Creating Winter Containers

holiday container with pine needles,berries, evergreens, and more

Each year the horticulturists at Reiman Gardens create beautiful winter containers out of evergreen boughs, dried plants, and other colorful and interesting materials. You can create these garden focal points at home by following these simple tips:

  • Be sure to use a frost proof container. Avoid porous concrete, clay, and glazed pottery which can break as water freezes and expands. Use metal, wood, fiberglass, heavy plastic, or natural stone containers.
  • Wait until it’s cool. Cut greens will stay green for months as long as the temperatures stay cool. Create your winter containers before the soil in the container freezes, but after temperatures get cold – usually around Thanksgiving.
  • Water in place. Once everything is in the container, consider watering it in. When the soil freezes the branches in it will stay in place
  • Try floral foam. Remove about 4 inches of soil and place 5-6 inch think floral foam on top. It is easy to place branches and allows you to put some in at a more horizontal angle since the foam sits above the rim of the container. Be sure to anchor the foam with bamboo or metal stakes down into the soil of the container.
  • Plan for the holidays. Add shiny ornaments, bows and other holiday décor now, and then remove them in January. If you plan it right, you can still have a colorful container in January, February, and March without the tinsel and glitter of the holidays.
  • Make it last. With high winds, heavy snow, and dry conditions, winter is notoriously harsh. Anchor branches firmly in the container, use anti-desiccants like Wilt-Pruf®, and over “engineer” tall or large materials so they stand all winter.
  • Use a wide variety of plants. Evergreen junipers, spruces, pines, and firs are obvious choices, but also consider:
    • Broadleaf evergreens like boxwood and southern magnolia.
    • Berried branches from viburnum, crabapple, winterberry, and American bittersweet.
    • Colorful twigs and logs from plants like dogwood and birch.
    • Dried flower heads from hydrangea or ornamental seed heads of coneflower, ornamental grasses, and rose hips.
    • Dried fruit, in particular citrus or pomegranates, as well as cones from pine, larch, or other evergreens.
  • Be creative. Start with things cut from your garden and if needed supplement with dried and fresh cut evergreens from the florist. Don’t forget other embellishments like spray-painted cones, seed heads, or branches; ornaments and bows; and strings of lights. You are only limited by your imagination!


Prepared by Aaron Steil, Assistant Director