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Plants that scoff at the chance of frost

Last week’s night-time temperatures in the low 30s had the Potomac store staff scrambling to tuck in our tender young plants under their blankies!  We’re not out of the cold weather woods yet, either; our frost-free safety date here in zone 7 is around Mother’s Day.

However, while summer annual plants may suffer from a hard frost (temperatures of 32F or below) without a light cover like an old bedsheet or even newspapers, there are many cool weather loving plants in their prime right now.

Flowering color is a major desire after a long winter, and we have a wonderful assortment of beautiful pansies (if someone calls you a pansy, that’s a real compliment since these prolific bloomers have been known to bloom through light snow!), dianthus, ranunculus, snapdragons, Pot n’ Patio asters, Easter Bonnet alyssum, diascia and more, in full blossom and ready to bloom for you for weeks to come.

Perennial phlox is in full, gorgeous spring bloom in a carpet of color.  Also flowering for you are camellias, ornamental cherries, and other spring trees and shrubs.  All these can be planted NOW, even if spring temperatures seem more like winter from time to time.

If edibles are on your spring wish list, lettuce show you our awesome selection of cool weather veggies, including Brussels sprouts; broccoli; white and yellow cauliflower; white and red cabbage; an assortment of greens including collards and mustard greens (which have pretty red veining); and a variety of lettuces including Butter Crunch, Red Sails, Salad Bowl combination, and Mesclun Mix.  Greens you grow yourself taste so much better than the bagged and boring stuff from the grocery store!

This is also a good time to plant our hardy herbs, such as chives, parsley, rosemary and thyme, but wimpy basil wants to sit on a sunny indoor windowsill until outdoor temps remain at 50F or above.

Fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes are growing fast and are also ready to plant now!   Strawberries can perform for you right from a pot in the sunshine on your porch or patio, or out in the garden.  Blueberry bushes are leafing out and will give you fat, juicy berries in early summer, then provide colorful foliage in fall.  Blackberry and grape vines are looking for your fence or one of our classy trellises to climb up.

Limited space?  Try combining edibles with flowers in your pots! Red sails lettuce complements pansies, ranunculus, and dianthus in the pot shown.

Don’t forget to pick and eat the lettuce, so it will keep producing for you, and use a pansy flower for a lovely spring ornament on a dinner plate or serving platter.

So don’t let cloudy days and chilly nights make you run for cover.  Many plants love our cool, damp spring weather, so grab your jacket and enjoy them!

by Mary Ellen Gaspard, Behnkes in Potomac

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I was entertaining last weekend and got some blooming ranunculus in a 12-inch pot. It’s been great, but it doesn’t seem very happy in the house. I’ve given it a good soaking watering once this week. When can I plant it outside, and what do I need to consider (sunlight, drainage, soil-type)?

    I also got some blooming tulips in a pot – the flowers are gone (I dead-headed them), I gave it a good watering too, and now the leaves are yellowing along the edges. Can I plant them outside with my other spring bulbs now, or do I need to do something else first?

    R.M., Bowie, MD

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