Gone to pot: Tips on container gardening

·5 min read
Here is a grouping  of different foliage plants that are in containers that blend together.  This shows off the different colors of leaves and different textures too.
Here is a grouping of different foliage plants that are in containers that blend together. This shows off the different colors of leaves and different textures too.

Containers, filled with flowers billowing over the sides can make a dramatic statement and make an area more festive. Container gardens are especially useful for people who have limited space, for people who want to dress up a porch or deck and for beginner gardeners.  Containers can be planted with a single plant or a combination of plants, depending on the look you want to achieve. Even if you have plenty of space, you can still have dramatically planted containers to liven up an area.

To be successful with this venture, you need to do a few things. First, you have to know where you plan to put this container, sun or shade.  You will not be successful if you try to put shade loving plants in full sun and vice versa.  Make sure you know the sun requirements of the plants you want to purchase and do not put half sun loving and half shade loving.  They need the same requirements.

Then, make sure the plants you choose have the similar watering requirements.  Some plants will require you to water them daily while others are content drying out between watering.  Also, know that containers will require more watering than plants you grow in a flower bed. The soil in containers dries out much faster, simply due to lower soil volume and less insulation, which allows the soil to heat up and moisture to evaporate more rapidly.

When you are choosing your plants, you want to choose plants that have different heights, shapes, and textures.  There is an old saying that you need a spiller, filler, and thriller.  One could be tall and upright (the thriller), another a medium-height (the filler) and then have one that will spill over the side of the container (spiller).  This will give you aesthetic contrast that will make the container come alive.

Be sure to know what size your plant will become.  You do not want to have a plant that will take over and dominate the pot.  You also want to think about size in relation to the size of the container.  If you have a large pot, you can have some of your plants taller but if your container is small, you will need smaller plants.

Color is also a factor to think about. You might want to have colors that are harmonious. I have a mentor and friend, Ann, who is a painter who has fabulous containers on her deck because she thinks about colors that blend well together.  Some colors that I know work well together are hot colors like yellow, orange and red.   Pink, blues and purples are also compatible.  I love to see a white and silver together too.   There are many different combinations and sometimes you are limited by what your local garden center offers for sale.

You can have a collection of brightly colored containers in different sizes to make a dramatic statement
You can have a collection of brightly colored containers in different sizes to make a dramatic statement

If you do not want to have different plants in a particular container, you can have a container with plants that are similar in size, focusing on fillers so you can have a tapestry of two or three plants.   Another thought is to have different containers with a single plant for a lovely effect.   Choose several containers that work well together and plant a different plant in each container.  Have a cluster of pots with each holding its own plant.

In choosing a container, you can use about anything you want to use as long as it has a hole in the bottom for proper drainage.  Without proper drainage, your plants could become water logged which will lead to root rot.  It is also a good idea to have your container blend with the surrounding area or you can make a bold statement and follow the lead of Majorelle Garden with a strong color like Morocco blue.  If you choose to have a collection of pots, do not have a mixture of pots that do not match.  I visited a garden where there were so many different pots that I left feeling like it was junky and not harmonious.  I was distracted by all the different containers.

You can use one kind of flower in a pot for a nice effect.  Here coral geraniums add a nice touch in front of this stone wall.
You can use one kind of flower in a pot for a nice effect. Here coral geraniums add a nice touch in front of this stone wall.

It is good to start with a commercial, peat-based, soil mixture because it is designed to hold a lot more water than the average garden soil, plus they have added a slow-release fertilizer.   When filling the pot with mix, leave room for watering; leave an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot.

Since pots dry out quicker than your garden, you need to water more often, and this leads to the nutrients being washed out quicker.  Plants do best with a steady supply of small amounts of fertilizer.  Supplement the plants every two weeks with miracle grow or a similar product.  After I plant, I often put fish emulsion on mine to give them a good start.  I will warn you; it has a lingering odor for about 12 hours if the container is in an open-air location.

Removing your spent flowers will make your containers look fresh and lovely and will keep most annuals blooming over a long-time frame.  This way you will enjoy your pots more and your neighbors will be envious that theirs do not look as fresh and lovely and yours.

Also, look around at other people’s pots and get ideas of what you like and do not like.  This will be very helpful to you too.  Have fun planting you’re your pots. It is not too late.

Betty Montgomery
Betty Montgomery

Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy,” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at bmontgomery40@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Gone to pot: Tips on container gardening