tubs, but also dahlias, begonias, gladioli, canna, calla and many more. They spend the summer in the bed. In autumn you dig up the tubers and overwinter them indoors.


In recent years you can see more and more palm trees (mostly hemp palms) and banana trees in our gardens. It is true that it is easier to overwinter these exotic species in mild regions of the country, but it is also possible in normal areas, of course with the corresponding effort. The plants are very sensitive to moisture and deeper, especially long-lasting frost is not exactly beneficial. It is important to protect the heart of the plants. It is best to pack the plants well. The soil needs a thick layer of mulch. I’ve also seen heated mats wrapped around the trunk. Some use fairy lights, which also emit some heat. You just have to be a little inventive. There are many tips on the World Wide Web that would go beyond the scope here.

pot plants

With potted plants, a distinction must be made between hardy and non-hardy plants. Even the hardy ones need some protection.

Hardy potted plants

Many coniferous plants, small trees such as hanging ornamental apple, Japanese maple and others are generally hardy. In the bucket, this is not so easily the case. A suitable location and winter protection make sense. The frost can easily penetrate through the little soil down to the roots. Frostbite and dehydration are inevitable.

  • Pack buckets, either with coconut mats, thick fleece, bubble foil or similar. Leave the drainage hole free!
  • Rabbit wire is also useful. It is laid loosely around the Künel and the space in between is to be filled with straw, leaves, brushwood or similar.
  • Alternatively, a large box can be used and filled.
  • It is good to place the container with the plant in a protected position so that the soil is not consistently wet. An overhang is ideal.
  • Too much sun, especially midday sun, is not favourable, on the one hand because of evaporation in evergreens and on the other hand because of cracks in the wood of woody plants.
  • Cold east wind is not good for any plant.
  • Place buckets on styrofoam, blocks of wood or stone so that the cold cannot penetrate from below.

Exotic potted plants

The exotics migrate to a suitable frost-free quarters, according to their winter needs. These are not the same for all potted plants. Some like it light, some like it dark. There are also big differences in temperature. Very few, however, like it when they stand in the warm living room. There is a rule of thumb: the darker the location, the colder it needs to be!

  • Leave potted plants outdoors for as long as possible. Some, however, do not tolerate temperatures below 10 °C. These must be set first.
  • Most of the plants easily tolerate a night frost. After that, however, it is time to visit the winter quarters.
  • It often makes sense to cut back the plants. Because of the size, this is sometimes mandatory. Otherwise, deciduous plants produce too much waste. The leaves should be removed from the roost. Better to reduce it a bit.
  • Diseased or injured shoots, seeds, etc. are also removed!
  • Radical pruning is better done in spring.
  • It is important to check for pests so that they are not introduced into the winter quarters.
  • If there are any, take countermeasures immediately!
  • Most of the potted plants only have to be watered a little. Most of the exotics die because they are drowned in winter. The metabolism of the plants is at such a low level that hardly any water is needed. Always check with your finger how dry the soil is. The plants have different needs, some need a little more water, others a little less. Be sure to look it up!
  • The cooler the location, the less water!
  • Don’t fertilize!
  • Check regularly for pests. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects show up especially in the wrong (too warm) location and wrong watering. Fight immediately before they can spread.
  • Ventilate regularly! Avoid draughts!

Overwintering quarters for potted plants

The warm living room is usually the wrong place for a container plant. There are better quarters. We have summarized some here.

  • Conservatory – is only suitable if it does not get much sun, so that there are no temperature fluctuations. Few plants like large differences between cold nights and warm days due to a lot of sunshine, especially during the winter dormancy.
  • Greenhouse – Frost-free greenhouses are ideal. They offer plenty of light, suitable temperatures and, in an emergency, good ventilation. The humidity is also easier to control. It must of course be heatable so that at least no frost can occur. High temperatures are not required. 5 to 8 °C is enough for most plants.
  • Bedroom – favorable for yucca, some palms and olive trees if there is enough light and nice and cool.
  • Basement – some potted plants can overwinter without light. They shed the leaves anyway, then the light doesn’t matter. They include the angel’s trumpet, silk tree, leadwort, pomegranate and jasmine. However, the temperatures must be in the single digits, otherwise the plants will sprout. From time to time you also have to water, very rarely, but very few plants like it completely dry.
  • Garage – Favorable for hardy plants when light is available. In the case of long-lasting frost, however, it also becomes hard for hemp palms, yucca or oleander (special frost-resistant varieties). Don’t leave the car on for too long, the exhaust fumes are harmful to the plants!
  • Nursery – many nurseries with greenhouses accept plants for wintering. Some even pick them up and bring them back. This is particularly advantageous for very large specimens. Of course, this costs something, but it is a safe solution.
  • Mobile orangery or heated tent – ​​a kind of tent, very well insulated. With a frost guard you can ensure that no frost can damage the plants. There are different sizes, depending on how many plants you have and how tall they are.

Many plant lovers buy a nice specimen of a plant without asking what they want, especially in winter. Then they wonder why winter means the premature end. It doesn’t have to be. You can only buy the plants if you can offer the quarters in winter, otherwise it’s a loss-making business. Spontaneous purchases are often a mistake. Today you can use your smartphone to see what care your plants need. This includes hibernation. You know right away. I think it’s a shame when you have to throw away a plant. The breeders are happy about it. So life is.

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