Thoughtfully created outdoor containers are the perfect reflection of the changing seasons and are sure to bring life and charm to your home or business. Changing your planters throughout the year ensures blooming flowers and healthy plants suited to each season’s weather conditions. It’s important to consider the daily and nightly temperatures when you go to create your planted containers.
Early Spring Containers are ready to be installed come late winter when the weather has started to thaw. In Minnesota, this is usually in March or April. At this time, you can remove your winter container filled with greens and spruce tops. Keep any decorative twigs, decor, or birch logs so you can reuse them in your next year’s winter planters. Compost any natural elements that you cannot reuse like your spruce tops and seasonal greens (which might be more brown this time of year).
Once you have removed your container’s winter greens, replenish your soil with fresh potting soil. If you used potting soil last year, you do not need to remove all of it. Simply leave half of your last year’s soil and add/mix in new soil to about an 1-2” under the planter lip. If your winter planter was planted with topsoil, remove all of the topsoil and replace with potting mix. Topsoil is heavier than potting mix and usually doesn’t have the small white styrofoam looking particles (perlite and vermiculite) in it. It’s important to use potting soil so that your spring, summer, and fall plants will thrive.
This time of the year is still a bit too chilly for our spring loving plants. In order to freshen up the planter and get us in the springy mood, you can top your soil with green moss and insert decorative twigs such as Pussy Willows into the center of the planter. You can usually reuse your pussy willows and sometimes moss again next year in your early Spring container.
You can find decorative moss at your local garden center or craft store. I find that the garden center has greener and fresher looking moss. You don’t have to, but I place landscape-fabric-pins (which you can also find at the garden center) into the moss to keep it in place so it doesn’t blow away.
These planters are a super simple way to celebrate the end of Winter and get us excited about the sunny days that lie ahead.
Spring Containers are filled with cold-tolerant plants and spring-blooming bulbs to survive those chillier nights. Summer plants and tropicals cannot survive below 55degrees, but spring plants can withstand temperatures as low as 38degrees. If the weather happens to drop below 38, bring your planters indoors or cover them with a sheet or cloth. These containers are perfect to get you by until it’s safe (temperature wise) to plant summer planters mid-May to early-June. Note that cold-tolerant plants do not do well in heat, which is why most gardeners switch their planters over to Summer.
To create your spring container, remove the moss you applied a couple weeks back. I like to leave the pussy willows in the center- adjust as needed. Then fill with cold tolerant plants and budding or blooming bulbs (See list below). You do not want to use any old bulbs, like from the leftover ones stored in your garage. In the spring, you can find bulbs that have been planted in a container and already have established green stems and buds atop at your local garden center. Feel free to ask an associate if you need any assistance finding them. I like to use bulbs that are not fully blooming yet so that the color lasts longer in the container over the spring and so I can watch them grow, open and bloom with the season.
The cool thing about using bulbs in your containers is that you can plant them in your garden after the season is over so that they bloom year after year for you in the ground.
When planting bulbs in your container, plant them 2-3” below the soil line and fill the soil around them so they stand straight. Then place your other cold-tolerant plants above and around the bulbs. After, you can top any blank pockets with the moss you used early. Don’t forget to water your new plants right after planting and then every couple days after that.
Pansies – Can withstand temps as low as 32 degrees.
Violas – Can withstand temps as low as 32 degrees.
Creeping Jenny – Heat tolerant so can be left in planter for summer planting.
Calendula – Heat tolerant so can be left in planter for summer planting.
Ivy -Heat tolerant so can be left in planter for summer planting.
Osteospurmum – Heat tolerant so can be left in planter for summer planting.
Summer planters are filled with colorful, heat-tolerant plants and are implemented after Mother’s Day from mid-May to mid-June (weather depending). With proper care and watering, these planters will last through September or October.
It is extremely important to figure out what the sun conditions are like where your planter(s) live because most plants have a preference and will not thrive unless they are suited in the right environment.
If your planters are in the front of your house, figure out which direction your home faces. Your phone should automatically come with a compass app you can use if you’re not sure. Use our key below to determine which plants would do best due to your specific sun condition.
Once you have determined your sun conditions it’s time to shop for plants. Each plant tag will list which sun it prefers and most garden centers section their plants based on the sun conditions. We suggest getting something tall for the center, have filler plants around that and then have trailing plants to grow along the outside of the pot.
After planting, it’s very important you water your plants almost daily during the summer heat. If you plan to be out of town a lot, perhaps have your irrigation company set up watering for your containers or plant drought tolerant plants such as cacti, succulents, and moss rose (portulaca plant). Keep in mind, most drought tolerant plants are for full sun conditions.
Fall containers are planted when the temps start to drop at the end of the summer, usually in September or October. These planters include Mums, Asters, grasses, Kale, ornamental Cabbage, Violas, Pansies, and the occasional mini pumpkin. These plants can also withstand the cooler nights like the plants in your Spring containers. When purchasing your Mums and Asters, choose plants that have tighter buds that haven’t bloomed yet. That way your fall container is sure to last until you’re ready for winter planting.
Simply remove and compost your summer plants and replace with your fall plants. Water after planting and then every couple of days.
Winter containers are planted in November through early December and are filled with spruce tops, seasonal greens, and winterberries. We love winter planters because after the one initial watering, the plantings are zero maintenance and will stay looking fresh until your Spring planters return in the new year.
Ceramic and terracotta planters could potentially crack if you planted right in them for winter. This is because as water gets into your pots, it freezes, then expands and can crack your pot. If you are set on using ceramic for the winter, you can place a plastic pot inserted inside that you will plant directly in.
Winter container ingredients usually include:
Spruce tops (Also called Spruce tips).
Winter greens such as White pine, Red Cedar, Coned Cedar.
Oregonia (we love the white variegated variety).
Natural red winter berries or faux berries.
Decorative twigs such as curly Willow, red-twigged Dogwood, or yellow Dogwood.
Once you have your ingredients, we like to prep our Spruce tops the night before planting. Give each Spruce top a fresh cut at the bottom and remove the bottom couple inches of branches. Then fill a bucket with room temperature water and place the spruce tops in to let sit overnight. This gives the Spruce top time to absorb water and moisture so that your winter planter stays green all season.
Make sure you store your greens that are not in water outside or in your unheated garage overnight. Do not leave any greens not sitting in water in a heated room as they could brown.
The next day, remove all of your fall plants so that you are starting with a blank canvas. If you are using birch poles (logs) in the center of your pots, you will need to plant them 4-6” below the soil. Make sure you pack the soil around them so that they do not move.
Once you have your birch in place you can add your spruce tops. Press them a couple inches down within the soil so that they are sturdy. You may need to pack the soil and add more if they are not standing up straight. After that you can add the other greens or decorative twigs you purchased. Designing these will take some practice, but we’re confident you will start to get the hang of it year after year.
It’s very important you water your winter container when you are finished planting. The water will eventually freeze and lock in your creation so it stands strong against the winter elements. After, add lights if you’d like to really make it pop at night.