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Smart Thoughts

Perennials in Smart Pots

Planting perennials this fall for a spring/summer bloom

It may come as a surprise, but some plants don’t mind spending the winter in their Smart Pots. These cold-hardy perennials lie dormant through the chilly winter months and know when to start growing again in spring.

Instead of pulling up plants at the end of summer, try overwintering them in their containers. Planting perennial herbs, like chives, mint, lemon balm and certain onion species are a few that can last for many seasons in their Smart Pots. Other culinary herbs, like thyme and sage can also survive winter in their containers with a little extra protection.

Cover the soil-filled containers with a layer of organic mulch, like straw, shredded bark, dry leaves, or pine needles. Mulch keeps the soil moist, regulates soil temperature and prevents root damage caused by soil freezing and thawing. Larger Smart Pots are the best winter option because they hold more soil.

Here’s another overwintering tip: Move containers to a partially sheltered area to avoid drying winds that suck moisture out of the soil. Position containers next to a fence, wall or house to shield them from the fierce winter wind. If you’re overwintering multiple Smart Pots, group them together to provide for even more protection.

Ensure your containers are located where they get moisture from precipitation or an occasional hand watering. It’s important to keep plant roots hydrated, but be careful! Too much of a good thing can harm your precious plants. Avoid over-watering or creating soggy soil conditions.

If you’re an adventurous gardener, you might want to add to or replant your Smart Pots with perennials before the end of September. Warm days and cool nights help them grow the roots they’ll need to carry them into spring.

What flowers can I plant now? Shop for bargains while garden centers are clearing out stock for fall. The selection may be limited, but look for perennial plants that grow in spring and finish blooming in early summer. These plants will start growing roots while the weather is still warm instead of working to grow flowers.

Pay special attention to hardiness zones, and plant one zone lower than your own. For example, if you garden in Zone 5, select the perennials that are hardy to Zone 4.

Hardy succulents, like sedums or hens and chicks, may overwinter in containers. Other perennials are hardy in colder climates, too. Wormwood, sweet Annie, valerian and catnip are interesting choices for planting perennials in pots.

To give perennial plants a good start in their Smart Pots, water them before planting and add mulch. Keep them watered until they take root, then slowly reduce the amount of moisture.

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