Will evergreen shrubs survive a Calgary winter in planters?
May 28, 2012 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Will any coniferous shrubs survive the winter in planters on my deck? I am in Calgary Alberta, zone 3a.

I have decided to use planters with shrubs to make a sort of hedge for privacy on my deck. The deck goes right up to the property line at the fence, which is about 4' higher than the deck. I find the fence a bit too low for privacy, but the fence was built by the neighbors, and is already 6' from the ground, which is pretty much the maximum height allowed. I will be putting the planters right up against the north side of the fence, and will be either buying or building planters as big as possible, at least 2' deep x 2' high. I am hoping that the fence would provide some wind protection in the winter.
Have you had success with growing evergreen shrubs in planters? What species will be hardy enough? Right now walmart has 4 or 5' tall cedars for $20 each, I would probably need about 6 or 8 of them, but would it be worth it? Or should I stick to growing something like ivy and just accept that I will have to wait for spring / summer before I get some greenery in my backyard?
posted by photoexplorer to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I am in ontario, in a snow belt, and have grown boxwoods in planters no problem. I mulch and wrap in burlap over winter and they seem fine. The first year was a fail though as I hadn't drilled drainage holes in the metal planter so the plant died as its roots basically sat in a frozen ball of ice all winter. So don't do that!
posted by saradarlin at 8:44 AM on May 28, 2012

I'm in Zone 1 in Alberta (about ten hours north of you) and one thing that's common up here is covering smaller trees/shrubs with burlap sacks and loosely tying them off at the bottom to ensure that they overwinter well. This works especially well for trees that are more or less native to the region already. Another solution (for trees/plants that don't handle the cold well and otherwise have no business being up here) is to dig them up, put them in pots, and bring them indoors for the winter. I think that in your area you should have a lot more in the way of selection so you can probably avoid this, though.
posted by mireille at 9:13 AM on May 28, 2012

I would like to not have to move them indoors. Hopefully the burlap would help. From what I've researched it seems like the biggest issue is the roots freezing.
posted by photoexplorer at 11:12 AM on May 28, 2012

By the way, I am interested in planting evergreens (coniferous) so they will be green all winter.
posted by photoexplorer at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2012

The dwarf Alberta spruce seems like it would work, but you'd have to buy trees that are already approximately the size that you want -- they are very slow growers. They do have a very nice shape!
posted by Ostara at 6:02 PM on May 28, 2012

A local, reputable tree nursery is your best resource, or the Canadian equivalent of the US af extension service.

Burlap won't protect roots, and Northern conifers won't survive being brought indoors, since they need an appropriate chilling period.
posted by vers at 6:54 PM on May 28, 2012

Follow up, burlap won't protect the roots, true. But mulch will help. So will having a large size planter with lots of soil and organic matter to provide insulation. The planter itself can also be insulated. My local greenhouse sells insulated cedar or fiberglass planters.

We also shovel our deck a few times a winter to keep the weight from building up. You could pile this up on the sides of the planter for even more insulation.
posted by saradarlin at 5:03 PM on June 3, 2012

So we ended up going with climbing vines (grapes and hops) in planters instead. We nailed some lattice to the fence. I didnt get anything planted until july but they are growing quite well now. I am not expecting them to last over the winter but it will be a bonus if the roots do happen to survive. Thanks everyone for the help :)
posted by photoexplorer at 11:56 AM on September 24, 2012

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