Although winter can be a dreary time of the year, there are several types of flowering annuals and perennials that bloom in winter in the southeastern United States and bring color to the winter landscape. Most winter-blooming plants recommended for planting during the winter in the Southeast can survive if temperatures dip below freezing for short periods of time. While some preparation is necessary, almost anyone can plant winter flowers in the Southeast and enjoy color all winter long.
Locate an area in the garden that receives as much sun as possible on a typical winter day and is well drained. An area with southern exposure during the winter is best. Avoid areas under evergreen trees with dense shade or an area with a northern exposure. Those areas will remain damp and cold during the winter and cause blooming plants to be stunted or adversely affect bloom production.
Choose blooming plants that thrive in cooler temperatures. Examples of winter-blooming plants are Lenten rose, calendula, pansies, snapdragons, dianthus and alyssum. You will find all of these plants and more on a trip to your garden center in the fall.
Prepare the area for planting in early fall. Winter-blooming plants prefer to be planted when the soil temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove all weeds and debris from the area. Use a shovel and hoe to clear the area and loosen the soil to a depth of 3-to-4 inches. Spread a 1-inch thick layer of well-rotted compost over the area along with the recommended amount of granulated organic fertilizer. Look at the fertilizer container label to find out the recommended amount to use on a new flower bed. Work the compost and fertilizer into the top 2 inches of soil with a hoe and rake the area until it is smooth.
Plant the new plants at the required space apart for best results. If planting bedding plants in a large bed, start at the back of the bed and plant in a checkerboard fashion working toward the front. Most bedding plants, such as pansies, are spaced 6 inches apart for best results. After each row, apply a 1-inch layer of mulch around the plants on the row previously planted. This prevents having to step over or around the rows to add mulch when you are finished planting.
Add water to the plants so the soil and mulch settle in around them. Water as needed when there is no rainfall for a week. Because the evaporation rate is low during the winter, be careful not to over water the plants since they will rot if sitting in wet soil.