Spring containers: no more ho-hum!

Heuchera Garden Photo

The long range forecast says spring is just around the corner, and most of us are ready to reconnect with the joys of gardening. Spring containers is just the way to get your green thumb back into shape.

The regular stars of that spring pop have long included some of our cool-season favorites—pansies, violas, flowering kale, and African daisies (Osteopermum). These bright jewels cheer us up as the dregs of winter depart and the impending promise of spring arrives.

The challenge with using these plants in containers is that 1) once the coolest weather is past, they fade quickly and 2) most of them are low-growing, offering at most two layers of interest.

Many gardeners are starting to diversify their approach to spring containers, thus offering longer seasons of interest and offering height and textural interest that will give the containers every bit as much interest as summer, fall and winter containers.

For long-lasting interest in your spring containers, little can beat the dazzling diversity of foliage color and texture offered by Coralbells (Heuchera sp.). As shown in the featured photo, the array of colors can make a great impact. Led by the breeding efforts of Terra Nova Nurseries , these coralbells captures bronzes, greens of all hues, burgundys and many patterns of silver. The great thing is that these plants will continue to do well as you transition your containers to summer plantings. At the end of the season, simply plant them out in your border gardens and they’ll greet you next spring.

Other cool season perennials sure to work well in spring containers are Bergenia (Pigsqueak), Columbine, Hellebores and Brunnera (false forget-me-not).

Of course, using bulbs in your spring containers will give an extra pop of color for a while, be it tulips, daffodils or grape hyacinth (mmm, the aroma!).


Forsythia in bloom.

As for the issue of creating height in the containers, cuttings from forsythia and pussy willows will be gorgeous in bloom.

And as for twig color, pussy willows and cuttings from red twig dogwood can also put on quite a show. Left in the moist soil of your container, dogwood and pussy will will start to root.

Witchhazel is a native and early bloomer. © Rmorijn | Dreamstime.com


Sub-shrubs can provide another source of mass and height for spring containers. Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) is one example—azaleas and rhododendrons are another. To see how these elements come together, Fine Gardening magazine has a great article showing how to use these plants.

Spring is a time for celebrating all things green and growing, and adding some variety into your spring containers can bring those vignettes a bit closer to your door to admire and enjoy.


Use your imaginations! And if you need some help, as always, give us at Garden’s Grace a call! 515-559-3049.


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