Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Container Plant How-to's

Whenever I'm looking for a burst of color in a sea of gray pavement, nothing does the trick of filling out a space like container plants.  They are colorful and mobile and bring life to an otherwise boring spot in the yard.
I've been growing flowers in pots for years now and learn something new every year.  I've really settled on flowers that I love and always look in gardening catalogs for new inspiration with different color and plant combinations.  
If you're considering making your own flower containers this year, it's good to know some basic information in order to have the best flower display all summer long.

 1. Know your location.

 Is your spot shady?  Full sun?  Windy? Sheltered?  These are all important things to know when considering what plants to choose for your containers.  Place an empty pot in the spot you're looking to plant and get a general idea of the sun/shade conditions.  I tend to go with plants that can tolerate sun/part shade as I have mostly an eastern exposure with some later afternoon sun.  
Is the spot near a easy water source?  Locating pots far away from easy watering is an invitation to dead plants.  My pots are always located close to an outside rain barrel or indoor water source.  
Is the spot in a hot,  non sheltered location? You may also want to consider using a self-watering planter and plants that are good with hot sun for 6-8 hours.  This will limit your flower choices but it's so important to plant to your location for the best results.

2. Make sure to pick great soil and use the best pots. 

I like to make my own potting mix blend.  I generally use a bag of great basic potting soil, a bag or two of vermiculite or perlite, and a bag of peat moss.  I don't like watering plants twice a day so I tend to use half soil and half of a soil lightener to get a great mix.  I try to use a bit less soil in the hanging plants so they aren't so heavy but enough soil so one watering will be good for them.  
I like plastic pots the best.  I do have a terra cotta pot I use, but I have to keep it in standing water as it dries out way too fast.  Plastic is light, moisture retentive, easy to store and reusable year after year.  Porcelain is nice too, but is heavy and can't be kept out all winter as it will crack.   

3. Pick the flowers and plants that will work best for your containers.

You will want to choose the best flowers for your sun/shade location and ones that will give you continuous color all season long.   I have gone back and forth with flower choices over the years to figure out what works best for us.  I like pinks, blues and purples the most, but have found my tastes have evolved as I discovered certain flowers just didn't handle the long bloom season.  Like the "Wave" series of petunias would be beautiful for a month or so but would really burn out by mid-summer.  I would have to pinch them way back and wait for them to rebloom.  It didn't work for me because I want color all the time...all season.  The flowers in the photo above are excellent in containers giving me great color all season, holding their color, not needing deadheading, can handle dry conditions and are generally hardy.  Some are old fashioned, like begonias and coleus, but they are beautiful and last a long time.  Don't forget to add non-flowering plants like coleus, caladium bulbs and even herbs to your collection.
You may want to plant the same kind of flowers all in one pot when placing the pots in a large display.  Some plants are more vigorous and will overtake another plant.  Try to find out what the flowers growing habits are before putting them together.  I solved this problem by planting the same flower varieties in the same pot and then placing the pots all together.  It also helped me to see what plants were more aggressive.  Always check the growth size of your plants as well.  Taller plants will always overtake the shorter varieties.

4. "Overplant" your flowers and fertilize with a long 
 season fertilizer as well as weekly feedings.

You will want to plant as many flowers in a pot in order to get the pot to be lush and overflowing.  This is the one time you can ignore the little tags as to flower spacing and "crowd" your container with flowers. I figured this out after buying different hanging flowers pots.  After the growing season, I noticed they overfilled their containers with plants.  By doing this, your pots will fill out quickly with foliage and eventually blooms instead of waiting the whole growing season for this look, you can achieve it much faster by overplanting.
Fertilize, fertilize and fertilize!!  I use an organic 2 month granular fertilizer as well as an organic weekly or monthly one.  This will keep all the blooms nice and healthy and solves the problem of the overplanted container.  As long as you water and fertilizer consistently, you're sure to have beautiful blooms.

This is the basic information that I have discovered along the way and I continue to learn more as I experiment with different flowers and plant combinations.  Planting your own containers is a great way to express your own creativity and to create your own floral space.  

What are some of your favorite flower combinations?  Blessings!

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  1. So pretty! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the tip about the plastic verses terra cotta pots. I didn't realize that! Well, I keep on ending up on your blog through link ups so I think it's time to join you :) Have a wonderful week!

    1. Thanks so much and for following too. Will follow you back! :)

  2. Great post. I saw it just now on Frugal Days.

    I am giving away a set of Ball Canning blue pint jars on my blog right now, I hope you'll stop by!
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  3. I always like to put hanging baskets up on my porch, but I didn't have the best of luck until last year. I love petunias, so I was putting them out there, but it's mostly shade on the porch. I realized petunias weren't great for that location, so now I use plants that are ok in the shade. And another thing is I usually forget to water my container plants so I need to get better at that!

    1. I have a love/hate thing with petunias. I love the flowers but they don't do well for a whole growing season. :( I do love impatiens for deep shade...they do wonderfully every single time and for the whole summer.
      I sometimes keep a filled milk jug next to my potted plants so it makes watering feel like it's a little easier!

  4. Great post! I have only ever grown herbs in containers but this year I am experimenting with garlic in large pots. See what else I'm up to at

    1. I have certain herbs in pots too and they grow really well. Hope your garlic turns out well...containers are great ideas when planting space is scarce. :)

  5. Great tips! For years I was stuck in places with only shaded porches, so my combos usually included coleus, impatiens, fuchsias and begonias!

    Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Nancy, I've pinned it :)

    1. It is nice to be able to have a variety of flowers to choose from for sure. I love all the flowers you mentioned and I'm able to put some sun lovers in pots too so I get a nice balance. I love coleus because it's non-stop color all the time and no dead heading!

  6. Great tips!

    I would love for you to link up this - and your other gardening posts - at the Empty Your Archive link party. We have a special focus this week on gardening, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

    1. Thanks for the invite...will head on over to check it out. :)

  7. Thank you for these fantastic tips!! I am pinning for future reference. Your containers are gorgeous!