Creating Spring Containers

Every year the horticulture staff at the Gardens create beautiful mixed containers full of plants well-suited for early spring weather.
Creating these spring containers starts with the plants. They need to be hardy and able to withstand the occasional cold dips in temperature so common in spring. Pansies (Viola) are at the top of the list. These hardy cold-tolerant colorful annuals in dozens of colors from are the perfect addition to spring containers. Other annuals to consider for early spring planting include:
–          Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritime) Clusters of tiny fragrant white, pink or lavender blooms. A great “spiller” for your container.
–          Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) – These upright flower spikes are deer resistant.
–          Nemesia (Nemesia) – Available in oranges, reds, yellows, white and many bicolors these low growing plants melt in the heat and thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring.
–          Stock (Matthiola incana) – Plant these blooms where you can enjoy their amazing fragrance. Much like Nemesia, they are short lived in high heat making spring the perfect time to enjoy their flowers for longer.
–          Larkspur (Consolida ambigua) – Related to delphinium but smaller, this old-fashioned flower can be found in blues, pinks, whites and purples.
–          Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) – Small bright blue flowers on low growing plants are perfect for containers.
–          Cape daisy (Osteospermum) – Daisy flowers in yellows, oranges and whites with eye-popping dark centers. These colorful flowers melt in the summers and thrive in cooler spring weather.
–          China pinks (Dianthus chinensis) – These cold tolerant annuals come in reds, whites and pink, but they are named for their frilled petals not there most common color.
Combine these plants in containers as soon as frost has left the ground or temperatures at night are consistently around the freezing point, usually around the first part of April in Iowa. Once planted, water them in well. Combine plants with various heights, colors and textures to create interest. Add cut branches of willow, forsythia or red-twigged dogwood for height. Consider painting the container or branches a bright spring color. All of these plants will tolerate an occasional light frost not below 28°F, but pull containers inside if night temperatures get any lower. The spring containers at Reiman Gardens are planted. Visit the Gardens soon and enjoy the colors of spring!
Prepared by Aaron Steil, Manager of Public Programs