Spring is late. There is still snow on the ground in shady protective areas.
Regardless of the season, stores and greenhouses are brimming with bedding out plants, perennials, trees and shrubs. All are saying — take me home. The question is now or later.
Compare Central Alberta, with the interior of B.C. where the shrubs are blooming and the leaves are emerging on the trees.
Bedding out plants are not a common sight in the box stores. A large greenhouse in Kelowna was still putting out stock. They had hoped to start selling the first of May but feel that it is still too cold outside to plant.
There are pluses and minuses to everything in life; the same is true for buying plants in the spring. Purchasing plants early means that there is a large selection to choose from. As the season progresses different varieties of plants can disappear from the shelves. When this happens shoppers must use different plants.
On the other hand, plants that are purchased early must be cared for until they can be planted outside.
It is unlikely that homeowners can supply the same optimum conditions that are available at a greenhouse: plenty of light, humidity, fertilizer and water.
For those without a heated greenhouse, the plants should be placed in a sunny window. Water often and apply fertilizer.
Closer to the end of the month move the plants outside for a portion of the day. Each day take the plants outside for a longer period of time until the plants are acclimatized.
When purchasing a bedding plant, look at the size of the top growth compared to the size of rootball. The top growth can be large if there is a large rootball. A large root system that has had room to grow and spread in the container will continue to grow and spread in the ground with little setback.
A large plant with a very dense confined root system will not spread into surrounding soil unless the roots are disturbed. Tearing or disturbing the roots will stop the plant from growing for a few weeks. If an overgrown rootball is left intact, the plant will exist but not thrive. Chances are that this type of root will need to be watered and fertilized as if left in the container.
Pansies take a large amount of frost. They can be purchased now and planted outside, if they are acclimatized. Snapdragons and petunias can also withstand cold temperatures but they will not produce new flower buds. All other bedding plants should be placed outside permanently when the ground is warmer and there isn’t a danger of frost.
Perennials, shrubs and trees can be planted outside as long as they are acclimatized. Be wary of trees and shrubs that are in full leaf. These plants have obviously been grown in a warmer climate. New tender leaves on trees and shrubs are subject to frost. While the frost is not likely to kill the plants it can damage the new growth. A large snowfall will tear limbs and branches from trees and shrubs that are in leaf.
Perennials that have been grown inside also need to be acclimatized before they are planted in the ground.
When purchasing plants in bags, check to see that the root is plump and healthy. At this time of year, new growth should be visible. Make sure that the new growth hasn’t already dies in the box.
Everyone wants spring to be here and try to show it by purchasing plants early. Flowers come with spring but often it is best to leave them at the store until a few days before they can be planted outside.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.