If you have visited the supermarket lately, you’ve probably noticed flower displays are up and going, a sure sign of the coming spring.

Sure, we still must contend with ice and snow, but strengthening sunlight and longer days proclaim the season is changing. And with that change, commercial enterprises offer us a wide range of potted, flowering plants.

It happens every season. Somewhere, someplace, you’ll see little signs of the approaching season. It may begin with paper shamrocks pasted by the cash register in your local convenience store, or perhaps it might appear as advertisements for greenhouses and garden centers offering springtime garden essentials.

The most serious iteration of this is when shelf upon shelf of potted, flowering bulbs appear in supermarkets and grocery stores.

Nothing says spring like flowers. Photo courtesy of Tom Seymour

What Next?

As appealing as these seasonal delights are, they come with a few caveats. First, we must remember at least for a while yet, it is still winter, and winter can bring sub-freezing temperatures.

If you buy a plant now, any kind of plant, and it is very cold out or worse, cold and windy, chances are the plant will suffer damage during the trip from the store to your car. There is a way to prevent this from happening.

First, don’t buy a plant on a wintry day. Instead, wait for a warm day, then pick up your plant or plants. But if you can’t resist that lovely floral display, make sure the clerk packages your plant appropriately so it can withstand a brief encounter with cold and wind.

This means creating a safe space for the plant. To do this, the plant needs to be set in a small box and then, a bubble of static air must be created around it. The best way to do this is to use commercial-grade plastic sheeting or even a clear plastic bag to make a bubble, or dome over the plant. Secure the edges of the plastic down inside the box. Alternately, the plant, in its box, can be placed inside a paper bag and the bag folded down and stapled so it cannot open. Either of these steps will protect your plant from the cold. And when you get in your vehicle, make sure to turn the heater on immediately.

Recycle Plants

Many of the spring-flowering plants we buy now can perform double duty. First, upon bringing them home, they can sit on a stand, table or shelf to proclaim the coming season. Some plants will stay in flower for quite some time. One such plant is primula, the primrose, or cowslip. Primulas come in a wide variety of sizes and color combinations and have a lengthy flowering time. After flowering, wait for the soil to warm and plant outside in a semi or partial-shade area. A few varieties, P. japonica and P. denticulata, prefer moist, soft soil. Others can be set among existing flowering bulbs or even used in semi-shady sections of rock gardens.

Flowering bulbs can also be replanted outside. It’s best to wait until the soil has warmed slightly. If you already have spring-flowering bulbs in your garden, wait until they begin to bloom and then set out your new potted plant. This allows you to use the new plant to fill in as needed.

Some flowering bulbs will live for years, namely daffodils and narcissus. Others, like hyacinth — grape hyacinth is an exception — will return the following year, but will have only a sparse flower stalk. Tulips, at least in much of Midcoast Maine, should be treated as annuals.

So get out, enjoy the displays and buy some spring-flowering plants. Enjoy them in your home, and, later, set them outside for years more of springtime color