If you're feeling impatient for spring, here are a few plants that deliver welcome color and stand up to cool early-spring weather.
Once a tedious raise-from-seed-only flower, these exquisite long-blooming beauties are now widely available as young plants that transplant readily. They display scads of slightly cupped-shaped 4-inch blossoms in shades of white, cream, lime green, rose, lavender and plum purple. Their durable petals are waxy in texture.
Recommended: The Royal Heritage strain, which includes pink-and purple-speckled flowers. It blooms for up to 3 months.
Popular in milder climates in the fall and winter, dependable annual pansies are also great for early-spring pots, window boxes and color accents in the ground. The plants stand up amazingly well to cool or rainy weather.
Many pansies are bi- or tri- colors, but solid colors can be found. Mixes, sold in packs, deliver a range of sparkling hues.
Recommended: The Majestic Giants have extra-large, extra-early and extra-tough flowers. Icicle Pansies, developed for northern and Canadian gardeners, bloom until winter's deep freeze, but don't die. They'll lie dormant until very early spring, when they bloom again!
Technically perennials, at least in warmer areas, perky bright-eyed polyantha primroses are outstanding for reliable early color. Usually yellow-centered, the flowers appear in clusters atop stems. Tuck them in among bulbs for bursts of color, or display in pots.
Recommended: The Dwarf Jewel mix is excellent in cool weather, always bright and cheery.