Plant with confidence in April! This post shares the top cool-season flowers that flourish in cooler temps, along with a guide for warm season flower success when summer arrives.

Ah, April. A month that can be as unpredictable as a toddler’s mood. One minute you’re basking in the sunshine, the next you’re battling unexpected frost.

This fickle weather can leave gardeners scratching their heads, either feeling like they can’t plant yet or wondering what flowers to plant outdoors. With a little knowledge about cool vs. warm season flowers, you can start planting now to get your bloom on, even in April’s tricky climate.

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The Cool Kids on the Block: Planting for April Success

If you want a garden that blooms as soon as the cold starts to shake off, it’s a good idea to learn what you can safely plant without worry.

Perennials, roses, shrubs, and trees can be planted as long as the ground can be worked. So don’t stress about planting them earlier in the growing season if the weather is decent because you can get some fresh air and plant stuff!

But annuals are a different story. The beauty of cool-season flowers is that they thrive in cooler temperatures, making them perfect for April’s unpredictable weather. Because we had such a warm winter here in my zone 6b New Jersey garden, I planted some of these in mid-March! Here are some cool season superstars to add a pop of color to your early spring garden:

  • Pansies: These cheerful blooms come in a vibrant array of colors and tolerate light frosts. In some growing zones, like mine, if you plant pansies in fall they can overwinter and bounce back in spring.
  • Ranunculus: These gorgeous flowers come in vibrant colors and can tolerate light frosts.
  • Snapdragons: With their tall, elegant spires, snapdragons add a touch of whimsy to the garden. They come in various colors and prefer cooler weather. They don’t thrive in summer heat, but leave them be so they can bounce back and thrive in the fall.
  • Poppies: Delicate yet bold, poppies bring a touch of drama to the garden. They are known for their easy care and self-seeding tendencies.
  • Sweet Peas: These fragrant blooms can handle chilly temps and do well using the winter sowing method of starting seeds.

Because we had a warm winter, I planted my pansies and ranunculus pretty early this year. We had some dips at night into the low twenties, but plants did well and are thriving now that it’s April.

vibrant purple pansies

Taking Care of Your Cool Season Flowers:

To ensure your cool season flowers thrive during April, keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Hardening Off: If you started your plants indoors, gradually introduce them to outdoor conditions over a week before planting.
  • Soil Prep: Loosen the soil and amend it with compost for better drainage and nutrient content.
  • Watering: Water your plants regularly, especially during dry spells. In my growing zone, the New Jersey weather typically takes care of this for me, but I do water when it has not rained.
  • Pop Off the Cover: If you winter-sowed seeds like sweet peas, snapdragons, larkspur or other cool-season annuals, pop the cover off on warmer days so they can get some fresh air and sunshine.
  • Be Prepared: While I generally don’t run out and cover things in the garden, if there is an unexpected deep freeze I am prepared to cover my pretty flowers with a frost cover.

As I was checking on the seeds I started winter sowing, I noticed my sweet peas were getting pretty large, so I decided to plant them at the very end of March in my garden. This is a bit early, but I checked the weather and the temperatures look great. I am prepared to cover them if it gets super cold, but I don’t suspect that will be case.

sweet pea streamers chocolate by floret flower farm in a cut flower garden
Sweet Pea ‘Streamers Chocolate’ Flowers

Warm Wishes for Warmer Days

While cool season flowers steal the show in April (and sometimes even March), some warm season varieties would rather wait for summer’s warm embrace. Here are a few examples of these heat-loving annuals and tender perennials so you don’t plant them too early:

  • Marigolds: These cheerful blooms come in vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red. They thrive in hot weather and deter pests.
  • Petunias: These pretty tubular flowers come in lots of vibrant colors and thrive in warmer temperatures.
  • Dahlias: Dahlias are tender perennials that will succumb to a frost. Therefore, the tubers shouldn’t be planted until after the last frost.
  • Zinnias: Renowned for their long bloom time and vibrant colors, zinnias are a favorite among summer gardeners.
  • Sunflowers: Reaching for the sky with their cheerful faces, sunflowers are a symbol of summer.

While the general guidelines say to wait until the last frost date, I check my weather. I have planted my warm-season flowering annuals earlier but watched for frost like a hawk. In my experience, we had one spring when we got hit with a hard freeze for a few days after Mother’s Day. It was devasting to my already blooming tulips and ferns.

Luckily, I hadn’t planted my warm season annuals yet because I saw it was coming, but it was rough on the gardens that year. So you have to look at your weather if you want to plant earlier than your last frost date.

variety of dahlia flowers in a colorful cut flower garden
Different varieties of dahlias in a colorful cut flower garden

Planting Success in April’s Fickle Embrace:

Now that you know the difference between cool and warm-season flowers, here are some general planting tips for April:

  • Timing is Key: Plant your warm season flowers after the danger of a hard frost has passed. If you choose to plant a bit sooner, watch the weather closely for any signs of freezing temperatures. Even a light frost has the potential to kill your warm season blooms.
  • Prepare for the Unexpected: Keep frost protection materials like a frost cover, burlap, or sheets handy in case of a surprise cold snap.
  • Planting Before the Last Frost: When you plant cool-season flowers before the last frost, look at your weather. I wouldn’t plant my flowers if temperatures are consistently in the low 20’s at night and have not shown signs of warming up. Look for warmer days and above-freezing nights before planting. Your cool season flowers can weather the dips below freezing but will struggle much less if you hold off until your nights and days are a bit more consistent.
Container garden with spring flowers like ranunculus and pansies near front porch with hostas and bugleweed


Remember, April may be a fickle month, but when armed with the right knowledge, you can still enjoy a thriving flower garden that blooms earlier. Embrace the cool season beauties and wait for the perfect moment to introduce your warm season favorites. Research specific flower varieties that suit your growing zone and preferences for a truly stunning display.

More About Cool Season Flowers

Let me know your favorite cool season flowers in the comments below! I’d love to hear from fellow gardeners who are ready to conquer April’s unpredictable weather.

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pansies and sweet alyssum in a container in spring

Garden Supplies I Use

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

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Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden

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