How to keep potted tree through winter Z5/6

I have trees that I don’t know where I want to plant/no room for. They are potted. I can’t think of the best way to keep them over winter. None of my choices sound ideal. The outside could get -10f and freeze them.
My Outbuildings (lawn mower sheds) will get just as cold? My garage is very often heated as I have a woodshop in there.
The basement will stay near 60 in the winter.

I do collect leaves that are crushed by a Trac vac and the pile is large enough to completely bury them.
( I could bury a car) .

Any suggestions?


Lying on their sides, completely covered with leaves to as great a depth as possible (at least a foot or two)?

Or, same thing, but against the foundation of a heated structure?

Big thing in my mind is to eliminate big fluctuations/sudden changes.

I’m curious to see what others say.


I see couple choices.

  1. If you have vegetable garden, dig some holes there and plant the trees without removing them from the pots and mulch heavily on top. In spring, dig them out.
  2. Inside the outbuilding build an insulated cage for the trees(It doesn’t have to be strong, as outbuilding will cover it from snow and wind), inside use 200 watt heating lamp and a fan controlled by thermostat, keep it around 30 F. Place some insulation under the pots a s well. I have such cage outside with double reflective insulation to protect my persimmon - last winter it hold 32 tight.

I think its about removing the extreme swings and mainly Wind! I guess it depends on where you live but most outbuildings and garages stay much warmer because the sun heats them up and then they arent exposed to the wind and it keeps things cooler during the day (No radiant sunlight heat directly on trees) and extends some of that radiant day heat through the night. If its potted plants that require alot of water you may need to winter water a few times. I like to store plants that can top freeze buried to the top of the pots or just slightly over in my compost pile and move them over the winter as i move the pile. I think any of these ideas that remove wind and direct sunlight will work.


I have few potted Austin roses and Japanese maples; zone 5-6 and I am in zone 5-6; potted plants should be two zones lower (in theory). I put pots on a driveway, adjacent to the wall of house, almost touching the wall. 15-gal square pots, adjacent to each other. Neighbour’s birch started losing leafs so that wind naturally covers these pots (and space between pots) with leaves. Surrounded everything with cold-hardy potted crabapples (in fabric pots). Easy design, Japanese Maples are virtually “in the ground”, and should survive. In the Winter, as soon as I have snow on driveway, I’ll throw it into these pots, to cover as much as possible. And important: put it into shade to avoid Winter sunburn.

P.S. No space in garage…


I over-winter in zone 6 in containers without protection. Have around 250 going into 2019–2020 winter. One to 3 gallons, a few larger.
Seldom have any losses…the exception being several apples on M111 died in March some years after bud break. No problems with any other rootstocks. No problems in December or January, period. Not with apples, pears, pawpaws, jujubes, currants, blueberries, gooseberries, autumn olives, etc. (Forgot…lost figs that way.)


I’ve done the burying pot method to overwinter plants that are hardy to my zone. Sometimes I like to take advantage of fall sales but don’t always know where I want to put them right away. Someone at the greenhouse told me about that method and it’s how they overwinter all their shrub/trees they didn’t sell, but they use mulch around the pot. He said the biggest thing is to avoid the roots freezing and thawing.

If it’s something you’re going to do every year you could bury a similar size pot and just drop it in before winter.

If you get snow just make sure not to put it by a shed where snow and ice will fall on it.


Thanks everyone! I do have a vegetable garden. I think I’ll “plant” the pot and all and cover with leaves.
I fell for the Stark Bros end of season bargains like always and thought that I would replace a couple of trees that have performed poorly. I did not get around to it.
I wouldn’t worry so much but two of them are from Stark “SnowSweet” that I would like to try .
The third is a big box store HoneyCrisp that I should not have even bought. If anyone is close enough to Ft Wayne IN just swing by the house and I’ll give it to you! LOL!

Your HoneyCrisp might be OK, even if you did get it from a big box. If nothing else you can use it to park grafts on!

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I bury my pots. In my garden after everything has been cleared. For the most part I never lose any.