COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Don’t leave tender plants out in the cold

By Marianne Binetti

May Day! May Day – this is a signal for distress and that is just what you get if you set your tender coleus, tomatoes, cucumbers or marigolds into the ground this week. In western Washington a frost is rare this late in the spring season but cold nights are common. Heat lovers, tropical and tender greenhouse-grown annuals will shiver and turn gray, brown and bruised looking if you leave them alone in the cold. Cover newly transplanted tomato plants with plastic gallon milk jugs that have the bottom cut out, make newspaper tents or some other type of covering for at least the first few nights. Uncover the plants during the day so too much heat does not build up and burn the transplants.

If, like me, you like to gamble with the weather instead of going to Vegas, then just start planting; what happens in the garden returns to the garden, as compost.

Hot New Plants

for Cool Color:

Supertunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’

I admit to being obsessed with all things French this summer as we prepare to lead a garden tour to France, but this new petunia is naturally low-maintenance plant with smaller blooms that better tolerate our sometimes rainy, summer weather.

“Pretty Much Picasso” is pretty much unique as the color showcases a deep purple eye, lighter purple middle and lime green edging all around the petals. Yeah, this Picasso likes to be noticed and this is one modern, shocking petunia. Pair this sun-lover with spiky grasses for a contrast of shape or add lime green foliage plants like the sweet potato vine. Plants with black or purple leaves would also set off the French chic colors of this art-inspired plant.

I’ll be looking for this petunia when I visit Picasso’s home town in Provence this fall. Rumor has it this petunia is a French favorite.

Snow Princess Lobularia

New from Proven Winners, this frilly, delicate white bloomer looks like alyssum on steroids. That’s not a surprise as Snow Princess Lobularia is related to alyssum and seems to be just as tough, blooming from April until October in my garden – and it’s drought tolerant as well. What makes this snowy white Princess a royal winner is that it won’t reseed so doesn’t need dead-heading or trimming to keep it in full bloom and looking great all summer and into the fall.

Snow Princess loves full sun but will do fine in partial shade, just growing taller and showing a bit more leg. This is a vigorous plant so you’ll need only two or three to fill an entire 12 inches wide. If you have dark blue or red containers add a few Snow Princess for a cloud of pristine white color. The pure white blooms spilling over your colored pots will be stunning.

Luscious Lantana Citrus Blend

If you’ve got the heat, here’s the coolest new plant ever to tango with terra cotta. The rounded blooms burst with bright orange and bits of lemon yellow petals that celebrate bold, bright color. I grew this heat- and drought-resistant annual in shallow clay pots and although the plants hated the rain, they basked in the heat during those dog days of August. Pair this Citrus Blend with orange garden accents and remember that these plants not only look great with terra cotta orange, they love the great drainage and heat-absorbing qualities of clay pots as well.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens.” She can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates