Who are we kidding? We’ve already planted our outdoor containers. Still, unless you’re willing to cover your plants or move them indoors, Brenna Henley, our container designer, suggests waiting until Mother’s Day. Read on for more tips from Brenna. And, don’t get discouraged if your containers are presently planted and gorgeous, just watch the weather and be ready to cover.

1. Can we plant our containers now?


The safest date is Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 9th, this year), but after a year of being cooped up, who can wait that long? If you must, during the last week of April, watch for how the weather is trending and judge based on the forecast whether or not to go ahead and plant. Go ahead with cool weather containers (plants listed below) but hold off on summer plants for sure (lantana, coleus). This year, though, there is a shortage of plant material due to high demand and weird weather around the country (remember the Texas snowstorm?). So, it’s okay to purchase it now—-and I would—-and keep it in a safe spot until time to plant. You don’t want to miss out on the material, nor watch it perish due to late frosts, so plan accordingly. Confused?

Simple answer:

Buy your plant material ASAP. Keep it safe in a protected spot until after Mother’s Day when you can plant outside. If you want to plant now, keep it to cool weather, spring containers.


Add bulbs to your containers for spring color without the spring work. When the bulbs fade, plant them in your garden and replace with cool season dianthus, allysum, verbena, geraniums or foilage plants like heuchera.

2. Is there anything we can plant now?


Alyssum will melt once the heat comes. Petunias love the heat but thrive in cool conditions as well. These are good plants for transitioning from spring to summer planters. They’re good to replace where winter cabbages died. Don’t forget to add foliage color. The heucheras will go from cold winters to hot summers and sweet flag (check out the miniature one) is a great addition to cool and hot weather containers.

A lot of sun/part sun plants are fine even when temps dip into the ’40s but be careful of planting shade plants too early. They are more on the cold-sensitive side. This would be your begonias, coleus, and so forth. Mother’s Day is a more reasonable time for them.

3. Got any design tips?


When designing your planters keep these things in mind: The first three things will make or break a design.

  1. What is your goal?

  2. What is your maintenance level? Let’s be realistic here.

  3. What is your sun exposure?

  4.  If the pots are going to be seen from far away, use 3 elements with bold colors, and the simpler the design, the bigger the splash.

  5. Or, try a white theme or blue theme, which cools things down in the dead of summer heat. Use tropicals (houseplants) in the mix. That pink cordyline (dracaena) is a fabulous statement in pots.

  6. Always use the tried and true formula when designing: Upright, fill and spill. Don’t know what thriller, filler spiller is? Read here for more and check out the container below. The daffodils are the thriller, the pansies are the filler and the ivy is the spiller.


Pansies and ivy are a classic winter container, adding the spring daffodils gives extra spring color.

4. How do we care for our containers?


Knowing your sun/shade is crucial, but watering can’t be said enough. Root drench your pots 2x a week. When you initially plant, use Osmocote and Biotone. Then, as the weather warms up and the watering schedule increases, use the Bloom Booster Miracle Grow every 7-10 days. Plants like gardenia, bougainvillea, and mandevilla, especially, are heavy feeders.


Geraniums can take the cold and the heat. These beautiful bloomers can handle light frosts and cooler temperatures but won’t survive below 20 degrees. If the temperatures are going to drop that low, put them in the garage or cover with frost cloth.

Today is April 17th (3 weeks from Mother’s Day) with a predicted high of 67 sunny degrees. Waiting three more weeks for summertime flowers after 2020 can seem like a lifetime—but we’re rounding the corner and there are still so many spring flowers to plant. A few more weeks and we’re there—-which after 2020 is a very good thing.

Written by Cinthia Milner, OSA, Garden Coach, blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.