Time to Clean and Store Your Pots

How to store flower pots and gardening containers

December 2, 2020
Flower Pots

The garden is winding down and we are left with only a few more chores to complete before snow flies. If you are like me and have containers scattered all around your yard, it is time to gather them all in one place and get them ready for winter storage. A little care now will ensure that your pots and containers will be all set and ready to plant come spring.

Cleaning Containers and Pots

  • Pull any dead plants and empty out the soil. It can be tempting to reuse the soil, but for the healthy growth of next year’s plantings, it is best to start with fresh soil each spring. If the plants were not diseased, add them and their soil to your compost pile.
  • To disinfect them, soak clay and plastic pots in a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Bleach is a harsh chemical, so take precautions—wear gloves and eye protection and old clothes. You can substitute vinegar for the bleach if you want, just soak the pots for a few hours longer. This will not only kill off any lingering bug eggs and disease spores but also help to loosen the white, crusty mineral salts that have accumulated.

These crusty pots need a little love before they get tucked away for the winter.

  • Scour the pots with a stiff bristled brush to remove algae and mildew.

The loose crust is gone, but these white stains aren’t going anywhere!

  • Scrub off the white crust as well as you can. Sometimes it is stubborn and hard to remove from old clay pots. Plastic is much easier to clean. Some folks even run the pots through their dishwasher!

Here’s where some elbow grease is needed!

  • Soak the pots again in clean water, rinse clean, and let them dry in the sunshine if possible.

Storing Containers and Pots

When the pots are dry, stack and store them.

  • Plastic pots can be stored outside, but make sure they are covered and out of direct sunlight. Sunlight degrades the plastic over time, making it brittle and causing colored pots to fade.
  • Store clay and ceramic pots inside. Since unglazed clay is porous, it can absorb moisture; the freezing and thawing of winter can cause the pots to crack. If stacking ceramic pots, wrap them in newspaper to cushion them and prevent chipping. Even glazed pots can crack if left outside in freezing weather. These pots can be pricey, so it is best to take good care of them! If you cherish yours, bring them inside along with any other types of glass or ceramic yard art.

Some ceramic pots are only glazed on the outside.

  • Fabric pots need to have the soil removed. If the bags are too heavy to lift, scoop out some of the soil until you can safely dump the rest.

Even though we have been using these fabric pots for a few years, they are still like new.

  • If the bags are clean, let them dry, fold, and store.
  • If they are stained, they can be tossed into the washer or soaked in a bucket with a bit of laundry detergent. One manufacturer recommends using Oxi-Clean.
  • Rinse the fabric pots thoroughly and let them air dry. Don’t put them in the dryer!

A big improvement, but not perfect!

Don’t be discouraged if your pots are not perfectly clean. Just do the best you can!

Learn More

Now see how to care for and sharpen your gardening tools, another great off-season gardening task!

Read more about container gardening with vegetables and choosing the right pot size.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.