February is when we nature lovers yearn to see dirt, petals, color, and the smell of soil. You may also be noticing your local nursery bringing in new plants and pots to play with. There are so many wonderful cold hardy annual plants (also known as “cool flowers”) to choose from to bring your containers back to life in the cold months of early spring.
Cool flowers, known as hardy annuals, live for one year and survive cold temperatures. Other brilliant qualities of cool flowers are that they require less water, many are fragrant, and most do not mind crowding, making them great for containers. My favorite cool weather annuals are listed below. These plants are exceptional in cool weather and some even tolerate light snow. With all plants that come home from the nursery to be repotted, I always use Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend.
Take this February to go to your local nursery and treat yourself to some cool weather annuals. Get some nice pots and plants and make a Welcome Spring container garden with these really special hard-working plants!
I can’t pick one favorite flower but if I absolutely had to, snapdragon is always in my top 3. Their tall strong spires of frilly flower pods in endless variations of colors make this a standout plant in the cold months. Snapdragons are always the first seeds I sew in the month of February. But you don’t have to grow them from seed to enjoy them. Snapdragons are a nursery staple and varieties like Rocket, Costa, and Madame Butterfly perform great in containers.
Geraniums are an incredibly popular summer flower, especially in hanging baskets around Mother’s Day. But did you know that they actually thrive in cool weather? And did you also know that you can prune them like a bonsai for years and years and years? I have one that I prune that is about 8 years old. With geraniums you want to make sure they get sun, food, and you must dead-head the flower heads that turn brown. I love that geraniums can actually be a summer hanging plant, a great container plant, or a long living house plant. Geraniums will live as long as you care for them. Best practices are to dead head and feed with Coast of Maine Wiscasset Blend (earthworm castings) every 2 months.
3. Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller is a soft feathery silver foliage plant that looks gorgeous mixed with rich, bold, flowering plants. It is a great container garden addition because the silver soft tones make partner plants pop. Growing between 6-9 inches Dusty Miller makes for a fun contrasting plant in containers. It is also great dried or in floral arrangements. We grow dusty miller from spring straight through frost.
4. Calendula (aka Pot Marigold)
I grow this plant every season for so many reasons:
- The seeds are big and funky to seed capture with kids
- They are edible, we add them to our salad dressings
and baked goods
- They are so incredibly hardy and will thrive in early spring and begin to stall out once the August heat sets in.
- With succession planting you can have this plant from spring right up through the first few snow falls!
Calendula is a lovely container plant because it is compact but grows large colorful blooms that smile at you and make you happy. If you see calendula at your nursery, give her a try. She’s really fun and cute to play with.
5. Pansies and Violas
My grandfather was a World War II Navy Veteran and when he came home from the war he became a pansy farmer. We would start the little baby seedlings in August and September, cover them with straw and let them hibernate over winter. Then when the snow melted, we would clear the fields and look for the small but mighty emerald green clusters of pansies. Pansies are often one of the first happy, smiling flower faces we see each season and I love that about them. Pansies have faces that smile at you, so of course you should have them in as many containers as possible!
Photos and Blog written by: Farmer Steph, of Farm to Table Kids (Stephanie McDonough)