Thinking ahead...what do you do with your plants in the winter?

monkeybelle(7A NJ (Camden County))August 8, 2011

I have been reading up on some of the perennials I have and am ending up confused. Some sources say that specific plants will die back over the winter in my zone, and come back in the spring, and some say these same plants will be killed outright.

I'm in southern NJ, so that is zone 6B. The plants I'm most interested in are:


small butterfly bush (kept in a pot, still tiny)



I have an uninsulated basement, which gets very cold, but not as cold as outside, and a crawlspace under the other half of the house that gets to be about the outside temperature, but is sheltered from snow/winds etc. So if I were to dig them up, I would have the option of putting them in either space. I'm planning on moving the lantana next spring anyhow (I didn't do *quite* enough research this year and didn't realize they were more shrublike than the pictures on the container lead me to believe!) And would like to find a permanent place for the butterfly bush.

So of all the options...leave them be and cut back in the spring and hope for the best, dig them up and put them in either basement space, what would you recommend? And what would be the best time to dig? Should I wait for the first frost or get them out before?

Thanks for any ideas!


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One way to protect plants that may or may not make it is to prune them hard before the first frost, cover them with mulch, cover that with a cloth of some kind and then cover that with something that will hold the cloth down--preferably mulch or leaves again. This serves to protect the roots.

When you are sure that it won't freeze again, uncover the plants...

Your basement is probably a lot warmer than it is outside. If you put plants close together they tend to keep each other warm. I would not put them in the crawl space.

I live in Central Florida, so I don't have as much of a problem, but it does freeze here at times. I keep some of my most productive plants in pots and I bring them inside the garage when it looks like it will freeze. In the spring I bring them out and start taking cuttings.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 4:19PM
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Hi Sandy,
I'm in central PA, zone 6 something (I keep forgetting if it's A or B). Lantana doesn't live over the winter here. I bought one at Walmart a few years ago and I think the tag said it is hardy to something like 40 degrees and it for sure gets colder than that here over the winter. So I'd think that that one would die out there where you're at too. The butterflies don't like lantana here, so I didn't really care about it dying (I think the plant stinks anyway).

I don't think I'd keep the small potted butterfly bush outside over the winter if it's "tiny". When I want to bring in plants over the winter, I bring them inside in our laundry room where it's not as warm as the rest of the house but doesn't get down to freezing. Some plants I sit on the east side of our house (right up against the house) and pile bags of leaves around them for insulation. It seems to work for me anyway.

My columbine plants do okay over the winter here, and I don't think that yours would die there. Mine are fairly close to the house though, so I'm not sure if that makes a difference or not.

I have lavender in one of the gardens and it's not real close to the house, and it does fine.

If it were me, I'd leave the columbine and lavender outside and bring in the lantana if you want to keep that (just the butterflies like it there?) and butterfly bush (since you said it's "tiny") and put them in the uninsulated basement and they should do okay, I'd think.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 4:34PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I agree with Cathy. The columbine and lavender will be fine. I don't know about the others. I stick to hardy plants and mostly natives. Good luck!


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 6:46PM
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jrcagle(z7 MD)

Lantana dies in zone 7B also (Maryland), so there's little hope for it in NJ.

Down in Williamsburg, now, it's a perennial and the locals "tree it up."

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 8:21PM
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monkeybelle(7A NJ (Camden County))

Thanks everyone...looks like I'll be digging up the lantanas! (Or rather, my husband will...since I can't touch the things without breaking out in hives!)

Cathy, they do fairly well, butterfly and bumblebee wise. I have a red/yellow/orange that has great color on it and they seem to prefer that to the straight yellow. Maybe I can keep them in big pots and just bring them in every year. I have noticed a faint odor but nothing overwhelming. Maybe different varieties smell more than others?

The butterfly bush almost died after I planted it, so I dug it back up and put it in a large pot, and it has bloomed almost continuously but is still not even 2 feet tall, so it definately needs to come inside.

That lantana bonsai is hilarious!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 8:42PM
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Really, you have troubles with butterfly bushes? I have 6 and haven't lost one yet. My first is going on 15 years old, with a HUGE trunk/base. It was a bare root when I planted it. I can only now cut it back to 3' minimum. I have trouble overwintering most tender perennials & annuals. I did overwinter some dill, fennel, parsley, rue, & salvia in my unheated/attached garage, but haven't successfully overwintered any lantana's. Maybe I'll try again. I'm in Northern NJ.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 2:03PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Looks like I will be digging up my lantana. I have the orange, red & yellow one and the yellow & white one. I want to keep them for my yard, so I guess those will go into pots. Maybe I'll leave a small bit out to see how it will do. If it survives here, I'll try to post and let folks know. Winter here can be quite brutal.

~Tina Marie

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 3:10PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

I overwintered black and blue salvia and Agapanthus in the attached garage, but the lantana did not make it. It might have, but DH left the garage door open during some brutal weather. I didn't grow any this year, but next year I will overwinter in the basement by the window. Good luck with yours.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:22PM
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I also live in NJ, Ocean County. I have columbine and butterfly bushes planted in my yard, and they both do fine over the winter. I have had no trouble with them coming back.

The lantana is an annual though, I have to replace it every year. Someone did tell me that I should be able to keep it in the basement for the winter and replant once spring comes, but I haven't tried that yet.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:53PM
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monkeybelle(7A NJ (Camden County))

I figure, if it will die outside anyway, I might as well give it a try. It's not going to cost me anything to have it dug up and put back in next year. If I don't have to buy it again next year...well that just gives me more $ for new plants after I'm done convincing my husband to dig up more of the front lawn for me!

I think my butterfly bush was a dud but its a cute dud. but again, won't do any harm to store it over the winter and try again in the spring.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:46PM
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Bev I did the same thing, put Lantana in the garage to keep it warm, then left the garage door up once when it was very cold. I don't know why but I put my plants on the end close to the garage door instead of at the back of the garage next to the house where it would be warmer. I'm going to try again this year. Heat rises so I assume they would be warmer if I put them up on a shelf instead of down close to the floor so I'm going to try that too.

Monkeybelle - Your basement sounds like an ideal place to keep plants in the winter. I use my garage because my basement is too warm. Sometimes my garage gets below freezing though. I wish it was a little warmer. There are a lot of "annuals" that you could try wintering over.
I've had mixed luck keeping Butterfly bushes in pots over winter but about 3 of 5 have survived outside in pots on my patio on the south side of my house. They may have gotten too dry rather than too cold, not sure.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 10:50PM
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Ament(5a SD)

You gals think putting the lantana in the basement under the stairwell on concrete floors will be alright? Will I have to remember to water them? LoL I might forget them there... I'm afraid of that. But out in the garage(leaning tower of shed is what I call it.) It's a one car garage with a dirt floor, I'm thinking it'll get too cold there. :( And too warm upstairs in the kitchen.



    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 12:03AM
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bev2009(6 IN)

It will go dormant in the basement, which is a good thing. I would give it a little water about once a month...just enough to keep it alive, but not enough to rot it since it won't be growing and using up the water that way. Most of it will probably die back and then start growing in the spring if you bring it to your kitchen near a window then. Don't give it too much water until you see new growth. Good luck, it is kind of hard to describe what to do...depends on the humidity level in your basement and the temperature.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:56PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Thank you Bev, it's been quite humid here in South Dakota for the area. Not what it was like before, but not anywhere near what it is down south. Plus I have a humidifier I can run too, if I need to. :) I'll put the lantana in pots and bring them into the basement over winter, then as it gets closer to spring, I'll bring them up like you suggest.

~Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:09AM
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Bev, If you're afraid you'll forget to water it every so often, if you hsve a cell phone, set it up as appointments on your cell phone calendar. :)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:04PM
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You can take cuttings now from the lantana and butterfly bush and have them as plants next year.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 5:47PM
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monkeybelle(7A NJ (Camden County))

I like that idea, Butterflyman! I can bring the cuttings with me when the Ark comes along...its been pouring almost nonstop for 2 days and storms are still coming through!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 3:58PM
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Hi I have a new "tiny" Butterfly plant/bush. As winter is coming I am planning on putting it in the basement. Do I need to cut it back at all before bringing it in, or do I just let it be? This is my first gardening attempt, except for a rose I had all through high school years ago, which was easy.
Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Cut it back to new growth in the Spring only. You can cut any spent flower spikes, but that's about all for this time of year.
Keep moist but not wet and let dry moderately between watering. Keep cool to cold, but not below freezing that first year (45-55 degrees F) If you put it near a window, it will appreciate a little light.
Your "tiny" Butterfly Bush will grow quite large next season and can be safely left outside next Winter, with lots of mulch.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 2:37AM
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