Pansies bring winter color to barrel containers - Albuquerque Journal

Pansies bring winter color to barrel containers

Q. I have two half barrels at the entrance to my patio home that get sun until around 2 p.m. during the summer months. The annual flowers I’d planted were looking pretty shaggy so I took your advice, yanked up the finished plants and have now filled the barrels (fifteen each) with daffodil bulbs. It’s just they look so abandoned now. Is there anything I can plant that would give me something to look at, that might last all winter long? – C.W., Albuquerque

The nifty thing is if you plant some pansies, you’ll be more apt to remember to keep the barrels watered during the winter months, keeping the daffodils that are rooting out moist.

Tracey FitzgibbonRemember a planting of bulbs – be it in pots or in the ground – allowed to dry out will suffer dreadfully. They need to stay moist so the bulbs root properly and reward you in the spring. Since you kind of know where the bulbs are planted you can go ahead and plant a bevy of pansies “between” the bulbs and voila, you’ll have cheerful color to greet you all through the dormant months.

The nice thing about pansies is their ability to handle most of the weather they’ll be handed during winter. But remember, they need to be kept moist too, especially when planted above ground level. They’ll be more susceptible to a daily change in temperature. Living in the sun the pot warms a smidgen during the daylight hours, but cools off far quicker once the sun comes off the area.

Remember, it’s the moisture in the soil that’ll protect the roots and in turn offer anything growing above ground added protection.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and water at sundown – that could cause some damage – but aim for a 10 a.m. watering. That way, the foliage and blooms are well dry before the sun moves off. Watering weekly should be plenty, too.

If it’s been several days since the last watering and the temperatures are going to plummet, it is best to water to again insulate those pots. When it’s going to get really chilly, I cover my big pots with big cardboard boxes and then uncover each morning, especially if it’s going to snow. I think they do better that way.

Also with pansies, there’s the myriad of color choices – yellows, oranges, purples of all shades, pinks, rose and even ones that look black.

Also, there might not be enough light indoors to support the caladium through the winter months. But if you have a space that can offer enough light and isn’t anywhere near a collection of treasured houseplants, you could try. Me? No.

Now my bible, “Western Garden Book,” gives instructions on winter care, but I’m a bit late. You’ll want to cut the foliage down nearly completely and then unearth the bulbs. Knock off as much of the soil as delicately and humanly possible, and set the collection on a cardboard flat lined with newspaper. Then find a spot out of the weather for them to rest.

Daily give the flat a wiggle so the bulbs dry off. After about 10 days of wiggling and drying, they should be ready to store. You’ll need a box that can hold the bulbs that will be deep enough to lay them on and then be covered with a layer of vermiculite or dry peat moss.

Once you’ve placed and covered the resting caladiums, you need to store them in a spot, no light please, that will stay between 50 and 60 degrees. In other words a comfy, yet cool, spot.

Get in the habit of checking and perhaps turning the bulbs monthly while they are resting to be sure no one is getting mushy and harming the others.

Next year, after the last threat of frost, your caladiums will be ready to be planted, just like you did this year. I wish you luck storing your treasures.

Happy Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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