City of Abilene

Time to Start Planning Your Winter Garden

As the heat dissipates and climate changes, it’s time to start thinking about and planting your winter garden.

With chilly nights and sunny days in Texas where freezes are infrequent, the best plants for  your flowerbeds this winter are pansies, snapdragons, petunias, calendula, euphorbias, ornamental cabbage and kale, and violas.

Tips for planting your winter garden:

  • To prevent bugs, wait until the weather is consistently under 70 degrees
  • Best to buy plants the actual height you'll need, as their growth will be on-hold throughout the winter months
  • A spray or dusting of a BT (bacillus thuringiensis) product is very effective
  • Most winter plants thrive in a raised bed with at least six hours of full sunlight
  • Add a couple inches of mulch to your garden for winter protection
  • Plant in well-drained soil for best results
  • Apply water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks
  • Begin planting in October


Pansies

The most popular and durable winter plant, pansies are low-growing with bright - often bi-colored - overlapping petals. Best planted in early October in full sun, however, if your yard has a lot of roly pollies, it may be better to wait until after the first frost. Look for bushy plants with unopen buds since seeds can be difficult to germinate.

Snapdragons
An aromatic and tall plant (grows approximately three to four feet and as high as six) will brighten any winter garden. Snapdragons thrive in cool weather with plenty of sunshine, and tend to flower all winter in Texas climates with blooms that can tolerate some frost. It is available in nearly every color but blue. To maintain the best bloom, be sure to deadhead the flowers regularly.

Grandiflora Petunias
You may think of the petunia as a summer flower, but the grandiflora version, with their larger blooms, is ideal for fall and winter. For best results, plant them along a north facing wall, which traps heat and light and allows them to flower through winter and spring. Petunias are easy to grow, require no pinching or pruning, and are self-cleaning. They also benefit when fertilized every one to two weeks.

Calendula
Nothing like a pop of vibrant yellow or orange to brighten up a dreary winter day. This easy to grow plant attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, grows to about 18” tall and a foot wide. Be careful not to overwater.

Cool Season Euphorbias
A statewide favorite for winter gardens, this foliage brightens with patches of lime green, maroon, cream and/or pink and grow up to one to two feet tall. A cold and drought tolerant plant, cool season euphorbias do not do well in summer heat. Best when planted in October.

Violas
These tough little guys bloom to the size just larger than a nickel and are exceptionally plentiful. Not only are they pretty and combine well with other winter plants, but they have a great aroma. And, they do not re-seed, so no chance they will pop up in places you don’t want them, like between sidewalk cracks and in gravel. 

Ornamental Cabbage and Ruffley Kale
Planted for their extraodinary colors - purple, lavender, rose, and bicolor green and white - ornamental cabbage and kale have hardy leaves and are not for eating. The cooler the temperature, the prettier the colors, which intensify even more with light to moderate frosts. It is best to buy the size you like for your garden as they most likely will not grow much larger.