Transitioning your Winter Planters to Spring

Here in Ontario, spring comes in April.  Last year, it came sooner, but was followed by a burst of bitter cold that killed off the hopeful fruit tree buds and buried eager Snowdrops and Crocuses in a chilly blanket of snow.

spring urn

While you can watch your garden begin to send up new growth any time from February through April, you cannot actually plant anything in the garden, itself, until April or you risk losing it to the late return of winter!  Besides, the ground will generally be frozen as solid as a rock during that time and you will not be digging.

Anticipating Spring

What I’m dreaming of!

However, don’t let that stop you from choosing your own date to celebrate the onset of spring!  I have chronicled my lack of due tolerance for Ontario winters all over this blog, and my commitment to banishing them is becoming a bit of a saga, but here I go again!

There are several ways in which you, too, can approximate the annoying behaviour of retailers who put up Christmas decorations before Hallowe’en, if you are desperate to brighten your world of dirty, lingering snow.  Bringing in cut flowers and branches either from the store or garden is one way.  The other way is via indoor and outdoor planters that anticipate spring, and that is the subject of this post.

Transitional planter

The fern stays in this planter year-round, accompanied by a changing, seasonally evocative companion plant: Narcissus for Christmas, pansies in actual Spring, impatiens or geranium for summer, etc.  It goes outdoors in summer and annuals replace the spring flowers.


You may wait until spring is nigh to take everything out of your winter planters and either completely re-create them for spring or hire someone to do this for you.  OR, if you are far less patient than that, you may do as I do and pounce on your planters after Christmas on the first day you feel sufficiently over the need of cozy, red, warm and fuzzy and have a sense that lime green, pink and blue will not look ridiculous to the neighbors.  I keep the winter elements that still fit in with the look of early spring, and replace those I feel are at odds with the new season.


hyacinth and pansy in Spring planter

THIS PHOTO: Red dogwood and white birch remain from my Christmas planters and are compatible with Spring flowers. Blue Hyacinth and white Pansies are cold-tolerant friends of the impatient Spring gardener.
TOP PHOTO, dogwood and snow-tipped faux evergreen branches were left from the indoor Christmas planters and all else removed.

Use these tips to gradually but inoffensively trick spring into your planters early:

1.    Remember what’s leafing out and blooming in actual spring, for guidance on what to take out, add or keep in your planters.  White birch branches and red-twig dogwood are stil leafless in the landscape in spring, so you can keep them in your planters to complement spring elements.  I will also keep my fake birds for a month or two, as real winter birds are desirable at this time of year.  Once spring break and Easter are nigh, though, they will be at odds with Easter colours and have to be banished to the pretend birdhouse under the stairs where the tin witch and styrofoam Santa live when off-duty.

2.     Remove actual SYMBOLS OF WINTER gradually:  evergreen boughs may fall under point number 1, above, but are too symbolic of winter decorating to keep once you really want to scream “SPRING!”   Shiny red Christmas ornaments fall into this category, and eventually those pinecones will also have to go.

Easter planter ideas3.     Gradually add in symbols of spring–by March, nothing rocks my world like those bright blue, cold-sensitive hydrangeas sold for Easter and a couple of fake bunnies!  Hyacinths and daffodils have been available at nurseries and grocers for weeks.  Buy bulbs not quite in bloom, and keep them well-watered if you use them indoors, for prolonged enjoyment.  I am not above actually keeping the heat turned down in areas of the house where I have gone wild with bulbs, to prolong their beautiful blooms.  (Sweaters, kids; fresh air is good for you!)

Indoor urn

Gerbera Daisy replaces spent Narcissi in this potted fern. White faux berries were left (as in the outdoor landscape).

Also available and perfect for this use: Tulips, (less hardy for very early outdoor use, though) Polyanthus, Primrose and Gerbera Daisy, and soon, Helleborus Niger, Christmas Rose, which you can plant outdoors later on, to enjoy for many Springs to come.  

Helleborus Niger

Beloved Hellebore from a former indoor planter!



I’ll be looking for curly pussy-willows (shown in my previous post) to switch up the red twig dogwood whenever they are available.

best friends

Daffodils and hyacinths: perfect together

4.     Utilize tolerant and available male brawn (whoa, easy, single ladies!) for bringing heavy planters inside if the temperature unexpectedly dips and tender blossoms need to come inside overnight.  (well, we say it was unexpected when it happens) #heavylifting  Sorry, no photo of this 😦

5.     PANSIES are the first tough staple of a transitional planter that can actually be put outside.  There are winter-hardy varieties available in recent years.  I prefer to wait a little and buy the gorgeous early spring colours that match the rest of my scheme as soon as they come into stores around late March or early April.

6.   FAKE IT!   When you must have it but nature won’t let you, just throw in faux ivy and even, taste permitting, faux daffodils, crocuses, tulips and more.   Viewed from the street or driveway, their tawdry beauty cannot be discerned.   Since I am a bit of a purist with nature, I cannot bring myself to anything other than real flowers, but I am definitely not above fake ivy or even boxwood in my climate.  The reason I can justify this “cheat” is that Toronto, so close in distance but so far away in plant hardiness zone and temperature, is filled with boxwood and ivy in planters throughout the winter and causes not just a little of the other green, garden envy, in my mind, and I cannot abide visiting the City and accepting the idea that I cannot have the same lush planters.

Spring planter details.

I used the variegated ivy I brought in for the winter to add variety to the revised foyer planter. Clip long pieces off, dip in rooting compound (available at garden centres), poke into soil and water well until established. So easy!
Cover soil with moss for water retention and aesthetics.

And don’t forget to feed the winter birds: they can add so much colour, life and entertainment to your garden views in January and February!


I approve of this suggestion!

Naturally, when your neighbors make dubious comments about your somewhat early excesses, you may blame that garden-obsessed blogger that you read.  I am prepared to take the rap for this.

indoor spring planter foyer

Or blame your relatives in Victoria.  People will understand.

How long can you be patient?  Do you throw the old away and start anew, or gradually alter things as Spring gets closer?  I welcome your ideas, below.

About patinaandcompany

I am a compulsive beautifier of all things habitable. Give me your ugly, non-functional and visually repellent, and I am in my element. Also, an avid and experienced gardener determined to share my horticultural experiences with others. See more at "About"
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27 Responses to Transitioning your Winter Planters to Spring

  1. lucindalines says:

    Great photos and ideas. I love the cat in the window. I am thinking it would be fun to put some hyacinths (spelling issues here) and maybe some Gerber daisies into a pot. Thanks for the ideas, a little color this winter would sure be nice.

  2. Gorgeous!! Every winter I forget about the Hellebores… and then am so delighted when they bloom! Daffodils are my favorite flower-scent. As much as I love roses or sweet pea, the daffodils are better! I guess because you know for sure winter is over!!

    Is that your beautiful kitty? I am a cat fanatic.

    • I agree the first smells of spring are the most exciting! And yes, that is my furry little girl. I have two pretty white sisters with pink ears and noses. Just love ’em to bits. Flowers and sweet kitties to beat the dead of winter.

  3. gracefully50 says:

    I love that center piece! Gorgeous!
    I like #6! Fake it! Haha, that would be me! 🙂

  4. Boomdeeadda says:

    My winter Planters are looking pretty done but I doubt that I’ll be putting out any spring stuff in them for a good long while. Above zero temps don’t show up till at least Mid May here. I’m looking for the perfect container for a fairy garden that I can plant for inside until all the garden centres have bedding plants out.

    • Oh, my! I really feel that I should stop boring everyone with my complaints about our weather when I read something like this–not above zero until mid-May?!
      I hope you post your fairy garden when you put it together. And keep warm you poor thing!

      • Boomdeeadda says:

        Ha, you know it’s entirely relevant to what you are use to. Like today was -6 C and it felt pretty nice in the sun. I think we get some nice days in May but then there’ll be a few bad ones too. The prairie weather is typically a roller coaster all year. It can change 20 degrees in 1 day….so most garden enthusiasts don’t waste their money by putting anything out b4 the May long weekend and a large majority wait till the first weekend in June…bummer, but reality.

      • Everything seems like a roller-coaster when you have grown up on the coast, I suppose! We are about to get snowed right under out here, so bracing for school closures again tomorrow.

      • Boomdeeadda says:

        What, no kidding? That sounds major. Be safe and stay warm.

  5. These focal points can be inexpensive and eco-friendly using clippings of plant material from your own property. You can repurpose spent perennials and select garden debris that will brighten gloomy winter days and last until spring. Imagine an ornate steel container with red twig dogwood clippings in a bed of blue spruce and a touch of dried hydrangea flowers. These arrangements, simple and elegant, will sparkle with each new blanket of fresh snow.

  6. Granny says:

    “Planters that anticipate spring.” Brilliant. I think you have found the cure for seasonal affective disorder! 🙂

  7. colorafoot says:

    Lovely! It’s really the only way to survive the winter, turning your house into a garden. Lovely planter, I can almost smell those hyacinths! Thanks!

  8. Holleygarden says:

    I love your planters! Fortunately, I live in a warm climate with short winters, but I am still going to give these suggestions a try! No matter where we live, we want to hurry spring along! 🙂 I hope the weather is kind to you until April, when you can go outside and play!

  9. Good tips for that seasonal transition. I do two things you mentioned. I plant in season plants into pots with garden staples and also the one about the faux greenery. Mixing them, people never know.

  10. Pingback: Weekend Highlights – Noteworthy Articles by Fellow Bloggers – February 9, 2013 « Granny's Parlour

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  12. cassmob says:

    Love the cat looking wistfully for birds 😉 Would love your tips if I didn’t live in a tropical environment.

  13. Pingback: Planter Evolution | patinaandcompany

  14. shiroknowes says:

    Great idea and beautiful planters, thanks for folowing me ! Xoxo

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