When can we plant our spring-flowering containers? What about our summer containers? Oh, who are we kidding? We’ve already planted our outdoor containers. Still, unless you’re willing to cover your plants or move them indoors, the weather suggests waiting until Mother’s Day, the predictable last frost date in Western North Carolina. And, don’t get discouraged if your containers are presently planted and gorgeous. Continue to watch the weather and be ready to cover.

1. What’s The Best Time To Plant Spring Flowering Containers?

The safest date is Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 8th, 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. Yes, go ahead with cool weather containers (listed below) but hold off on summer plants (lantana, coleus). Like last year, there is a shortage of plant material due to all the things. So, it’s okay to purchase it now—-for some instant happiness-and keep it in a safe spot until it is time to plant. You don’t want to miss out on the material, nor watch it perish due to late frosts, so plan accordingly.

Simple answer:

Buy your plant material now. If you want to plant now, keep it to cool weather, spring containers, or plan to cover well. Or keep annuals protected and watered in a protected spot until after Mother’sDay when you can plant outside.


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

2. What Spring Flowering Plants Can Be Planted Now?

Alyssum will melt once the heat comes. Petunias love the heat but thrive in cool conditions, so those 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 a sweet flag (check out the miniature one) is an excellent addition to cool and hot weather containers.

Many sun/part sun plants are okay 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.

Simple answer: 

Purchase plants that go from cool weather to hot weather (heucheras, petunias) or buy cool-season annuals (alyssum and African daisy) and replace them when hot weather gets here. Here’s a quick list of cool-season annuals to get you started.

3. Design Tips for Containers for Spring and Summer Flowering Containers.

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 three elements with bold colors, and the simpler the design, the bigger the splash.
  5. Or, try a white or blue theme, which cools things down in the dead of summer heat. Use tropicals (houseplants) in the mix. Pink cordyline (dracaena) is a remarkable statement in pots.
  6. When designing, always use the tried and true formula: Upright, fill and spill. The daffodils are the thriller, the pansies are the filler, and the ivy is the spiller. Don’t know what thriller, filler spiller is? Read here for more, and check out the container below.

Simple Answer:

Be honest about #2, the level of maintenance. It won’t matter if you design beautiful containers if you’re unable to care for them. 


Pansies and ivy are classic winter containers. Adding the spring daffodils gives extra spring color.

4. Caring For Containers.

Knowing your sun/shade is crucial, but a watering schedule is crucial. Root drench your pots 2x a week. When you initially plant, use Osmocote and Biotone mixed in with the soil. 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 drop that low, put them in the garage or cover them with frost cloth.

Simple Answer: 

Bloom Booster. Can’t stress it enough. Bloom Booster. Containers leech out nutrients every time you water, so be sure to add them back in with Bloom Booster every 7-10  days. 

Today is April 10th (4 weeks from Mother’s Day), with a predicted high of 42 and snow flurries. Waiting another month for summertime flowers feels like a lifetime. Not only do we need the flowers, but we also love to check things off our lists. But, we’re rounding the corner and there are still so many spring flowers to plant. A few more weeks, and we’re there.

Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant, and blog writer.

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