Warmer days flirt with gardeners anxious to get outside and plant something, anything. But the harsh reality of cold nights, coupled with the persistent chance of frost—or even more snow—intrudes on our dreams of summer. It’s far too soon to be trusting Mother Nature with frost tender petunias, geraniums, or marigolds, but there are some annuals that can handle a bit of cold. Don’t expect them to survive wintry extremes, but they should still be alive and flourishing after lows in the 20s.
Annual members of the violet family, pansies are much hardier than they look. Hot and sunny summer days will fry them to a crisp, so now is the time to enjoy them. Pansies prefer enriched soil, and will do fine in full sun or light shade, as long as the weather stays cool. They are slow to start from seed, so buy transplants. Their small size makes them perfect for edging, or group them in containers where they won’t be overlooked. With colors ranging from deep purple and burgundy to pastel pinks, soft peach, and cheerful yellow and white, you can find just the right cultivar to fit any landscape scheme.