Container Gardening 101

By Jennifer Williams

Container plantings are a wonderful accent for all types of garden areas – perennial beds, decks, patios, entryways, balconies, and other enclosed or surfaced areas. Aside from the lovely combinations of plants, the containers themselves can offer striking ornament.

These plantings may seem intimidating with the myriad of choices out there, but they’re actually quite simple if you follow a few tips.

Start with a theme and color palette when selecting the container; this will be the basis for your creative inspiration through the design process. Keep in mind logistical considerations for the container like size, weight, and drainage (containers with drainage holes are a must of course). Pay attention to the amount of light and water the container will receive to help guide plant choices.

There are generally three main types of plants that make up a well-balanced container, coined by garden writer Steve Silk: Thriller, Filler, and Spiller. Not every container has to have all three elements, but it’s a good place to start when deciding what plants to use. Carefully pick out your main focal plant (Thriller) to coordinate with your chosen theme – taking cues from the container choice, it should be proportional to the size of the container. Fillers are medium-height plants that accent the Thriller, while Spillers are trailing plants that add dimension to the planter itself.

Once you have your focal plant, build around it using the color palette you’ve chosen with Fillers and Spillers. Try to stick with no more than 3 colors that both complement and contrast keeping in mind combining various leaf/flower textures adds sophistication. Use repetition and balance to create a harmonious combination – this doesn’t necessarily mean symmetrical.

Look forward to experimenting with the next container arrangement as the seasons change by repurposing overgrown plants into the landscape!

The number one way to keep your container beautiful throughout the season is proper watering – and too much can be as devastating as too little! Remember, the more shade the less water. Most plants want to dry out a little in between waterings.  Choose a quality potting soil and supplement with an organic time-release fertilizer complete with probiotics, my favorites are Gardner’s Gold Potting Soil with Dr. Earth LIFE fertilizer. Another important factor to keep your planting looking fresh is to remove old flowers regularly (deadheading). Look closely for signs of pests (Aphids & Budworms are common culprits) so you can combat such attacks early, before you have a full-blown infestation.

These simple elements will help you have beautiful container plantings that are the envy of the neighborhood year-round!


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