Growing lush flowering plants in containers, rather than in the ground, is a common way to add instant and vibrant colors to a porch, deck, courtyard, or patio space. Before jumping in, consider these three pro-tips that can help ensure the success of your seasonal plants.
Pro tip one: Choose plants that are specifically designed for container gardening. Some plants fare better than others in containers. For example, geraniums enjoy being somewhat root-bound, so this popular summertime plant tends to thrive in containers. Experts suggest following a popular formula to achieve a beautiful plant composition; “thriller, filler, spiller.” This means that combinations of plants should be selected to include a colorful tall one to make a statement (thriller), a plant that fills the space to hide the soil (filler), and a plant that weeps over the edge of the pot (spiller). Together, they create drama and appeal. When selecting a combination of plants for a single container, consider the amount of sun exposure and moisture needed for the plant’s success. Take care to pick those with similar care requirements and avoid those which may crowd out the others. Thriller plants can be flowering or ornamental grasses. They are generally placed in the center or back of the container first. Filler plants should next be placed midway from the edge of the container. Spiller plants, or ones that cascade, are added last. They are placed closest to the edge of the container. They can be planted in one place or circle the container, depending upon what part of the plant is visible. Folks may create their own arrangement or purchase a trio of plants in a container from a local garden center. When planting your own, talk to your garden expert to ascertain which plants are best for your container and hardiness zone.
Pro-tip two: Pick your pots and planters carefully. If you plan to move your plants around to gain proper sun exposure or for aesthetic reasons, consider buying lightweight pots rather than heavy ones. If you prefer to leave your plants in one location or fear lightweight ones may be easily disturbed by wind or other forces, weighted containers are likely best. Size is also a consideration as plants need adequate room for the development of new roots. Per the innovative lifestyle website, Martha Stewart.com, most plants grow well when pots are at least two inches larger in diameter than the plant. This allows room for the plant to grow, mature, and become well-established. Typically, tall pots are ideal for deep-rooted plants, shrubs, certain types of ornamental grasses, or small trees. Trailing or cascading plants are often better suited for hanging baskets. Planters come in a wide variety of materials. Sometimes longer lasting plants need to be repotted at some point during their growth cycle. However, plants such as annuals, defined as ones that die in one growing season, can usually fare well without having to be repotted, assuming the planter provides adequate space for growth. Wooden planters are attractive and strong. Cedar and redwood are particularly favored for durability and for having some rot-resistant properties. However, planters made of these materials are typically more expensive. Since wood is prone to rotting if left untreated, preservatives or plastic liners are recommended. There are many other types of planters on the market, such as glazed or unglazed ceramic planters, fiberglass, and more. Advanced fiberglass products do well at maintaining and regulating temperatures, whereas plastic containers may crack more easily, and classic terracotta pots may grow brittle over time and break if dropped.
Pro tip three: Understand plant care. When people purchase plants from a nursery, care instructions are generally found on plant tags. Always make sure that the plant tag you are reading belongs to the plant you are buying. These tags are valuable because they explain important aspects of plant care specific to what you are bringing home. Because new varieties of plants evolve, it’s important to take the time to review what the tags say, in order to create a healthy environment for your plant. The nursery tag states the common and botanical name of a plant. For example, the common garden petunia, an ornamental plant with showy trumpet-shaped flowers ideal for containers, is technically known as petunia x atkinsiana, and most petunias belong to this nothospecies (a hybrid formed by direct hybridization of two species, not other hybrids.) Tags will also display the light requirements to ensure that your plants are exposed to the proper levels of sunlight. This may sometimes be indicated in words or symbols, such as a full sun, part sun, or part shade. Watering instructions are also key, as too much or too little moisture may harm plants. Sometimes raindrop symbols are used to indicate water needs. For example, one drop means to let the soil dry out between watering. Two drops indicate that soil one inch below the surface should be moist. Three means the soil should always remain moist. Tags also provide other pertinent information, such as how tall or wide plants may grow, hardiness zones where plants best adapt and thrive, fertilization information, and the impact of creatures and other things around it. For example, Nasturtium is an edible flower that is typically yellow, orange, or red in color. It may be labeled as “deer resistant” as the animals generally do not enjoy eating this plant. Experts caution folks to understand that “deer-resistant” does not equal “deer-proof” because deer will eat just about anything if hungry enough and in a pinch.
Growing colorful plants in attractive containers add a lot of charm and wow power to a space. When it comes to container gardening, pros offer some great tips. They include choosing ideal plants suggested for pots and planters, selecting containers wisely, and taking the time to read, understand, and follow a plant’s care requirements. Making the most of these expert suggestions can mean the difference between a struggling container garden and a jaw-dropping one with fabulous foliage galore.