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 reward you with 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-simple 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 blooms in extreme cold and heat, they will grace us with blooms the rest of the year. Part shade will extend the bloom into the summer. Fertilize as long as they are growing and blooming. 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. They 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.
Alyssum works well in color bowls as the “spiller”. It will gently cascade over the edge of the pot. They have a sweet fragrance, and bloom all winter if protected from hard freezes. They do best with afternoon shade and I cover mine for frosts to preserve the blooms. Bring inside for sustained freezes.
Cyclamen are a beautiful cool season plant for the shade. Plant in well drained soil. The flowers will freeze at about 28°F and the plants will freeze in the mid 20’s, so planting in pots is recommended. Cover for frosts and bring inside for freezes, but do not keep them inside. They do not do well in warm dry houses.
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, these plants 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!