If it hasn’t happened already, you’re going to wake up some morning soon to a shimmering coating of frost on the garden. That usually signals the beginning of the annual fall ritual of garden cleanup – and the end of the flowers.
But there are many plants that will not only tolerate a little frost, they’ll thrive in the chill. Avoid exposure by planting away from windy areas and low spots where cold air tends to pool, and keep plants healthy and vigorous to handle the stress of cold weather.
Here are some annuals that love the cold weather:
African daisy (Gazania rigens). This colorful ground cover is easy to grow and very drought-tolerant once it’s established. African daisies come in many color combinations, but usually always show off dark bands that accentuate the flower’s flat central disc. Thick, fuzzy gray leaves have silvery undersides. They can take several hard frosts. (Orange, yellow, violet, pink and red blooms summer to frost; close down around 15 degrees.)
Kale (Brassica oleracea). This edible relative of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower makes a colorful statement in the autumn garden. Temperatures below 50 degrees intensify the color and the peppery flavor. Wait to set out full-grown plants until fall, when the worst of the summer heat is past. (Pink, cream, white, red and green leaves early spring and fall; full sun; closes down below minus-10 degrees.)
Pansy (Viola hybrids). One of the most popular winter annuals in the South, and a profuse bloomer in the spring and fall in the North as well. Their facelike flowers, held above shiny leaves, make a great front-of-the-border plant. (Flower in most colors and fascinating combinations and patterns in early spring to summer and again in fall to winter; full sun to part shade; close down at minus-20 degrees if heavily mulched.)
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis). This proven garden favorite makes tons of blooms, and with some deadheading will flower to frost. (Cream, apricot, orange and yellow blooms summer to fall; full sun to part shade; close down around 30 degrees; the seeds can survive the coldest winters in the soil and rebloom next year.)