Great opportunities for experimenting
Container gardens offer opportunities for experimenting with color and flowers in your existing landscaping. Barrels of petunias, geraniums, or impatiens located along garden paths can add visual impact and offer a change of pace without having to completely redo your landscape.
For great container gardening ideas visit our Awesome Accents website. You will find planting tips and flower suggestions for sun and shade container locations.
Selecting a pot
Containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes; round, square, hexagonal, and rectangular. They are made of weather resistant wood, such as cypress, redwood, or cedar, or made of plastic, clay, concrete or ceramic.
Be creative... try an old tub, an antique urn or some sawed off barrels.
Just make sure they are large enough to allow plants and roots to grow and have a few holes so they drain properly when watered.
Quality of soil
Good soil grows good plants. You can buy packaged potting soil or mix your own using two parts garden soil, one part peat moss, and one part sand. Manmade substances like vermiculite are good substitutes for sand. The soil should ideally be moist, but not soggy. To properly store your soil mixture for future use, use a plastic bag or closed container to retain moisture. Some plant varieties require a specific soil mix which can be bought at your local nursery. Also see soil smarts.
Help, I've outgrown my home!
As healthy plants grow their size and appetite increases. Successful container gardening means being mindful of when plants need repotting into a larger container to accommodate this growth. It's time to repot when you notice either of the following conditions: your plant needs water daily because it won't hold any moisture or large roots are pushing through the drain hole. In both cases the root system has grown so big that very little soil is left in the pot. Find a slightly larger container, and transplant using good quality soil.
To avoid or minimize transplant shock handle the roots gently and water well after repotting. A good plant starter fertilizer like 10-52-10 will help encourage root growth. Make sure to keep the plant out of direct sunlight or other severe weather conditions for a week while it's adjusting to its new home.
Sun or shade location
Different plants have different sun requirements. Build your planter garden according to the following: choose plants with similar sun needs when combining together in a container. Or, use a trick from Mother Nature by combining plants that help each other...a sun-loving larger plant shades a smaller plant which thrives on only partial sun.
One of the big advantages to container gardening is the ability to move pots around to find the best growing conditions. If you find your planter isn't doing well try moving it to a sunnier spot. Or if the plant looks like it's leaves are browning, move it out of direct sun. Since your planter is portable you can experiment quite easily until you find the best place with just the right amount of sun.
Containers should be kept out of direct midday sun and drying winds. Because they are exposed on all sides, they will show some effects of harsh elements more quickly. Uneven sun exposure might cause your plants to lean one way in search of more sun. To correct for this, rotate the planters every couple of days so the plant will grow straight.
When to plant
Plants vary in terms of frost tolerance, but many can be planted outside early without any danger of damage from frost or snow. The advantage of containers is that they can be moved into a more protected spot if you have any concerns at all. For an early garden, use those annuals that have a higher frost tolerance. Pansies and snapdragons are two examples of frost hardy annuals and can be planted in early April without harm. For more information on when plants can safely be planted in your zone, see the plant hardiness zone map.
Transplanting your bedding plants into containers is quite simple. Once you've created the best soil mixture possible in your planter, make small holes in the soil to place the plants into. Then remove plants from their sectioned trays and gently break up the rootball of each plant to enable the roots to spread into the soil as the plants grow. Tamp the soil down around the plant after transplanting. Give it a good soaking followed by a dose of transplanting fertilizer which encourages root growth.
Like all blooming plants, annual or perennial, the plants in container gardens have the same needs...food, water and a little light housekeeping. The main difference is that a planter is limited in space... and soil. This means you are in charge of providing for its' needs - more frequent watering than a garden bed and very regular feeding. If growing sun loving plants in pots you'll need to water every day. Never let the container become totally dry. The light housekeeping involves pulling out the odd weed and deadheading to remove faded blooms as they die.
Plants need food to grow just like people. Select the type of fertilizer for the plants' needs, for example: blooming plants would use a fertilizer high in phosphorous. Click here for more info on plant nutrients.
Plants will go to seed once their blooms are finished. Deadheading will stop the plant from setting seed too soon. Remove the faded flowers by pinching off the flower head. Now the plant will spend its energy producing more flowers instead of seed.
Deadheading will not only encourage many more flowers, it will create a longer blooming period. Another tip to increase plant growth is to pinch the central growing tip of the plant. This will produce side shoots further down the stem, creating a bushier plant that will produce more flowers throughout the season.
Container recipes and resources
Perfect for small patios, backyards, decks and balconies.
Try mixing several sizes, shapes and colours all in the same container for a variety of distinctive looks. Try a dracaena or red star spike in the centre, surround with geraniums and fill in the rim with a trailing vinca which will spill over the edge.