By Will Sulahian and Wendy Lam
Are you looking for the perfect activity to do with Mom this Mother’s Day? Make lasting memories with Mom while adding beauty to your garden, window box, or container. Here, we’ve gathered planting tips from PHS staff experts to help you make Mother’s Day unforgettable and green this year.
Perfect Planting Time
There are a few plants, shrubs, and flowers that bloom right around Mother’s Day, and it is the perfect time to plant weather-wise. “By this time, gardeners do not need to worry about cold temperatures or frosts,” says Andrew Bunting, PHS Vice President of Public Horticulture.
Mom’s New Favorites
Bunting suggests gifting and planting one of his favorites, Rhododendron schlippenbachii Royal Azalea. The slightly scented flowers of this deciduous shrub appear pale to rosy, pink, or white in spring, just ahead of its green foliage. In fall, they take on brilliant shades of scarlet, orange, and yellow, adding late season visual interest to your garden or yard. Bunting also recommends another favorite, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle.’ “It’s a great native hydrangea that is very adaptable to sun, shade, dry, or moist or sites. It is a “top 10” shrub,” he says.
Director of Audience Engagement Nicole Juday Rhoads suggests tree peonies as another option. “The bloom usually coincides with Mother’s Day, they’re extremely long-lived, and the flowers make spectacular bouquets,” she notes.
DIY Mother’s Day Flower Basket
For a more portable, less permanent option, consider a flowering basket. Using any small, recycled container, lined with a layer of plastic if needed, plant with a combination of early flowering annuals like stock, pansies, and alyssum. Then tuck in edible herbs like parsley, sage, or Thai basil. “It won’t last the whole summer, but will be a cheerful addition to a deck, porch, or patio until July,” says Juday Rhoads.
Window of Opportunity
Mother’s Day is the perfect day to replant window boxes. Select bright, happy geraniums, or sunny marigolds to bring vibrant color and joy to your — or your mom’s — landscape. In addition, Bunting suggests making use of plants you already have on hand or even consider dividing perennials in the garden, like Heuchera, Acorus, and evergreen ferns.
For smaller spaces, front stoops, or city patios, create a container garden for Mom! “Remember to use the thrillers, fillers, and spillers method when you plant your containers,” says Bunting. Start with a thriller — a bold focal point with an eye-catching vertical shape. Tall ornamental grasses work well. Fill the space in your planter with two or three different annuals or perennials. Finally, select a spiller, or two — a cascading plant that will fall gently over the sides of your container. Good choices include sweet potato vine, ivy, vinca, and trailing begonia. Proper drainage is key for plant growth and soil moisture, so be sure to have small holes in your container for drainage.
Do Your Homework
Whether you decide to plant a flowering shrub, a window box, basket, or container garden on Mother’s Day, doing some research on your own is the key to success. “No gardener starts off with a green thumb,” says Juday Rhodes. Spend a little time doing research into which type of plant will be most successful. She recommends taking into consideration light levels, amount of space, and whether deer are present in the intended site.
PHS is here to help you and Mom grow together! Visit the PHS Gold Medal Plant database for help selecting plants and shrubs. Sign up for a virtual program or become a PHS member and gain access to the expansive gardening resources of the PHS McLean Library. Whether you are a beginner, or a have a seasoned green thumb, PHS will guide you and your mom on a growing and gardening journey!