Fall may be here, but the gardening season is far from over. Cool season flowers can be planted now or early next spring to give your garden a pop of color and aroma before most gardens are in bloom. In this week’s podcast, flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler shares her tips for what to grow, when and how.
Lisa is a teacher and author based in Newport News, Virginia, who has been farming flowers for a quarter of a century. She is the founder of The Gardener’s Workshop, which offers seeds, supplies and online courses, and she has written four books, including “Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty” and “Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques.”
When Lisa published “Cool Flowers” in 2014, she featured 30 types of flowers. Since then she’s learned so much more, and now her list of cool season flowers has nearly doubled in length. Lisa is sharing her list, with the flowers’ hardiness zones identified, to help you determine the right time to plant in your zone. If an annual is winter hardy in your zone, it can be planted in fall or very early spring. If it’s not winter hardy, it can still be planted in very early spring. Find this helpful sheet at joegardener.com/coolflowers.
For a comprehensive recap of my conversation with Lisa Mason Ziegler, see the show notes from the original airing.
Which cool season flowers to grow and when to plant them varies by location. “It’s all about where you live,” Lisa points out. “We have different timing for different regions.”
Many growers can put seedlings in the ground in fall that will overwinter successfully and become the earliest, most abundant, easy-care flowers of the spring-to-early-summer garden.
“The greatest part of fall planting this group of flowers is it changes winter for you,” Lisa says. Instead of sitting in the house and not bothering to look out the window, the first thing you think of when you get up in the morning is “I wonder if they’re still alive. I wonder if they’re still out there,” she says. “You are peeking out the windows. You’re putting on your coat and going out there — when you otherwise wouldn’t — to look at your frozen little plants.”
Lisa direct sows seeds in the fall. In the spring and summer, she refrains from direct sowing because of weed and heat pressure. In spring, summer and fall, she plants the transplants that she started from seed in soil blocks indoors.
Lisa is a big believer in planting as much as you are able to in the fall. Snapdragons planted in fall, for example, will have better pest and disease resistance, greater abundance and longer stems than snapdragons planted in spring, and they will bloom longer in summer heat because they are better established, she says.
Fall’s also a great time to plant because the pest and disease pressure is reduced and the humidity is down — it’s much easier on the plants and a much more comfortable time to work in the garden.
In full sun is always the best location for cool season flower beds. If you’re dealing with shade from deciduous trees, early spring bloomers like poppies and bachelor’s buttons are your friends. They will bloom in March (depending on where you live) before the trees put their leaves on and cast shade. And bachelor’s buttons, aka cornflowers, excrete nectar from their flowers as well as their foliage, which is why they attract so many beneficial bees and wasps.
If you haven’t already listened to my discussion with Lisa Mason Ziegler about cool season flowers, you can scroll to the top of the page and click the Play icon in the green bar under the page title to do so now.
What flowers do you grow to enjoy in early spring? Let us know in the comments below.
Links & Resources
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joegardener Online Gardening Academy Perfect Soil Recipe Master Class: Learn how to create the perfect soil environment for thriving plants.
“Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty by Lisa Mason Ziegler
“The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers” by Lynn Byczynski
Disclosure: Some product links in this guide are affiliate links, which means we get a commission if you purchase. However, none of the prices of these resources have been increased to compensate us, and compensation is not an influencing factor on their inclusion here. The selection of all items featured in this post and podcast was based solely on merit and in no way influenced by any affiliate or financial incentive, or contractual relationship. At the time of this writing, Joe Lamp’l has professional relationships with the following companies who may have products included in this post and podcast: Corona Tools, Milorganite, Soil3, Greenhouse Megastore, Territorial Seed Company, Earth’s Ally, Proven Winners ColorChoice and Dramm. These companies are either Brand Partners of joegardener.com and/or advertise on our website. However, we receive no additional compensation from the sales or promotion of their product through this guide. The inclusion of any products mentioned within this post is entirely independent and exclusive of any relationship.