Winter annuals

Are you growing tired of our frigid weather? Oh sure, it’s
nothing like the Midwest or East this time of year. Yet, with
morning temperatures dropping into the high-20s and low-30s, it’s
easy to start dreaming of some tropical paradise.
Are you growing tired of our frigid weather? Oh sure, it’s nothing like the Midwest or East this time of year. Yet, with morning temperatures dropping into the high-20s and low-30s, it’s easy to start dreaming of some tropical paradise.

The other good news is that these bedding plants are so affordable. All are available in six-packs, as well as 4-inch pots and sometimes gallon cans (for instant color). For $20, you can get a couple dozen plants that are budded and ready to bloom.

Confused about what size to buy? Personally, I almost always buy the cheapest bedding plants available, which translates nowadays to quarter or half flats. But not all annuals are available in flats. If not, I go with the jumbo six packs.

However, if you’re the impatient type and want “instant” color, pay a little more and buy four-inch pots or even gallon cans.

These larger containers already are showing color. The flats and jumbo six packs are usually at least two or three weeks from showing decent color. Without further ado, here’s a quick listing:

Pansy

Pansies are the king of winter annuals. Plants will continue to bloom in temperatures into the 20s and san survive into the teens. Plants grow 6-8 inches, with 2-inch-plus flowers.

The diverse colors and markings of these wonderful flowers make them very popular.

Viola

This pansy cousin is equally hardy, although plants and flowers are slightly smaller.

Violas come with blotches like pansies and also solid colors.

Snapdragon/Stock

Yes, these grow in the spring and summer, too, but can also take the cold weather. These tall, slender plants come in heights ranging from 8 inches to 4 feet. The taller varieties make ideal backdrops in the garden bed.

Calendula

These so-called “winter marigolds” are another standby. Flowers resemble marigolds and are even in the same colors of orange, yellow, apricot and white. However, foliage is completely different, and plants are shorter at about 10 inches.

Celand Poppy

Among the great garden candidates in the poppy family are Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule). The cup-shaped, pastel-colored flowers bloom on delicate stems about a foot high. But their fragile looks are deceiving as they will withstand the worst conditions, including cold, strong wind and rain.

Primula (Primrose)

Pastel shades are the norm here for Primula obconica (known as primulas or fairy primroses) and Primula acaulis (known as primroses).

Dianthus (sweet William)

This is an underused annual, but newer hybrids like “Super Parfait” are more cold and heat-tolerant than older types. These are also known as “border carnations,” and are actually dwarf carnations.

Cyclamen

Florists’ cyclamen is thought of as a holiday houseplant not as an outdoor winter annual. However, they can be used outdoors throughout winter, it’s just going to cost you more than regular annuals. You’ll have to pay about $5 apiece for 4-inch-potted cyclamen.

Ornamental cabbage and kale

Although these aren’t flowering plants, it’s impossible to write about winter annuals without including them. These non-edible, ornamental vegetables offer huge, 12-inch wide leaves that are purple and red.

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