🌷Which gift plants will thrive in the garden?

Here's what to do with potted hydrangeas, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

Hello, friends!

Last week, I wrote about planting gift lilies in the garden. Today, I want to show you which of any other gift plants you might have received can have a second life outdoors — and whether any should have their second act in the trash.

Hydrangeas

Whether mophead or lacecap, most gift hydrangeas are of the macrophylla species. Results in the garden can vary, but I've seen these grow up to 4 feet tall after a few years. When the flowers have faded, snip them off and remove the plants from their containers. Plant in the garden at least 18 inches apart, depending on variety, and apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer (10-10-10). Although most hydrangeas prefer partly shady conditions, an increasing number of new varieties now available as gift plants, such as 'Strawberries & Cream,' perform well in full sun (read the plant tag for details). This year you may notice some growth, but basically what you'll have is a shrubby foliage plant. Expect blooms next year.

Hyacinths

Snip off spent flowers and stems but let leaves stay on the plant until they turn yellow or brown. (The leaves are necessary to produce food for energy the bulb will need to bloom next year.) Dig a hole deep enough to accept the plant at the same depth it was in its container. Add a fistful of bone meal to the planting hole and sink the whole plant into the ground, refilling the hole with soil. Apply a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) once a week until August, and remove the foliage after it has withered.

Tulips

Tulips are wonderfully reliable, repeat-blooming perennials -- in Holland. Here, not so much, even under the best conditions. They practice what accountants call "diminishing returns" until one year all you get are stems and leaves and wonder where the party went. Then it's time to plant more. You certainly can plant your gift tulips, but you should know that their unreliability is even more pronounced if they began life as a forced plant, which they undoubtedly were. Still, what have you got to lose? Treat as you would hyacinths and hope for the best.

Daffodils

Daffodils are the most reliable repeat bloomers; they even multiply year after year. Plant them in a sunny spot as you would hyacinths and daffodils, after their flowers have faded. Water as needed and fertilize weekly with a 10-10-10 product all summer long.

A few general guidelines to follow before transplanting:

  • Allow plants to complete their bloom cycle indoors, caring for them as you would any houseplant.

  • Ensure they get adequate sunlight exposure, and water them as needed.

  • Remove cellophane wrapping and poke holes in the bottom of foil (if pots are wrapped) to allow excess water to drain.

  • When blooms dry up, keep watering the plant, but only minimally, until the danger of frost has passed (mid-to-late May).

HOT TIP FOR COOL WEATHER

If you’re like me, you’re itching to get your plants into the ground, but I urge you to learn from my mistakes and practice patience: You might say I’ve been burned by a late frost. In another week, it will be safe to plant perennials, but annuals and vegetables will have to wait until the danger of frost has passed.

However, you can get a bit of a headstart if you use cloches.

Cloches are little plant covers, ideally vented to control airflow, that protect tender seedlings from early-season temperature drops. These are my favorite because they’re made of clear PVC, feature water wells that accumulate and disperse water gently (protecting from heavy rain or hose streams) and can be combined to customize long rows, if needed. Check them out and find more of my recommended garden helpers here.

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Until next week, stay safe. Be well. And always keep your mind in the dirt. —Jessica


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