Spring is in full bloom and now is the perfect time to add color to your outdoor space with container gardens! There are many ways you can conquer container gardening. Whether you’re the DIY gardener or you’d like some design assistance, we’re here to help add some spring cheer to your home.
- Choose a container: This will set the tone for the entire project. Consider the style, shape, and size. If it’s highly decorative, you may want to stick to less frilly plants. If it’s a simple plastic container, you may need to choose some more exciting plants. Considering the size is important as well. Many people choose too small of a container, and as the plants grow, they quickly run out of room to thrive. It’s also important to consider that the smaller the container, the more often you’ll need to water.
- Choose your plant color palette: Stick with a color scheme to avoid what we call the “confetti approach”. This will give you a much more cohesive overall design.
- Establish the exposure: Determine what conditions your container will be in—sun versus shade is very important. What is the water availability? Don’t set your plants up for failure.
- Thriller, Filler, Spiller: This is a general guideline and may not apply to all container plantings, but it is a useful tool. A “thriller” is an upright centerpiece, often an evergreen or a showy perennial. A “filler” is a midrange flower or foliage plant. A “spiller” is a trailing flower or foliage plant. Remember, foliage plants add punch and definition essential for a well-rounded combination—it doesn’t have to be all about the flowers.
- Installation: Use quality soil and fertilizer; make sure to roughen up the roots—I’m talking more than just “teasing” them. I like to use a Japanese gardening knife (called hori hori) for tight root balls to cut the bottom of it in the shape of a cross. I then pull back the four segments before planting. This reduces the root ball slightly while promoting much faster root growth.
- Maintenance: Regular watering, fertilizing, and cleaning/pest control are key for most containers to keep looking great throughout the season.
For Fresh, Seasonal Color: Consider the Drop-In Approach
Drop-ins are a new approach to container plantings that are ideal for garden lovers with busy schedules. The idea that great looking containers are permanent is a recipe for disappointment. Instead of planting a pretty ceramic pot directly in hopes that your investment will last for years, consider finding a pre-planted plastic pot that can discretely fit inside your decorative one, and voila! You have instant seasonal color that can be refreshed easily. This way, you have a fresh look without the hassle and expense of planting “permanent” plants.
Container Maintenance Tips
- Fertilize: My favorite fertilizer combination is Rose Society 15.10.10 mixed 50/50 with G&B Organic Bud & Bloom (just G&B organic for containers with edibles). The combination of a time release and an organic with beneficial microbes makes for a healthy and colorful start.
- Watering: Watering is the most important aspect to a successful container—not too much and not too little! Remember, the more water a container requires, the hungrier it will be. So make sure to water them regularly throughout the growing season.
- Pests: Pests can be a problem. Make sure you treat for pests before they wreak havoc on your container! This doesn’t mean spraying every chemical on the shelf, but if you know that petunias and geraniums are prone to budworm, spray with BT (bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacteria that is very safe) every two weeks to protect new growth from voracious caterpillars.
- Pinch: Don’t be afraid to trim plants that are bullying other plants in a container to maintain balance.
- Have fun! Every planting is a learning experience. It’s a great chance to try something new!
Container design inspiration can be found adorning our garden center. We also have drop-ins for those of you who are too busy or don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty. We do custom container planting as well. Contact us to schedule your container gardening needs today!