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Cool Season Containers

24HRSZENELIFLOWSERS  |  04/11/2011 15:43:17
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Cool season annual flowers bloom into late fall and earliest spring and sometimes flower all winter. Ideal in pots or planters by the door, walk or mailbox.

Cool season containers are pots or planters planted with flowers -- usually annual flowers -- that like cool weather, either the cool season of spring or in some cases, the cool season of fall. In some areas, where winter is very mild, the cool season for container flowers may also include the winter months. Planting cool season flowers means you will have to change your plantings when the weather turns warmer to switch to plants that like the hotter weather. But cool season container plantings allow us to enjoy the precious first flowers of the spring season and for that, it's worth the effort.

Seasonal Containers Mean Replanting Each Season

First, try to get your mind around the idea of seasonal containers. These are containers replanted repeatedly through the year, beginning in early spring, then changing periodically all the way through to late fall. You might possibly even replant for winter depending on the climate where you live. (General Tips About Planting Flowers in Pots and Planters.)

When I first considered this seasonal container idea, I had a hard time with it. I thought it was wasteful and expensive, among other things. I preferred to plant something in mid spring that would last nicely all season through to a hard freeze. And then, of course, I had ugly bare containers to look at all winter.

How I Fell for It

But, truth be told, I've changed my mind. Here's why. One fall, on a whim, I planted some violas in a huge container by my door -- in USDA zone 6 Pennsylvania where winters are harsh. Those perky little violas bloomed and bloomed into very late fall and then hunkered down for the winter. True, they looked a little cold for a few months. But the next spring, before I could even find plants to purchase let alone that it was way too cold to be planting, those well established, fully rooted little violas started blooming their sweet little heads off all over again. Flowers a month earlier than I had any right to expect! I was hooked.

Now that I garden in southern California, I can grow cool season annuals from fall through spring. Once the weather turns hot, though, the cool season flowers are done.

Cool-Season Annuals

So which season extending, cool-season annuals might be a good bet for early spring/mild winter planting? Look for plants that enjoy growing in cool weather. Pansies and violas for sure. Consider primroses, diascia, snapdragons, ornamental cabbage, dianthus, and sweet alyssum. And how about Ranunculus, Martha Washington geraniums, nemesia, annual poppies, sweet peas, Calendula, and the daisy-like Argyranthemum. And don't forget primroses and Cineraria. You might even add a few bulbs such as daffodils or tulips in full bloom, although the bloom period for the bulbs will not last as long as the other flowers.

Hardening Off

Consult with your local professionally trained garden center staff about when is best to plant these in your area. And, make sure the plants have been hardened off before you plant them outside. Hardening off is a gradual conditioning period where the plants are weaned off the ideal greenhouse growing conditions and begin to toughen up to face life in the great outdoors.

Plan to Replace Your Flowers for Summer

If your summer weather is cool, some of these cool season container flowers may continue to thrive and bloom all season. But if your summer weather is hot, expect these cool loving plants to collapse (or at least stop blooming) and need replacing. At that point, look for annuals that love summer heat.

Despite the need to replant for summer, I think you'll find that growing cool season annuals in containers is well worth the little effort they require, especially when those earliest blooming flowers, the first flowers of the season, greet you at the front door, along the walk, or at the mailbox and shout "Spring!"

All Flower Gardens Articles So Far

Copyright 2006 Barbara M. Martin

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