Size:Think small. Really small. If you're used to a 7' tall tree commanding a quarter of your living room, think again. First of all, subtract at least 18" from the height of the tree for the root ball - in other words, you would be decorating a 5' tall tree. Then consider that you'd need half a football team to carry the tree into the house. A tree that size may weight 100 pds or more. Also, think about the pot that you are planting in. We suggest moving the planter into the home first and then setting the live tree inside once you have positioned it where you want it. Be prepared to move the potted tree outside once the holidays are over.
Time spent indoors:Evergreen trees don't go completely dormant in winter, but they come close to it. If you bring the tree indoors for a month, it will start to break dormancy. Then, when you plant it outside in January it may suffer freeze damage. Plan to keep it indoors for a week and no more than 10 days, preferably in the coolest room out of direct sunlight.
Future size:Most spruces, firs, and pines get big - really big - as in 50 to 100 feet tall. Can your yard accommodate such a large tree? You can keep they trees in the original container for a few years, but they will soon outgrow even the largest planter.
If you have your heart set on a big tree but want to plant a living one, too, here's one way to have your tree and plant it too. Buy a small live tree, decorate it, and display it outdoors, on your front porch or wherever you like. Have a second cut tree in the house for the holidays.
Another option is a dwarf evergreen. They are a good choice where space is limited. Just read the plant tags carefully because the term dwarf is relative. Lastly, you can always decorate a houseplant. It's the thought that counts!
Climate plays a role in container gardening because it depends on what you're growing and when your growing it. You don't need to worry about winter if you are into single-season containers. However its still important to know when the weather has warmed up enough in spring so it's safe to set out tender plants that can't tolerate frost.
If however, your containers are filled with permanent plants - perennials, trees, and shrubs - then you need to tune in more carefully to the regions climate. In most cases, winter temperatures are the deciding factor in what will survive in your climate.
A great tip to remember is that growing plants in containers allows you to grow plants that otherwise may not survive in your climate if you are willing to take extra steps to protect them in extreme temps - like moving them to protected spots.
As you already know, container plants are more vulnerable to extreme temps (especially cold) than the same plant growing in the ground. Soil temps rarely drop below the 20's but because of the soils residual heat. The soil in containers can freeze solid when exposed to cold temps. Temperatures that alternate between freezing and thawing post another challenge. On a sunny winter day they soil may thaw and then at night refreeze when the temperatures drop. Once soil freezes again it expands and push plants up out of the soil. This is the time that a ceramic or clay pay will crack.
Knowing the frost dates for your region is kind of like peering into a crystal ball. If you move your containers to a sheltered place for the winter, the plants may being sprouting earlier in spring than they would have had they wintered outdoors. Then, if you bring the plants outdoors before the last spring frost date the chances are good that the new growth will be nipped by frost. To be safe, if overwintering plants have begun to sprout in their sheltered spot, wait until after the last frost date to bring them outdoors.
To be totally successful, you really do need to keep an eye on the weather, especially in fall when cold snaps can threaten warm season plants. We advise you move small containers into a garage or enclosed porch, where temps stay a few degrees warmer than outdoors. Move them back when the threat has passed.
Cover large planters with old sheets, cardboard boxes, or anything that holds heat. Use stakes to prop up the cover to avoid breaking stems. Extend covering all the way to the ground, and secure it around the base of the container to help hold in the heat. Remove covers the next morning once temps warm up to the 50's.
You did it again: You bought plants that aren't hardy. Although winter is approaching, you don't need to toss out your plants. Overwintering these must haves can be a painless procedure. Just follow a few simple tips for moving the outdoors in.
1 - Give plants a trim - clean out any debris, and prune plants back a bit for their winter vacation. This will help them conserve energy, get them ready to regenerate new growth the following season, and bring them down to a house friendly scale.
2. Leave pests outside - look under and on top of your plants leaves for any small insect pests or potential diseases. Then, look at the soil. If you find any suspect creatures, treat the problem with an organic pesticide to prevent bringing pests indoors.
3. Remove unwanted plants - you'll most likely be overwintering one piece of a combo rather than the entire container planting. Remove any unwanted plants, like annuals, and replenish the potting mix. Re-pot plants in a more suitably sized container if necessary.
4. Make a gradual transition - Humidity and lighting drastically change when you move plants indoors. Gradually transition them by placing them in a shady outdoor location, such as under a patio overhang, for a week or two before moving them indoors.
5. Cut back on care - Ease off the fertilizer until spring, and scale watering way back. Wait to water plants until the soil is dry. Occasional misting, however, is a good idea to promote humidity, which most plants - especially tropicals - love.