“When Should I Empty My Flowerpots?”

by | Updated: Nov 14, 2022

When should I empty my flowerpots, like these purple petunias?

In the fall, one of the questions that often comes up is:

“When should I empty my flowerpots?”

There are different schools of thought on when to empty your flowerpots, so I’m going to share several options.

That way, you can decide which makes the most sense for you.

#1) Empty your flowerpots when you’re ready.

I have a neighbor who has a gorgeous container garden every summer.

Typically, she reaches a point in the early fall when she decides:

“I’ve had enough.”

She’s over it. Her flowers still look good, but she’s ready to be done with watering and deadheading. She wants to empty her flowerpots while the weather is still nice.

You may feel guilty about pulling your flowers out early.

Heck, you may feel guilty about pulling your flowers out anytime!

But chances are, you’ve planted “annuals” in your flowerpots.

Annuals are designed to go through their full life cycle within 1 year.

So, it’s 100% okay to empty your flowerpots if:

  • You reach a point where you’ve had enough OR
  • You want to do your fall chores before it gets too cold

Your flowers are nearing the end of their life cycle, and the killing freezes ARE coming…

You may just be beating Mother Nature to them.

#2) Empty your pots when your flowers stop looking good due to frosts and freezes.

(This is what I do.)

The majority of the flowers in your containers can’t survive freezing temperatures.

This means there’s a point when the flowers in your containers will get nipped by cold temperatures and die.

Dead flowers in a pot - these flowers froze and have freeze damage

So, how will you know if your flowers have frozen and are dying?

If your flowers have been nipped by a frost or a freeze:

  • Your flowers will often change colors. You may see them turn brown, black, gray or a yellowish cream.
  • They may go limp.
  • They may shrivel and dry up.
  • Sometimes, they’ll get mushy.

They’ll no longer look right, and it’s their way of telling you:

“Hey, it’s time to dig me out of your flowerpot!”

If you have frosts or freezes in your forecast and you don’t want your flowers to get nipped, check out 6 ways to protect your flowers from frost and freezing.

#3) Empty your pots BEFORE you start getting consistent freezes and/or snow.

So, let’s say you’re having a busy fall. Your plants have frozen and died, but you haven’t had time to empty your flowerpots yet.

You may want to think about emptying your flowerpots BEFORE you start getting consistent freezes or snow.

Here’s why:

There are some types of flowerpots — like terracotta pots, ceramic pots and even concrete flowerpots — that can chip, crack or crumble over the winter.

Check out the photo below for an example of what flowerpot freeze damage can look like.

This is what freeze damage to flowerpots looks like. The side of this flowerpot fell off.

#4) Dig out your flowers if you want to put something else in your flowerpots.

If you don’t mind leaving your flowerpots out, you can turn them into decorative planters during other parts of the year — especially if they’re in a spot that’s protected from the elements.

For example, you could:

  • Replace your summer flowers with fall flowers, like the mums in the photo below
  • Put pumpkins, gourds or decorative branches in your flowerpots in the fall
  • Spruce up your containers with evergreen bows or other festive adornments in December
  • Fill them with flowers in the spring that like chillier weather (like the pansies pictured earlier on this page)

Before you empty your flowerpot, consider adding colorful fall mums, like in this blue flowerpot

There’s no rule that says you can only use your flowerpots during the summer!

If this sounds like too much work, then of course, you don’t have to do it.

Just know you have options!

Related topics that may interest you:

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, published western garden writer and dog mama. I help flower gardeners in the intermountain west skip the “Why didn’t anyone tell me that phase?”, so they can get pretty results faster. More about Ann >>

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