Notes on container gardening from a haphazard gardener
|Our pot-covered patio table.|
|"Bonfire" begonia, gomphrena, Euphorbia "Diamond Frost"|
|Chandelier planter with Begonia "Dragon Wing" and Sweet Potato Vine "Marguerite"|
|Impatiens, Million Bells and Fushia "Gartenmeister Bonstedt"|
It is advisable to buy a professional planting mix (or you can mix your own if you have the time to do that). These soil mixes are light and some come with fertilizer mixed in. Some claim that they are more moisture retentive than others. Whatever the case, don't use regular garden soil that you have dug up from the garden for your containers. Potting soils can be expensive so if you have a huge pot, consider filling the bottom portion with rocks or other type of filler. (For more tips, check out the comments to this post). Most plants (especially annuals) will not have deep roots and the extra soil at the bottom of the container is just a waste of money. Unlike in the ground, plants can be placed close or right next to each other. After planting, place a layer of mulch around the plants. I prefer pine bark but sometimes use pine straw or pea gravel. After planting, water well, preferably with a water soluble plant fertilizer.
|Begonia "Dragon Wing", Coleus, Angelonia|
|This planter in downtown Florence demonstrates the "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" method |
with Arborvitae, coleus and petunias
|Portulaca and Angelonia|
|Creeping Jenny, Calibrachoa, Spike Plant|
When choosing plant colors, consider what is in the vicinity of the container. If a plant is nearby, try to choose a color for the container that is either complimentary (contrasting colors) or analagous (neighboring colors) with it. The same goes for the colors and textures of walls, furniture or other objects.
|The dark purple of the Wishbone Flower (Torenia) is analagous with the blue color of the "Endless Summer" hydrangea in the background.|
|This urn of purple petunias sits in front of a "Buff Beauty" rose which has yellow and gold blooms.|
The two colors contrast nicely together
|Calibrachoa and Ribbon Grass|
Keep them looking good!
Now here is the hard part - you've got to maintain the darn things! That means regular watering, which can sometimes be daily when the temperatures climb into the 90s and we don't get rain. Test the soil with your finger before watering - if it feels dry, you need to water. You will also learn the needs of individual plants and find that some need more water than others. A pot of impatiens may need watering every day in hot weather whereas a pot of portulaca or sedum can get by on one or two waterings per week. Observe your plants closely, they will tell you what they need!
Pot bound plants need more fertilizer than plants in the ground because potting mixes loose their nutrients faster. Even if I'm using a potting mix with fertilizer already mixed in, I always water with a liquid fertilizer like Miracle Gro about once per week. Some people use liquid fertilizers at half the strength and use them every time they water. This is okay too but if you have lots of containers, boy is it a lot of work! I try to fertilize on the same day every week, the way I water houseplants. This helps me to remember to do it.
Pinching spent blooms and general grooming and upkeep will keep your container plants looking good.
|Impatiens, Begonia, Dracena Spike Plant|
Begonia "Dragon Wing"
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Dicondra "Silver Falls"
Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)
Million Bells (Calibrachoa)
Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida)
Purslane and Portulaca
Sweet Potato Vine
Good luck with your containers this year and let me know if you have any tips to share.