Garfield Park Conservatory

When is the Best Time to Start Planting in the Spring in the Chicago Area?

These are some things you should know

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Spring planting time is near, but how can you know when the right time to plant is?

The Garfield Park Conservatory joined "Chicago Today" to share some of their top spring planting tips.

These are some things you should know.

When Should You Start Planting?

According to the conservatory, it's important to know the last frost date for your area before planting summer perennials and annuals. For example, they noted Chicago’s last frost date is May 15. 

"Of course, you should still watch the weather forecast to be sure," the conservatory says. 

As for the day you choose to plant, they recommend planting new annuals and perennials when it is overcast and will be cloudy or rainy the following days.

"This gives the plants time to acclimate to their new home," the conservatory said.

What to Do for Existing Plants This Spring

Before you buy new greenery, you'll also want to make sure you refresh and rejuvenate the plants you already have - indoor or outdoor.

Terri Reardon, floriculturist foreman at Chicago's iconic Garfield Park Conservatory, offered up tips for how to ensure you get new blooms with existing plants this season and when you should officially start planting.

"Great grooming: refresh, restore and rejuvenate,” Reardon told "Chicago Today." "This theme is important because it can mean the difference between a plant that merely survives, and one that thrives."

So what should you do?

  • ​Refresh existing plants
    • root prune
    • deadhead
    • refresh by removing spent foliage
  • ​Restore when overgrown
    • divide a plant
    • selectively prune and shape to restore esthetically pleasing appearance
    • also save money by using similar techniques to make more plants!
  • ​Rejuvenate to return to health
    • up-pot to a larger container
    • Use fresh soil and slow-release fertilizer

What Plants Are Best for the Chicago Area?

If you're looking to get your spring planting on, here are the plants the Garfield Park Conservatory says you should focus on for success in the Chicago area.

Cool temperature annuals.

These include plants like:

  • violas
  • snapdragons
  • lobelia
  • alyssum
  • larkspur
  • sweat peas
  • forget me nots
  • Nigella
  • stock
  • English daisies (Bellis)
  • Osteospermum.

See what your reputable garden center has on display at this time of year and use that as your guide, the conservatory recommends. They also say planting bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, crocus, etc.) during the previous fall will help get a jump start on your spring display.

More on the Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory, recently named the top garden in North America by Yelp, has reopened its doors during the COVID pandemic using a new reservation system. Considered one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the country, the conservatory also offers up classes for those looking to work on their green thumbs.

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