Spring Planting


Bonnie Konopka , Reporter

As Spring approaches, many gardeners start to wonder what kind of flowers to plant and when to plant them. The recent warm weather this February has sent many people in Illinois into their yards preparing for spring gardening. Even though winter does not end for another month, you may start to see some spring blooms emerging from the ground and flowering trees beginning to bud. But, with temperatures expected to quickly drop below freezing once again, many gardeners are concerned about how to protect their flowering gardens from the harsh weather.
Horticulture educator Richard Hentschel says the problem with cold weather is there is nothing you can do.
“Mother Nature always finds a way,” Hentschel said.
This week’s unusually warm weather has confused plants that are used to staying frozen and dormant throughout the whole winter.
The warmer temperatures last fall have also contributed to the gardening problems that will occur this spring. Because of the higher than usual temperatures recorded well into November, many trees did not have enough time to prepare for winter, and it is hard to know whether or not the grass was able to go dormant properly before the cold weather began. Hentschel says there is no reason to worry about perennials such as spring daffodils and summer daylilies surviving the cold.
“Bulbs, in particular, are ready to grow at a moment’s notice. Every year the tips of the tulips will pop up, but they’ll stop if the weather turns cold.” Hentschel said.
He recommends using the warm weather as an opportunity to get the yard in shape for spring planting.
When flowers can be planted without the fear of frost, you may wonder what kind to plant. Some good perennial flowers to plant in the Midwestern climate are coneflowers, butterfly weeds, lenten roses, Virginia bluebells, geraniums, black-eyed susans, and panicle hydrangeas.
In Illinois the average date of last frost is April 15-20. You can plant hardy vegetables such as collard, kale, and peas as early as four to six weeks before the last frost. Wait until mid-May for warm-loving vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers, whose seeds germinate best at warmer temperatures. Some annual flowers such as cosmos, lobelia, and sweet pea can withstand light frosts and should be planted after mid-April. Annual flowers and herbs that can be injured by light frosts include age scarlet sage, verbena, wax begonia and zinnia. These are recommended for planting in mid-May.