Plant Inside Now, Take Outdoors Later

Five plant types that you can start before the frost gives way

The transition from bitter cold to mild spring days can be a little tricky. It’s too early to plant tender annuals and perennials outside, yet you feel like you need a sign of spring to get you through.
Here are a few plants you can start indoors and plant outside later, after the last killing frost:

  • Primroses (Primula vulgaris): Nothing says springtime like the deep, vibrant colors of primroses. One plant alone offers a burst of color, but a grouping of them can cheer any room.
  • Pansies (Viola spp.): These colorful bloomers can withstand a light frost, so you can transplant them outside a little earlier than many other plants.
  • Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.): Many varieties of sempervivum are hardy in our USDA Zone 5 climate. They’re great potted plants, indoors or out.
  • Cold-hardy cacti (various): Many cactus sellers suspend shipment of succulents in winter and restart in March. If you plan to transplant outdoors later and want the cactus to survive next winter, make sure to purchase a cold-tolerant plant.
  • Blooming bulbs (various): It’s a bit late to force spring-flowering bulbs, but many retailers offer premade arrangements. Most can be transplanted to the garden (with special instructions) for more blooms next spring.

Visit your favorite local florist or garden center for more ideas. Or consider trying blooming tropicals—houseplants to keep in a sunny location inside your home year-round.

Beth Stetenfeld is a McFarland-based editor, writer, master naturalist and creator of the gardening blog PlantPostings.com.

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