We are often asked “What can I plant now while it is still cool and our spring weather is somewhat unpredictable?”
Listed below are a few options that have proven to do well in Michigan with our fluctuating spring temperatures. These plants are tolerant of dips in evening temperatures and perform well in cooler weather.
Ranunculus – An annual in our growing zone, are brilliantly colored flowers with multiple layers of crepe-paper like petals. The leaves of the plants have a celery like shape and are a deep grass green. Ranunculus has a mounded appearance, growing 12-16 inches tall and 8-10 inches wide. They prefer full sun and do well in containers. They make excellent cut flowers. Grow and cut them now, they do not like hot temperatures.
Pansies – Proven performer in our area, Pansies offer a wide range of bold and bright colors that often last into the summer when grown in a slightly shaded area and kept well watered. Pansies also grow very well in containers and baskets thus providing early spring options for color. Pansies prefer sun to part shade. They grow 8 inches tall and 6-8 inches wide.
Osteospermum – A daisy like flower that is very cold tolerant and is now also more heat tolerant. The increased demand for this low maintenance plant that doesn’t need deadheading has encouraged breeders to increase its resilience to cold and heat. Plant in sun or partial shade, it grows 12-14 inches tall and 10-12 inches wide.
Dianthus – Both perennial and annual varieties can be planted now. Dianthus has bright white, pink, lavender or red fragrant blooms that look great in a flowerbed and rock gardens. They are easy to grow, prefer a cool climate, full sun and well drained soil. After the flowers have died, sheer off dead flower heads. Varieties such as Sweet William and Cottage Pinks grow 8-10 inches tall and 8-14 inches wide. Carnations (which are Dianthus) grow 12-14 inches tall and 8-10 inches wide.
Creeping Phlox – This easy to grow, small mounded ground cover blooms profusely in early spring. Many people come in and ask for that pretty “pink, white or purple” plant they see blooming now. Phlox prefer full sun, moist soils, and normal pH levels of 6.5-7.7. Creeping Phlox also flourish on hills and steep slopes and for planting in cracks and walls. They naturalize (spread) well. Most creeping varieties grow 5-8 inches tall and 20-30 inches wide.
Foxgloves (Digitalis) – A tall, stately plant with flower spikes that have bell shaped blooms. Foxgloves have dense, dark green foliage and prefer partial sun to full shade and loamy soils. The flower spikes come in a range of colors and can reach 4 feet in height and the plants spreads 12-14 inches. We recommend covering this plant if a hard frost is in the forecast this spring.
With the interest in growing one’s own vegetables and eating vegetables that are grown locally continuing to grow in popularity, there a number of vegetables you can start in our cool spring weather.
We’re not talking about setting aside a large area. All you need is some room amidst existing flowers in your gardens or containers on your patio or porch.
Salad greens, kale, radishes, Swiss chard, asparagus, rhubarb, beets, turnips, Brussels sprouts, onions and peas are all cool-season vegetables that can be started as soon as the soil can be worked. Stop in and ask us about growing vegetables and pick up one of our many Wenke Wisdom sheets on how to grow vegetables.