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Planning your winter container

While its still very warm here, I am in the midst of planning and planting my containers for this winter. Here in NW Florida, winter containers can last up to, and usually do, six months.  You want to make the right selections for plants AND your containers since they have the potential for living through three seasons.  I typically use glazed pots for my fall and winter containers as they are less likely to crack from fluctuations in temperatures, saving my terra cotta pots for the summer season.  Please note that all pictures are from my own garden and were taken in 2015.

I live in area where we can do upside-down-season gardening, meaning that what most of you north of Florida can plant during the summer, we plant in the fall.

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MY TOP WINTER SELECTIONS

The plants that I discuss below are placed only in containers.  For success in containers I use a good container soil (not garden soil),  slow release fertilizer that I supplement with a monthly foliar fertilizer; containers must get at least 6 hours of sun and protection from severe cold weather. I also place my containers somewhere near the house in case the weather is extreme and I can put them in my garage or mudroom.

Below are the following plants I look for when fall shopping at my local nurseries. I garden in Zone 9, but plants should do well in your area as well.

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Nemesia
Sunsatia varieties (orange, pink and yellow)

Nemesia have long lasting flowers on a nice green stem. They are very compatible with violas and pansies, but are great as a stand alone plant. I also like to plant two to three different colors together. Be careful not to overwater! Nemesia is very cold sensitive; will not tolerate 32 F or below.  They come in several colors but I like to use the white (Coconut) and the yellow Sunsatia (Lemon), but as new colors come on the market, I will give them a try.  There is also ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Opal Innocence‘ but I have only they were only offered in the spring and they didn’t do well for me because it is too hot .

Diascia

Diascia  

A relative of nemesia is the diascia which comes in just a few colors.  I like the Flirtation Series from Proven Winners, but I mostly stick with the pink because it is difficult to find this color for winter containers and the pink varieties seems to do better.  I combine the pink erect one with the pink trailing.  Diascia can withstand 32 F temperatures but if it gets below 30, I cover.

Both nemesia and diascia are so cheery throughout our cold months!  Neither need deadheading (I will discuss that in another post) but respond well to a good trim every few months or so.

img_0575Violas and Pansies

If I had to choose between the viola and the pansy (both related) the voila wins hands down; particularly because of our rainy winter.  Pansies can be an issue with fluctuations in temperatures and will stop flowering.  We can get very warm weather in January then a light frost on the same day.  Violas, particularly the Penny Viola, out-produces the pansy in performance.  No flower meltdown or soggy, leggy vegetation.  Just happy faces even after the severest winter weather in northwestern Florida.

Pansies have become quite generic these days with the big box garden centers and most are just named ‘pansy’.  A little more upscaled nurseries should offer you more of a variety and if they do,  I always look for the Matrix pansy, particularly the lavender and yellow ones.  There is also the Delta series, which worked very well for me in St. Louis, but not where I live now.  Pansies flower better with deadheading; they will be slow to reflower if you don’t, another reason to consider the viola over the pansy!

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Lobelia

There are many species of lobelia, some annuals, some perennials and some tropicals.  This is Lobelia erinus, which loves the cooler weather.  Its dark blue to purple flowers stay consistent throughout three seasons.  When the heat hits, it soon disappears.  I was told by a nurseryman that this lobelia propagated by cuttings rather than by seeds, can withstand the heat.  Its not generally sold here other than by seed.

Petunias

There are all sorts of petunias in the nurseries!  But which one to buy?  Below are two hybrid petunias that I have had experience with, but they only do well for me during the Fall/Winter/Spring growing seasons.

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Supertunia Vista Bubblegum

I love this wonderful petunia!  I once had one that lasted through two winters!  maintain this beauty simply keep the dead material out and prune back to the pot to let it start over.  I have had one that went dormant for the summer only to come back in full force in the fall.  (I have learned a valuable lesson with so many plants in containers here, don’t pull, prune!  ;-). )

Another petunia from the Supertunia Vista line :

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Supertunia Silverberry

A petunia that was new to me this spring and is still going strong through our heat, is Cascades Indian Summer:

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I have pruned it back as it was looking a little disheveled, but I’m hoping to see this plant flower as beautiful as did this summer, this winter!

OTHER PLANTS TO CONSIDER

Dwarf Snapdragon

Ornamental Kale

Dusty Miller

Follow me to see how my new containers are doing!  This week I am planting and I will share with you my progress throughout our winter and spring growing season.

HAPPY GARDENING!