Melinda's Gardening How-To: Planting Cool Season Annuals - Pasquesi Home and Gardens
Pansy lettuce container

Melinda’s Gardening How-To: Planting Cool Season Annuals

Add a little color… 

…fragrance and flavor to your early spring garden with cool season annuals. These plants tolerate the cool air and soil of spring.  Many keep blooming even after an unexpected spring snow shower.  Just wait for the snow to recede and temperatures to warm.  Welcome spring as you start the growing season out with a few of these cool weather beauties.

What You Need

  • A vacant space in the garden, shrub bed or mixed border
  • A few containers with drainage holes
    • Fill with a well-drained potting mix
    • Add a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer at planting
  • Cool season annuals
    • Select those that combine nicely with:
      • Spring flowering bulbs
      • Perennials
      • Each other to create an interesting container combination
    • Check the tags for spacing and light requirements

A few cool season annuals to consider

  • Pansies are sure to generate a smile, provide nectar for butterflies, many are fragrant and the flowers are edible
    • Fill a container or hanging basket and dress up your front entrance
    • Combine with bulbs and other spring flowers
    • Grow in full or morning sun for best results. Plants fade in hot weather but the spring show makes them worth including
    • Plant 6” apart and Cool Wave or other trailing pansies 12” apart.
  • Sweet alyssum adds color and fragrance to the spring landscape and provide nectar for butterflies
    • Grow in full sun or light shade
    • Plant compact varieties 6” apart and larger cultivars 8 to 10”
    • Snow Princess is heat tolerant and great for larger spaces
    • Use as an edger in the garden or trailer in a container
  • Stocks are fragrant and real butterfly magnets
    • Grow in full sun
    • Plants grow about 1 to 2 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety
    • Use as thrillers (vertical accents) or fillers in container gardens
  • Snapdragons are great for cutting and vertical accents
    • Grow in full to partial sun
    • Space smaller varieties 6” apart and taller ones 12” apart
    • Cut plants back mid summer to encourage compact growth and flowering when temperatures cool
      • Perennial and annual vines like ivy, golden moneywort and vinca.
        • Select those that tolerate the cool spring temperatures and keep looking good throughout the remainder of the growing season
        • Use as spillers in your container gardens.
        • Mix with spring flowers and colorful vegetables allowing them to cascade over the pot. One or two per container is usually sufficient
      • Swiss Chard is not just for the vegetable garden.
        • Mix with ornamental plantings or use as an edible groundcover.
        • Use as a vertical accent in container gardens filled with pansies and colorful greens.
        • Grow in full sun to partial shade
        • Space plants 9 to 12” apart in the garden
        • Harvest outer leaves when 8 to 12” long to keep the plant producing and looking its best
      • Lettuce, ornamental mustard and other greens.
        • Use as fillers in container gardens or as a backdrop for spring flowers
        • Grow in full sun or shade
        • Space 6 to 12” apart in the garden
        • Harvest smaller greens when the outer leaves are 4 to 6” long and taller plants when leaves are 8 to 12” tall

Caring for Spring Plantings

  • Water new plantings thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
    • Check container plantings daily
    • Once established water plants growing in the garden thoroughly when the top few inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist.
  • Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose
  • Manage the cool season annuals that fade or stop flowering in hot weather
    • Replace with more heat tolerant annuals.
    • Cut back those, like alyssum, that will make a comeback as the temperatures cool

Once you’ve enjoyed the color, fragrance and beauty of cool season annuals you will be looking for new spaces to plant as well as new varieties and combinations to try in fall and next spring.


Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you! 

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