Pansies are one of the most rewarding plants for cool-season planting. They require 6-8 hours of sun, and a soil enriched with compost. Remember that winter is their season, and that they are HEAVY feeders. Fertilize monthly with NutriStar Color Star time-release fertilizer, and the blooms will never stop. I have had them bloom in an ice storm! Dead-head the fading flowers when possible to encourage more blooms, and you will be greatly rewarded.
Violas are one of my favorite winter bloomers. They will tolerate part sun (even dappled shade) or full sun, and offer bundles of gorgeous blooms all winter long. Feed them as you would Pansies, and add compost to the soil before planting. Dead-heading is a bit easier than Pansies. Simply pull sharply on the faded bloom and the whole stalk will pull away!
Dianthus are almost a year-round plant anymore. They do well in part shade to sun, and other than shutting down flowering in extreme cold and heat, they will grace us with color the rest of the year. Part shade extends the bloom into the summer. Fertilize as long as they are growing and flowering. Dead-head with scissors for continued blooms.
Snapdragons have to be one of my favorites, because MY deer leave them alone! Not everyone will have the same experience, so start small to test the waters. They are a “must plant” in the fall and will bloom the fall away. Snip dead blooms, and allow them to grow in January and February when it is colder. By March, the plants will be ready to EXPLODE!!! And that is when most people see them and want them. Too late, I say. Plant in the fall for the BEST spring display. Fertilize these cool-season annuals whenever actively growing and blooming, the same as you do with Pansies.
Larkspur and Poppies: DON’T WAIT, DON’T PROCRASTINATE! Sow those seeds this fall for a stupendous display in the spring. As a double bonus, BOTH these plants are deer-resistant, and will re-seed for next year. Planted now, they will spend the winter as small plants, then when days get longer in the spring, they will sprout up and bloom in March and April. You will be the talk of your neighborhood!
Get busy! Time’s a wasting. With cool-season annuals you can have “instant gratification” or “delayed gratification”-heck, you can even have BOTH! Just do it!