Home Gardening Center Tip Sheet: Adding Spring Color To Your Home

By Sonia Uyterhoeven

·· Living With Plants ··

Adding Spring Color To Your Home

Early winter is still a little too early to race out and plant outdoor containers. Here is a happy compromise: As the snow lingers outside, florists are beginning to flood us with spring bulbs, azaleas, primroses, and an early selection of herbs. These can be transformed into colorful centerpieces, containers, and spring baskets. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Decorative Baskets

- Baskets made of willow, lacquered rattan, and bamboo make excellent displays for plants both indoors and outdoors.
- Line baskets with a plastic shopping bag or a small garbage bag. Pick a gray, black, brown or clear bag for the liner – use a natural color since the liner will be visible through the basket.
- Fit bag loosely into the basket and attach to the rim with large sewing stitches. Otherwise, use florist wire to secure the liner to the basket, staggered in six to eight places underneath the rim.
- If you are going to display the basket outdoors, make a few holes in the base of the liner for drainage. Place the basket on several blocks of wood to keep it off the ground.
- If you are keeping the basket inside, do not make drainage holes. To keep the plants healthy, do not over-water. This is just a temporary display for the indoors so you can get away for a short time with no drainage as long as you don’t over-water.
- For indoor baskets, damp sphagnum moss makes a good potting medium. It is much lighter than potting soil and retains water well.
- For outdoor baskets, use potting soil. Plant ivy to spill over the edges of the basket--it fills empty spaces and adds a nice decorative touch. Decorate the soil surface with pebbles, mulch, or moss.
- Keep baskets away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prolong bloom. You can mist the petals of your flowering bulbs with water once a day to keep the flowers looking fresh.

Herb Containers

- For indoor herbal containers always start with a clean pot. Wash the pot with hot water and soap or soak in a dilute bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse well.
- Place a few pieces of broken terra cotta pots or a piece of screen on the bottom of the pot to ensure that soil doesn’t clog the drainage holes.
- Many herbs are Mediterranean plants that like good drainage. It’s easiest to plant your herbs in potting soil. To improve the drainage, add gravel or sharp sand (not builder’s sand that compacts). Use three parts potting soil to one part sand or gravel.
- Mediterranean herbs grow naturally in poor soils and do not require heavy fertilizing. Many of these are herbs with silver or hairy leaves or tiny, thin foliage. Fertilize once a month or every two weeks using a 1/2 strength dilution.
- Mints tend to be invasive. If you are planting them in a mixed container, keep them in a plastic pot and simply plant the pot in the container. Bury the rim of the pot slightly below the surface of the soil to hide it.
- Trim herbs regularly (as an added bonus, you can use them in your cooking) and check to see when they need water. Do not over-water but also do not allow herbs to become bone-dry. During hot weather, occasionally spraying with tepid water from a mister is good for soft-leaved herbs.

Plants for Spring Containers

Other suggestions
Daffodils (Narcissus sp.) Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Pansies (Viola sp.)
Tulips (Tulipa sp.) Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum minus)
Hyacinths (Hyacinthus sp.) Lavender (Lavandula sp.) English Daisies (Bellis perennis)
Grape Hyacinths (Muscari sp.) Oregano (Origanum sp.) Primrose (Primula sp.)
Miniature Iris (Iris reticulata) Marjoram (Origanum majorana) Fancy-leaf Geraniums and Scented
Geraniums (Pelargonium sp.)
  Basil (Ocimum sp.) Variegated Ivy (Hedera sp.)
  Mint (Mentha sp.) Small Azaleas (Rhododendron sp.)
  Parsley (Petroselinum sp.)  
  Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)  

Download this Tip Sheet.

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