Home Gardening Center Tip Sheet: Pots Galore!

By Sonia Uyterhoeven

·· Container Gardening ··

Pots Galore! Container Gardening

Here are some simple suggestions for planting beautiful containers this summer.

Container Gardening Basics

- Use containers with holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Larger containers require less frequent watering.
- Add Styrofoam peanuts, old plastic pots (overturned) or any light material to base of large containers so that they don’t become too heavy to move. With the old plastic pots you are creating a false bottom.
- Use potting soil, not garden soil, to plant your containers. Garden soil is too heavy and will not be free from pests and diseases.
- Space the plants much closer together than in the garden. You can grow twice as many plants in the same amount of space.
- Don’t fill the container to the top with soil and mulch. Leave 1 to 2 inches empty at the top of the container. This space will allow for easier and more effective watering, and keep soil and mulch from spilling out.
- Fertilize your container. Nutrients will leach out with frequent watering. Use a slow-release fertilizer, and supplement it with liquid fertilizer starting in mid July. You can easily use half the amount of fertilizer recommended on the label and still get good results. Over-fertilizing weakens plants and promotes leafy growth with few flowers.
- Use mulch to retain moisture if gardening in an exposed area.
- Deadhead your flowers regularly to keep them blooming. Cut back or prune any plants that become too large.
- Check containers daily to see if they need to be watered.

Container Gardening Design Considerations

Foliage: Foliage is an extremely important and often underrated component of any design, whether in a container or in the garden. Long after flowers are gone, foliage continues to provide wonderful contrasts and texture.

Fine Textures: Fine textures are feathery and delicate; they enhance foliage and colors in neighboring plants.

Bold Textures: Bold textures create an impact. They add stability to a design and create focal points.

Shapes: Container designers often organize plants into three categories: accent plants add height to a container; fillers add mass and color to the composition and trailing plants spill over the edge. Although these three different components are frequently used when designing a container, this is not a rule.

Accent plants: Accent plants are striking features that create a focal point for the composition. Vertical plants that give the container height can be accents. Tropical plants are very effective accents with their broad leaves and exotic feel.
Mounding plants: Mounding plants are wonderful fillers for an arrangement. They cover up bare spaces and add depth and fullness.
Trailing plants: Trailing plants are important features of many arrangements, particularly hanging baskets. They blur the lines between the container and the plants.

Color: Designing with color is fun. Everyone should be encouraged to experiment with it. Some colors are hot (reds, orange, and yellow), while others are cool (blues, purple, and pinks). White often brings out the intensity in another color, looking very classy when paired with green and pastel and pretty when paired with pale yellow. Beautiful arrangements can be made by combining varying shades or hues of the same color.

Repetition: Repetition is as important for container design as it is for garden design. When there is too much variety, the eye does not have a resting point. Repetition creates continuity in an arrangement and ties the composition together. Repetition does not necessarily mean using the same plant repeatedly in one container; plants can be repeated throughout a grouping of containers. Using plants with the same color or shape can be a form of repetition. Conversely, using the same plant in different colors effectively creates a sense of continuity.

Scale and proportion: Understanding scale and proportion is important when planting a container. Containers are most effective when plants of contrasting heights are layered in tiers from tall to small. Large accent plants, such as cannas, can dwarf the other plants in a container unless there are transitional, medium height plants to draw the eye to the under-planting. Layering also covers up the bare undergrowth of taller plants. Try to envision what the plants will look like when they are fully grown. All containers will need some pruning or formative training, but it is important to get the scale right from the start. Tall plants look best in pots with wide bases (they look out of balance in containers with narrow bases) and small rounded containers look their best when planted with mounding plants that mimic the shape of the container.

Creating miniature landscapes: Rather than trying to fit all of your good ideas into one large pot, group a number of containers together to create a tableaux or miniature landscape. Plants with contrasting shapes or textures can be placed side by side very effectively. Many plants thrive when planted separately, rather than competing for space in a crowded container. Grasses, for instance, look wonderful when given center stage in a pot all by themselves.

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·· Container Gardening ··

Generous support for the Home Gardening Center has been provided by Kenneth and Ellen Roman.