Plants can survive the winter in pots

Garden Q&A

January 05, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

I'm embarrassed to admit I still haven't gotten my plants into the ground. Will they survive in pots over the winter? I have baptisia, nandina and `Blue Ice' cypress.

Air temperatures get much colder than soil temperatures. To ensure that plant roots in pots will survive, use this rule of thumb: Select plants hardy to two zones colder than your zone. (Remember, the lower the zone number, the lower the temperature plants tolerate.) Your baptisia grows from zones 4 to 8. Most of Maryland is zone 7, so it will be fine. Nandina is hardy from zones 6 to 10, and `Blue Ice' cypress from zones 7 to 9. They both need protection. Bury the pots in mulch or put in a garage.

Why do the leaves of my peace lily turn brown on the tips? It gets plenty of water, and I'm sure I'm not over-watering.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is hypersensitive to salts and fluoride. These chemicals can come from home water-softener systems that add salt to water, municipal water systems that add fluoride, or salt-based fertilizers.

When a pot has no drainage holes, these chemicals build up enough to damage most potted plants. Repot your peace lily into a pot with holes. Use new soil or drench the soil with pure distilled (deionized) water to leach out the salts. In the future, water your peace lily with pure water.

Checklist

Indoor herb plants benefit from daily misting and full sun windows. Avoid placing herbs near drafty windows or doors.

Bare soil is prone to erosion and should be covered with mulch, cover crops, ground covers or turf. Plan your strategy now for tackling bare soil in the spring.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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