Create a vibrant spring screen on your gardens by planting winter blooms, such as pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) above the top of bulbs. Pansies grow as perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 7, while snapdragons are perennials in USDA zones 4 through 8, but you can treat them equally as winter annuals in Mediterranean-style climates. Winter annuals also do double duty by supplying shade all winter and conceal fading arc leaves after bulbs have finished blooming. Plan colors and heights carefully for a stunning spring garden.
When to Plant
Although frost-free and mild climates make it possible to plant all winter, you will get the best range of spring-blooming bulbs and winter annuals in garden centers in autumn. Fall is the ideal time to plant since winter blooms, such as pansies, and spring-blooming bulbs, like daffodils (Narcissus spp.) , which grow in USDA zones 3b through 10, can take advantage of the warm days and cool nights of autumn to set up roots their roots before winter weather arrives.
What to Choose
Low-growing, colorful pansies and grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.) Make complementary combined pairings or boundary plantings for bigger plants, like snapdragons, tulips (Tulipa spp.) and daffodils. Although tulips grow as perennials in USDA zones 4 through 8, it is ideal to treat them as annuals in warm climates or dig them up and chill them each year. If you choose to lift the bulbs, wait till the leaves have yellowed and then store in a cool, dry place for the summer, replanting after a few months in the refrigerator. When selecting bulbs, look for firm, plump bulbs showing no signs of sprouting or withering. Pick winter blossom plants that have green, robust leaves and whose roots don’t show from the base of the container.
How to Plant
Select a spot for the bulbs and winter blooms that has well-draining soil in full sunlight to partial shade. Prepare the bed by mixing a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost 12 inches into the soil. Plant the bulbs first, placing the pointed ends facing up, into the bottoms of holes 2 to three times the size of the bulbs. Although, you can plant smaller winter plants above the tops of bulbs, it’s far better to put winter blooms between the bulbs to prevent damaging the bulbs. Placing the crowns of the plants marginally above the surrounding soil helps prevent root rot in winter annuals. Finally, apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the plants and water well to settle the roots to the soil and also to eliminate any air pockets. Do not put fertilizer to the holes or apply fertilizer immediately after planting the bulbs or annuals.
Caring for Both
From late autumn to early spring, only water pansies, snapdragons, tulips and other winter plants once the top layer of the soil is dry. Water in the morning to allow the leaves moment to dry throughout the day. Wet leaves and dirt both encourage diseases, so water sparingly. Check the moisture level of the dirt by pressing a finger into the soil to about the second knuckle. If dirt feels loose and papery, it’s time to water. Because pansies and snapdragons bloom prolifically, deadhead and fertilize them often to encourage continuous bloom. Starting two weeks after planting, apply 1 tablespoon for each 1 foot of bed space, of a granular slow-release fertilizer, like 19-6-12, each eight weeks. Sprinkle the fertilizer between plants or broadcast it over the top of dense plantings and water it in the soil immediately after application.