overwintering ornamental grasses in containers

Gaertnerin(5a)November 7, 2004

Is anyone overwintering ornamental grasses in containers and how did you go about it? I also have a small evergreen in a container that I would like to keep in the container.

I would be very greatful for any info.

Thanks in advance

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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

Bury the containers in mulch, I've been told. Haven't done it yet, though ;-)

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 9:21PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

It is tricky to keep any plant in a container where the winters are cold. You need to keep the container from breaking and to protect the roots from freeze/thaw cycles.

First, make sure the container can withstand freezing with moist dirt and a plant in it (Terra cotta will not survive and many other containers will be cracked or flaking by spring). If the container can't, then you will need to remove the plants and store the empty container in your garage or basement for the winter. The plant with its attached root ball can be overwintered as below.

Dig a hole big enough to hold the container in garden soil, then bury the container up to the rim in the hole. Wait until the ground freezes, then cover the pot and plant with 6 inches of mulch or straw. Uncover in the spring when the soil warms up. Treat a plant with root ball the same.

The plant may be root bound after a season of growth and you will then need to do root pruning like bonsai or repot into a larger container.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 9:48PM
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Shali(z6 PA)

I just go my first zebra grass and it is late in the season to plant as I have read. Will I be taking a big chance in planting now or can I keep it in the container and keep it indoors for the winter? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 3:36PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Zebra grass is hardy in your zone so there should be no problem in planting now. Overwintering indoors is more likely to kill it than planting outdoors now.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 9:37PM
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roadtrip(z6 OH)

I've been looking for info on this, so thanks for the post!!

I just bought some Purple Fountain Grass (red/purple grass w/ light colored plumes, almost yellow) and asked the worker at the garden center if it was hardy here as the hardiness info on the tag was listed in degrees, not in zones. I got a "yea, ummm, I'm pretty sure it is." While I was pretty sure they were wrong, I was wooed over by the purple grass so I guess I'll take a stab at overwintering in a pot.

Will the bury in a pot provide two zones of protection? I understand the grass will go dorment, even in it's proper hardy zones, so when do I cut it back? I normally cut back my other grasses in the spring when I see new growth, but it seems it would be easier to cover the plant with straw/mulch if it was cut back. Any thoughts?


    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 12:15AM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)


Do you know the latin name of your grass? There at least two grasses with the name "purple fountain grass", one (Pennisetum alopecuroidesis)is a hardy perennial in zone 6, the other (Pennisetum setaceumis) an annual. You will be unsuccessful in overwintering the annual.

For info on the perennial see:

For info on the annual see the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Annual PurpleFountain Grass

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 11:11PM
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roadtrip(z6 OH)

It's latin name is Pennisetum something or other (I'll have to double check the tag again), but I've definately got a purple fountain grass of some sort. From the pics I've been able to uncover, most of examples I've found are green with purple plumes or a red/burgandy with purple plumes. Only reason I was really tempted by this grass was the combination of red grass with the yellow/gold plumes this one has.

Tag states hardy to 10 degrees and here in zone 6 we're rated on the maps as -10 to 0 degrees (something I'll keep in mind when shopping for plants from now on.)

I've been wondering why these can't be over wintered? I read that the grass is hardy in zone 8-10, so I was just wondering what precludes them from coming back next year aside from cold weather? From reading the advice here, it's not always a sure bet, but better than compost bin fodder this soon.

Little bit of a rant, but why don't these plant growers just place the zone info on the tag anyhow? Just the time I get used to the zones they start using temp numbers. First I'm in 6A, then back in plain old zone 6, now I have to memorize all those darn numbers?

I REALLY need to start a notebook with all this info in it... awww heck I'd just sit it on the shelf at the garden center and lose it anyhow!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 12:19AM
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Anyone out there know if zebra grass will overwinter in a pond in northern Kansas? It is planted in soil and then set into the bottom of our pond...And I would also like to know about curly rush...will it overwinter in a pond, or do I take both plants out, place them in buckets of water, and store in my shop, where one side is heated, and the other side isn't...but some things kept there last year didn't freeze and are doing well this year (banana tree and some sort of fern...) Also, does anyone know if keeping water hyacinth and water lettuce in a bucket in the same shop will overwinter ok? Guess if nothing else, I should just try and see what happens. Hate the idea of having to spend the money on plants year after year after year. Any suggestions appreciated!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 5:27PM
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