Archives for posts with tag: Winter

FAIP-S3-CP - HERO.jpgNot all flower pots are suitable for year-round outdoor use – generally, only “high-fired” pots are able to survive the temperature changes and the freeze/thaw cycle. Examples of pots that don’t make this cut are most Mexican terra cotta planters, and most Italian red clay pottery. Also, any pots or vases that do not have drainage holes should be brought inside.

Once you’ve determined that you have a flower pot that will most likely survive the worst that winter has to offer, it’s important to note that it’s generally not OK to just leave the pots in the same condition that they were in during the growing season.

Obviously, the best option is to bring your ceramic flower pots inside, or to at least cover them with a tarp. If those aren’t options for your containers, or if you really like the way the pots look, and you want to keep looking at them all winter, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that your beautiful pots continue to look great and last through the winter:

Keep the Drainage Holes Open – Hands down, this is the single most important factor in determining if your planters are going to make it through the winter. Do NOT plug up the drainage holes in any way on pots that you intend to leave outside through the winter. Please note that this does NOT mean that the pots need to be totally empty, but if you pour water into the pot, it should start dripping through the drainage holes within minutes. This is best accomplished by placing a layer of small rocks, broken pots, Styrofoam peanuts, or similarly-sized materials on the bottom of the pot, which will prevent the drain from getting blocked with soil clots. Ideally, this layer will be about 10-15% of the interior height of the pot. See the photo at bottom left for an example of a pot properly prepared for winter use.

Winterized Flower Pot Cut AwayUse A Potting Soil Blend that Allows for Drainage – You should be doing this anyway, but if you aren’t, Fall is a great time to change out your potting soil. Again, the goal here is to make sure that water can drain fully to the bottom of the flower pot.

No Saucers – Seriously. Saucers do a lot of great things – they help to keep your plants hydrated through the hot seasons, they protect your decks and floors, and they look great with many flower pots. They are also your flower pots’ worst enemy during a deep freeze. Any residual water left in a saucer when the cold hits will freeze. This will not only cause the saucer to become stuck to the planter, but it can also pressure the foot of the pot, causing breakage or crumbling. The ice-filled saucer will also plug the drainage holes on the bottom of your pot, allowing the pot to retain water, which in turn creates the opportunity for ice to expand and break the pot from the inside out.

Use Pot Feet – Again, there are a lot of reasons for doing this. First, using pot feet keeps the bottom of the pot elevated, which enhances drainage. This elevation also keeps water from pooling below the pot, eliminating the risk of the pot freezing to the ground.

Don’t Light Fires in Your Pots – Cold ceramic planter + burning logs = broken planter. 100% of the time. Get a fire pit.

We love the idea of living Christmas trees because they open up a whole new avenue for off season plant and flower pot sales. Will this trend continue to take root and become a driver of seasonal business for garden centers? offers ideas on how your customers can embrace this exciting concept:

Classic Urn - Snap ShotIn the January, 2015 issue of Green Profit magazine, Jennifer Polanz pointed out that in the current marketplace, “porch pots” have the potential to help boost your off-season sales throughout the winter months if you take the time to properly merchandise the category. A few of the top ideas:

  • Conduct design workshops in which you offer customer a wide range of suitable planters, greenery, and accessories.
  • Have your staff design and build amazing porch pot arrangements – use social media to share them with your customers and drive traffic to your store.
  • Rotate the greenery and accessory offerings as Winter progresses – Jingle bells may be a great addition in December, but they won’t drive sales in February!

Here’s a link to the complete article.

This post is targeted specifically at garden centers in the northern half of the country – if your store is in the Sunbelt, feel free to ignore the next 600 words. We’ll cover ideas for you in a separate post.

Many garden centers do everything in their power to clear their entire pottery inventory before winter strikes, often moving many of their remaining pots out the door for little more than wholesale cost. While this can be a sound inventory management strategy, and can make the year-end financials look good, it can also be a huge mistake.

Many retailers recognize that early fall can be a great time for pottery sales and offer sales and promotions to capture business from gardeners who are in the process of bringing plants indoors, planting bulbs or replacing old and/or worn pots. Fewer garden centers continue to push the category into the winter months, often costing themselves the opportunity to generate additional profits through the lean months. There are a few keys to doing this successfully, a few of them painfully obvious:

  • Be open: Seriously – if you are closed during the winter months, none of the following ideas will work for you. And if you are open in the winter, be sure that you actually ARE open during your published business hours.
  • On an aside, publishing your winter hours is a great excuse to update your web site or to return to that blog/Facebook page/Twitter account you started last spring and forgot about.
  • Bring your pots inside: Your customers aren’t going to walk around the outdoor areas of your center looking for your pottery department, and they certainly won’t pick up freezing cold pots. Find space for them indoors, and your customers will find them and buy them.
  • Carry a wide variety of pottery: In the winter months, it is particularly important to focus your collection on indoor pots, as those are the pots that the vast majority of your customers will be looking for. Look for pots that range in size from 6” in diameter to 12” in diameter, and that are either have saucers with them / attached to them or are cache pots. Don’t exclude outdoor pottery from the mix, but be sure that any pots which you include in your merchandising assortment are freeze-proof and durable enough for outdoor wintertime use.Classic Urn
  • Offer cross-promotions with seasonal plants: If you’ve managed to establish a business for either mums in the early fall or for poinsettias before Christmas, congratulations – if your customers are choosing your location over the big box prices for these plants you’re definitely doing something right. Whether that’s offering superior quality, top-notch service, or something outside of the norm, these customers are looking to you to steer their buying decisions. Merchandise your remaining pots near the seasonal plants and drop a few into pots – Maybe offer a discount on a pot if purchased in conjunction with a mum or poinsettia? Your customers will make the connections and your pottery sales will bump.
  • Gift Baskets: Empty your shelves of last year’s small items / arrange a selection of them artfully in a flower pot / put a ribbon around it / sell as “Gardener Gift Baskets” / Repeat. This works.
  • Landscapers: Bring in larger freeze-proof pots and partner with local landscapers to get them out in the market. Large-scale glazed pottery offers a great way to add color to a winter garden or patioscape, and they look great when planted with small evergreens or grasses.