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5 Things You Should Plant Before Summer Arrives

5 Things You Should Plant Before Summer Arrives

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

If you are new to gardening or starting a landscape makeover, it can be overwhelming to know what to plant and when. So, let’s make a game plan for spring. There are certain types of plants that really benefit from being planted in the springtime before the summer heat settles in. So, if you are looking to make the task more manageable, focus on these plants first. Narrowing down your options will also help you spend your budget wisely on the more urgent items first.

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Spring is an excellent time to plant evergreen trees and shrubs like Gin Fizz® juniper.

New Trees and Shrubs

When installing plants in a new landscape, it’s important to start with the “bones.” These are the trees, shrubs and evergreens that will define the shape of your garden and visually anchor it in place. Spring is an excellent time to get all kinds of woody plants established. If you need to narrow your list down, start with these:

  • Plant large and small trees that will be the focal point of the landscape or garden bed first.
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs – Both needle evergreens and broadleaf evergreens benefit from spring planting so they have time to establish a good root system before winter. Plant your large specimen evergreens first, then your evergreen hedges.
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia) – This popular summer-flowering shrub establishes far better when it is planted in the springtime. It’s especially important in zones 5 and 6, which are on the low end of its hardiness range.
  • Fall fruiting shrubs including winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), blue holly (Ilex x meserveae), coral berry (Symphoricarpos), beautyberry (Callicarpa) and viburnums all benefit from spring planting.

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Perennials that bloom later in the season like ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ Russian sage often establish better in the landscape when planted in the spring.

Late Blooming Perennials

All types of perennials can be planted in the spring but those that bloom in late summer and fall, as well as evergreen perennials, will especially benefit from being planted early. The extra growing time will help them get their roots anchored in before it comes time to make flowers. If you need to narrow down your list, think coral bells, coneflowers, Russian sage, ornamental grasses and mums when selecting perennials for spring planting.

Here’s a word of caution about when it is safe to plant perennials outside in the spring. If you buy your perennials from an outdoor nursery where the plants have already been exposed to the elements, it is generally safe to plant them in your garden right away.

Perennials you purchase from inside a warm greenhouse will need to be acclimated to the cold before you can plant them outside. Do so by following this simple routine: set them outside in the sun during the day when temperatures are above 50°F and bring them into your garage at night. After following this routine for about 10 to 14 days, your new perennials will be ready to safely plant outside.

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Wait until the threat of frost has passed before planting warm season food crops like Proven Harvest®.

Warm Season Vegetables and Herbs

We are all excited to get our vegetable gardens started as soon as spring arrives. While it is safe to plant cool season veggies like lettuce and broccoli early in the season once the ground becomes workable, you’ll need to wait to plant out your warm season food crops.

Once the threat of frost has passed, it will be safe to plant summer fruiting favorites like Tempting Tomatoes®, Fire Away® peppers and Berried Treasure® strawberries outside. These plants thrive in warmer soil and sunny, mild weather. Once temperatures are above 70°F, it will also be safe to plant your basil outside. Planting them outside in the cold earlier will not help them to produce fruit any faster, in fact it could have the opposite effect.

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May is the perfect time to plant up your porch pots with colorful annuals like this Violet Eclipse recipe.

Flowering Annuals

All types of summer blooming annuals, plus those that are grown for their foliage, will thrive when planted in the spring once the threat of frost has passed and mild weather has returned. Think Supertunia® petunias, ColorBlaze® coleus and Superbena® verbena here. It’s time to fill up those patio pots, window boxes and hanging baskets!

You may not realize that some annuals bloom earlier than others. Heat loving annuals like Angelface® Angelonia need warmer temperatures to jump start their growth, so retailers often set them out a little later in spring and continue stocking them into early summer. That’s why it is a good idea to split up your plant shopping into more than one trip. You will find some different kinds of plants at garden centers in early May than you will in late May.

Keep an eye on your nighttime temperatures when you are planting annuals outside in the spring. As a general rule, most annuals will need to be brought in if temperatures are forecasted to dip below 50°F. Some plants, like the summer bulbs described below, need even warmer temperatures. If in doubt, bring it in.

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Wait until the soil warms up in spring to plant heat loving varieties like Heart to Heart® caladiums, elephant ears and Plum Dandy™ alternanthera.

Summer Bulbs

Some tropical plants like elephant ears, Heart to Heart® caladiums, Toucan® cannas and dahlias that are grown from bulbs or tubers should wait to be planted outside until late spring. Alternatively, you can start them in pots indoors in late winter. Once the soil temperature outside heats up to at least 60°F, it is safe to plant these summer bulbs outside. Using a Twist ‘n Plant® auger makes digging the holes for these bigger bulbs much easier. Before you plant, use a soil thermometer, available at most garden centers and hardware stores, to take the temperature of your soil. If the soil is too cold, summer bulbs can easily become stunted.

If you purchase your tropical plants at the garden center not as bulbs but as actively growing potted plants, the same rule still applies. Wait to move them outside until the soil temperature is at least 60°F. They will reward you with far more robust growth if you follow this simple guideline.

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Patent Information: Gin Fizz® Juniperus chinensis USPP31994 CanPBRAF; 'Denim 'n Lace' Perovskia atriplicifolia USPP28445 Can5568

Susan Martin is an avid zone 6 gardener, garden writer and speaker who enjoys spreading her passion for plants to her fellow gardeners across North America.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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