overwintering tender annuals

While many of us are swept away by all the delightful activities and colors that this time of year presents, there’s something inherently bittersweet about the growing season coming to a close. While some of our perennials are lucky enough to just be going into their beauty sleep for the winter, we’re saying goodbye to some of our favorite summer annuals.

The end of the growing season and the approaching winter weather doesn’t have to mean the end for all of your annuals, though! Despite their name, many of these plants can thrive for years of summer weather if you save them from the cold.


Many of our garden’s favorites are ideal to bring inside and treasure as houseplants during the winter freeze until they can be brought outside for another year of mild summer weather. This will not only save some of your favorite plants that you might not be ready to say goodbye to yet, but it will also give you a head start on next year. Once the snow melts and you can bring these overwintered plants outside again, your garden will look more lush and mature earlier in the year. While many other annuals struggle to catch up at the start of the season, your garden will have an overwintered boost to get started.

Petunias, Marigolds, Snapdragons


Unfortunately, not every annual is created equal when it comes to overwintering. The best candidates for saving from the winter chill are some of the old-fashioned foliage classics, and big centerpiece plants are the ideal choices.

When some of our favorite tropical plants were hybridized and bred to create fun, new varieties, many of them lost their hardiness required for multiple seasons of growing. Due to this, our star container-stuffing annuals, like Petunias, Marigolds, and Snapdragons, are only specialized to have one short, but spectacular season. Keeping them hidden inside over the winter might prevent them from dying in the frost, but they won’t be able to return to next season with the same flair they had this year, so it’s best to part ways in the fall. The only exception to this rule are geraniums, which seem to defy the odds.

The old-fashioned classics, like vines, Dracaena spikes, Cordylines, Hibiscus, Mandevilla, and Bougainvillea, are the best choices for overwintering, growing into impressive specimens with each year they’re saved from our Indiana cold. These varieties have been pulled straight from their natural habitat without any genetic tinkering from humans, so they are hardy and ready to adapt to survive.


Overwintering is fairly simple and can easily be done with a sunny spot in your home. Most of our favorite annuals are tropical, so they will need plenty of light and water to sustain them through the winter.

Many plants make overwintering easy, but be aware of some plants, like Geraniums and Canna Lilies, that require some special care to overwinter. If in doubt, we’d be happy to point you and your annuals in the right direction!

To overwinter vines and large plants, start by cutting your vine back to the size of its trellis. Managing size not only helps you find an indoor spot to accommodate your plant, but will encourage healthy growth over the winter. Place your vine by a sunny window to keep it energized all winter.

Coleus, Impatiens, Begonias

To overwinter smaller plants, like Coleus, Impatiens, or Begonias, trim them back ¼ to ⅓ and place them by a sunny window. Making sure that you have an original variety or something very close will help to get you the best results, as the hybrids simply aren’t designed for multiple seasons.

For all your overwintered tropicals, treat them with plenty of insecticidal soap as you carry them inside to make sure that they don’t bring any nasty pests in with them. Aphids and spider-mites are manageable if they find their way inside, but can usually be avoided entirely. Slowly introduce your plants to indoor life by bringing them in overnight only before you taken them indoors altogether. Similarly, in spring, re-introduce them back outside in stages. Too sudden of a change in environment can be a shock to your tender plants, causing stress. You’ll have the most success if you make the transition as seamless as possible.

Overwintering plants is a simple way to save a little bit of the greenery of your summer garden to enjoy all winter. Not only can you save some of your garden favorites for more years of growing, but your garden will enjoy the boost of green in the early spring!