Can You Overwinter Plants in a Potting Shed?

Caring for plants, especially in adverse weather climates, can require many things. Some plants need to go through a dormant period every winter in order to survive until the spring, while other plants are unable to go dormant and will die. It can be challenging to find a suitable location for plants that need overwintering.

You can overwinter plants in a potting shed. For plants that go dormant, you can store them inside a largely unheated potting shed in order to prevent them from the worst of the weather. For plants that don’t go dormant, you can overwinter them inside a heated potting shed to stop them from dying.

Overwintering plants can be a complex process depending on the type of plant and the conditions it needs to survive. Read on to learn more about the process of overwintering plants, including how to overwinter different types of plants in your potting shed, things you need to remember when doing so, and why you might want to overwinter your plants.

Overwintering Different Types of Plants in a Potting Shed

Often, the hardest part of deciding to overwinter plants is determining where you will store them.

Considering that many people don’t have a potting shed, a greenhouse, or even space within their own home to overwinter plants, it’s important to understand which plants need overwintering so you can plan ahead when designing your garden and choosing which plants need moving in winter.

Determining the suitable conditions depends on the type of plant you have.

Plants That Enter Dormancy in Winter

Some plants, such as perennials, require time for them to go dormant and take a small break from the world. Perennial plants need time in order to reconfigure themselves and stop using as much energy. In other words, without a break, some plants will die.

Many people decide to move their perennial plants inside during their state of dormancy in order to prevent them from being subjected to too much cold and ice. Remember that the goal of overwintering the plants indoors during harsh winter is to protect them from winter injuries and not prevent a dormancy period

Keeping your plants in bright and warm conditions when they should be dormant will result in poor growth or yield in spring. It can even kill your plants.

If you decide to overwinter a few perennial plants, it is essential that they are able to enter into the dormant period they require. The best way to do this is to wait to move them indoors until they have already entered dormancy and place them in an unheated, dark place

Keep a thermometer in your potting shed and ensure that the temperature stays between 30 and 40 °F (-1 and 4 °C). This will prevent them from freezing but will ensure that the dormancy period is fully undergone. 

In your potting shed, you can provide a constantly dark environment by placing the dormant plants in a wooden or cardboard box or covering them with thick layers of newspaper. You can also store flower bulbs in paper bags before placing them in your potting shed.

Plants That Remain Active in Winter

Other plants, however, need to live in a warm, sunny location in order to continue to photosynthesize and create energy over the course of the winter. In instances like this, you should store your plants in a structure such as a greenhouse, a potting shed, or a warm area in your home. 

Plants that don’t normally undergo dormancy may thrive outdoors until before the first fall frost. They must be moved indoors and kept in a warm, climate-controlled environment. 

Though it depends on how warm and how sunny the potting shed is, it is often an ideal location to overwinter plants or simply store them for an extended period of time. Some plants, like tomatoes, can even grow in a potting shed all year round. To learn more, check out my other article: Can You Grow Tomatoes in a Potting Shed?

If you have a heated potting shed, you can place the plant next to a glass window to receive adequate sunlight. It is not ideal to store your active plants in an unheated potting shed, especially during harsh winters. Also, keep the windows closed to avoid cold winds.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure that your plants are receiving the different conditions they need is to check your plant’s growth requirements and store them in a location that meets those conditions. 

If this means that the plant needs to be stored in a warmer, sunnier place, overwinter your plant in a greenhouse. If this means a cool, dark place, store them in your basement. The most important thing is that you are meeting the needs of the plant.

Things to Consider When Overwintering Plants in a Potting Shed

In addition to the information provided about the necessity of overwintering different types of plants, you also need to consider the qualities of your potting shed to determine if it’s suitable for your plants.

Here are some things you must consider:

The Type of Plant

As mentioned above, plants that enter dormancy have different requirements than those that don’t. Understanding your plants’ needs will help you adjust the conditions in your potting shed and provide the most suitable conditions for them.

Another reason many people decide to overwinter plants is that they are young or the species are not native to the area. While many plants have the ability to adapt to the environment around them, young plants are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate. 

Sometimes, it makes sense to keep your young plant indoors so that it can get adjusted to the new climate patterns.

For delicate perennials, for example, though they are supposed to come back the next growing season, sometimes, a cold winter is enough to kill them. You might also choose to overwinter your delicate perennial to ensure that it gets an undisturbed dormancy period.

The Temperature of the Potting Shed

You must decide carefully whether to move them into a heated or unheated indoor space. Dormant plants can stay in an unheated room with a steady temperature at approximately 35 °F (1.7 °C). 

On the other hand, plants that don’t go dormant must be kept in a heated room where temperatures closely replicate their growth requirements.

The Source and Amount of Light

The availability or absence of light can also be an issue, as some plants prefer to overwinter in the dark as they go dormant. Other plants still require some light because they still perform metabolic functions, although less actively in winter.

Why You Need to Overwinter Plants Indoors

While the gardening community has been very creative in naming different types of plants and tools, they haven’t been too creative in associating the term “overwintering” with its definition.

Overwintering, as the name explains, is simply the process of keeping your plant alive over the course of the winter. More specifically, overwintering often means moving plants indoors during the cold months of the winter.

Of course, overwintering isn’t a universally applied tactic. In climates like Florida, where the temperature is always moderate, plants don’t need to be brought inside to survive the winter. 

When the average low is above freezing year round, plant owners do not need to worry about their plants dying from snow, ice, or frost and can instead focus on keeping plants blooming all year long.

In other places, however, winter weather is so severe that even though some plants native to the area can survive a cold freeze by entering dormancy, these plants might have a hard time with how cold it will get. 

New England is a great example of this. Though plants can often handle the cold months and survive into future years, sometimes, in an especially snowy or cold year, these plants can have a hard time exiting dormancy. They may also suffer from winter injuries.

For this reason, some gardeners choose to overwinter their plants indoors. This is often a necessity for potted plants but can also apply to plants not previously potted. Some gardeners, for example, will dig out their native flowers from the ground and move them indoors before the weather freezes in order to ensure they will come back in the spring.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to overwintering plants, there are a number of factors you should consider when preparing your plants to come indoors for the winter. 

While you can overwinter plants in a potting shed, make sure that the shed is able to provide the conditions the plants need in order to succeed. Decide how warm and how much sunlight you want your plants exposed to, and ensure your plants go through a dormancy period if required.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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