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Early Spring and Hardening Off

Today we will talk about how to introduce your early spring annuals and other plants to the temperatures outside in a gradual way so they don't get shocked!

I don't know about you, but I am eager to get gardening! However, while the temperatures are still cool or cold overnight, there is only so much we an do, especially with annuals, who are more sensitive to the cold.

Pansy bowls growing in our greenhouses!

Hardening Off

Greenhouses are great places for plants. The temperatures are warm and constant, and there is freedom from wind. Plants need to be gradually acclimated to the realities of the garden. “Hardening Off” is the process of moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights.

Here are instructions on how to do this:

1. Harden off gradually, so that plants become accustomed to strong sunlight, cool nights and less-frequent watering over a 7-10 day period.

2. On a mild day, start with 2-3 hours of dappled sun in a sheltered location.

3. Protect plants from strong sun, wind, hard rain and cool temperatures.

4. Increase exposure to sunlight an additional hour at a time and gradually reduce frequency of watering, but do not allow plants to wilt. Avoid fertilizing.

5. Keep an eye on the weather and listen to the low temperature prediction. If temperatures below the crop's minimum are forecast, bring the plants indoors.

6. Gradually increase exposure to cold.

7. If you'll be planting them in the ground, use a weak fertilizer solution to get the plants growing again and to help avoid transplant shock. Be sure to water plants after hardening them off.

This is a great way to move any houseplants you want outside for the summer as well! Slowly acclimating them to the outside conditions will help them survive and thrive!


Early Spring Annuals

We have a variety of early spring annuals that we grow here at Green Valley, and they are a really fun addition to your gardens! These are grown at this time of year because they can handle the cooler temperatures.

Early Spring Annuals

Pansies and Violas

Pansies and violas are classic early spring annuals, and are a very popular choice amongst gardeners! They come in all sorts of colors and are one of my favorite ways to bring color into spring as early as possible!

They both can handle temperatures down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, making them a great choice. You'll still want to harden them off gradually, since they aren't used to those colder temperatures yet. After about a week, though you can feel free to leave them outside as long as it doesn't get below about 40 degrees.

Pansies may not last all summer, as they don't like the hot weather, although I have had success with them throughout the summer on the Eastern part of the house, where it may stay a bit cooler in the shade. They do appreciate full sun or part sun conditions - this will help them flower, but in the hotter temperatures, they wouldn't last in the hot hot sun.

Their tolerance for cooler temperatures also makes them a great choice for autumn! If you need to refresh your planters, and it may get cool in a month or a few weeks, pop some pansies or violas in your pots and they'll last until it freezes!


Ranunculus are a very pretty early spring flower that reminds me of a peony/rose combo! They can also handle temperatures down to freezing! They enjoy those cooler temperatures, so when the hot temperatures set in, these probably won't survive too long.

They want full sun conditions, which will help them flower, but again they won't thrive in those hot conditions.

Regal Geraniums

Regal Geraniums, or Martha Washington geraniums are a cool weather annual! They are very popular and have been around for a long time. They are not a true Geranium, but are commonly referred to as them.

These plants can handle temperatures down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so are not as cold hardy as pansies and ranunculus, but are still great for those early spring days!


Spring bulbs are a great way to introduce color and scent into your garden before most plants pop up! These bulbs should be planted in late fall, but will pop up in early spring and bring the excitement with them!

Which early spring plant is your favorite!?

Come see what we have in stock and liven up your flower beds or patios as spring approaches!

Keep going and keep growing!


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