Why care for your plant pots?
You probably think about protecting your plants from winter frosts, but what about your plant pots? If you live in an area that doesn’t drop below freezing, you don’t have to worry but if you live in a cold area, some of your outdoor containers may not survive the winter. Some will be fine, but many materials absorb water, which freezes and expands, and then the container becomes brittle and cracks. Replacing them can be expensive, especially if you have to do it year after year. Here are some pointers to help protect your pots and save money.
In the autumn, pots that aren’t going to remain planted should be emptied. Remove the dead plants and roots, then dump the soil into a compost pile. This will help you save buying potting soil in the spring. Next, take your empty pots and scrub the insides with water and bleach (preferably non-chlorine) made up of 10 parts water to one part bleach. After they dry, they are ready for winter storage. You can add years to the life of your pots by storing them indoors over the winter, even those made from materials hardy enough to survive the weather.
Plant pots that need extra protection
Like some plants, not all pots can withstand the elements. These include:
- Terra cotta
- Glazed pots
These materials are porous and absorb water. When temperatures drop below freezing, they become brittle, flake and crack if left outside. Even those glazed on the inside and out can crack if the soil gets too wet. Bring these pots indoors or store in a garage if you can. If you don’t have the space and are leaving fragile pots outside, put them in a dry, sheltered area. Store them together under an overhang, beside a south-facing wall or in a warmer area such as one of you home’s exterior walls. Prevent them from getting waterlogged by turning them over with the drainage holes up. Lift them off the ground by standing them on bricks, pot feet, pieces of wood or wine corks to stop them coming in contact with the ground. Those too heavy to move can be wrapped in bubble wrap or hessian. You can also insulate brittle pots by buying plant jackets or frost covers. Avoid watering pots growing perennials because the wet soil will expand and crack the pot in a winter freeze.
Plant pots that can be left outside
If you live in a cold area, consider buying safe winter materials for your pots. These include those made from:
- Cast iron
When buying pots that can be kept outdoors, there are a couple of things to consider. Look for non-porous materials that are UV resistant because sunlight degrades plastic and over time, the colour will fade and the pot could become brittle and crack. Some pots are labeled “frost-proof”, but if your area is really cold, look for pots guaranteed to survive sub-zero temperatures.
Buying plant pots
It’s worth considering a few things before buying containers. If you live in a flat or home without little space to store pots during the winter or you want winter displays in your garden, choose pots that can be left outside. More brittle pots are fine for annuals and they can be emptied and stored inside during the off-season. Whatever your choice, look after your pots and they will look good as new season after season.