How to Change Your Container Garden with the Seasons

Recruit annuals, bulbs, and perennials as quick-change artists to help a front-and-center container garden segue gracefully through the seasons. Entry gardens take many forms, and you don't need vast square footage to display head-turning color. A large planter or a pair of planters can extend a cozy welcome.

Think About Your Region

To succeed with a year-round front porch container garden, think big. A large container easily weathers the seasons, even frigid winters, and has enough legroom for a small, slow-growing evergreen. In cold regions, focus on containers that stand up to winter weather, such as stone, concrete, wood, or resin.

Use Evergreens

Building a year-long design around a living evergreen ensures steady color no matter what the calendar says. To headline your container, select an evergreen that's hardy to at least two Zones colder than where you garden. For instance, if you're in Zone 5, the evergreen needs to be hardy to Zone 3 to guarantee winter survival. Slow-growing evergreens that can thrive in containers include dwarf Alberta spruce, 'Sky Pencil' holly, topiary juniper, mugo pine, and Japanese umbrella pine. Growing evergreens in containers is challenging, but you can improve your odds of success by providing proper winter care. Because evergreens don't go dormant, they need water until the soil freezes. During a thaw, irrigate again. Resume spring watering as soon as the soil thaws. In the coldest regions, this will likely occur before you garden outdoors. Insulate the container with bubble wrap, straw, or burlap stuffed with leaves to improve winter survival. It also helps to give container evergreens 
light shade. Spraying them with an antidesiccant helps reduce winter moisture loss through the needles or the leaves.

Switch Out Plants

Refresh a container whenever plants look tired. Follow these tips when renovating:

Remove spent plants. Use a sharp or serrated knife to slice through roots to free them. Try not to cut too deeply into the root ball, which is likely to hold the interlaced roots of plants you want to save. Add fresh potting soil. Fill holes and refresh the footing for all plants. Mixing compost with the soil is a good idea.

Prune existing plants as needed. Take care when you prune tall plants in fall. In cold regions, they lack sufficient time to rebound if cut back severely.

Fertilize plants after repotting. Mix a slow-release organic fertilizer into the soil to give plants a nutritional boost without the risk of burning roots.

Insulate Soil

Mulch soil with an inch 
or two of locally available material, like pine straw, shredded bark, or cottonseed hulls. This layer helps moderate big temperature swings in soil.

Plants for Every Season

Embrace seasonal shifts by replacing spent plants with fresh beauties that celebrate the new season. See below for some of our favorites.


Tulips, daffodils, and pansies contrast nicely with the dark spruce. 
Leaf lettuce offers an edible treat that adds texture and beauty.


A simple plant palette stages a lavish production. Colorful additions include New Guinea impatiens, Celosia, and 'Troy Gold' Plectranthus.


Purple-tinted garden mums pair artfully with the gold Plectranthus. Flowering cabbage infuses another layer of purple-pink tones.

1 Comment

  1. I love this method of changing the plants to match the season and have been doing this with containers for years. It's like magic!

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