One of the easiest ways to spruce up an entryway or patio is to plant a colorful container garden. They’re relatively low maintenance and can give you a lot of bang for your buck, as long as you follow a few simple tips to keep them looking fresh.
Choose the Right Plants for Your Space
The first step to a beautiful planter that blooms all season long is picking your plants carefully. You need to ascertain how much direct or indirect light the planter will get, and then choose accordingly. (It won’t do you any good to pick gorgeous shade plants only to fry them in direct sunlight!) You also want to take water requirements into consideration, and try to select plants you’re grouping together with the same requirements. If you’re not that familiar with plants in general, a good way to get ideas of what will work together is to visit a garden center and see what they’ve grouped up in their planters. (We don’t recommend big box store garden centers for this, though. They make money by selling more planters, so they don’t really care whether the plants will thrive once they leave the premises.)
For really eye-catching planters, a good rule of thumb is to have three types of plants in each: A Filler, a Spiller, and a Thriller. The thriller will be the main focal point of the planter, ideally something colorful and with a bit of height. Some people like to choose ornamental grasses, or you can go tropical with something like a bromeliad or Curcuma. Your filler plant is usually something mounding and fast-growing, that will help fill the space around the base of the thriller plant. And then the spiller is something that will drape over the sides of the planter, adding interest along the sides and down the length of the pot. Popular choices include sweet potato vine (which comes in several colors) or Million Bells, but there are tons of fun options if you’re willing to get a bit creative.
- Don’t forget edible plants! Many herbs and flowers are not only delicious and handy to have around, but they often deter pests as well and can make great fillers. For example: nasturtium blooms offer delicate yellow and orange pops of color, and they add a delicious peppery taste to fresh garden salads.
- To save on soil costs and reduce the weight of the planters, you can fill the bottoms of large containers with empty jugs or bottles, or even shipping peanuts to take up some space. Just remember to put enough soil in to supply water and nutrients to your plants.
Remember to Water!
Watering your container garden on a regular basis is essential. Because the plants’ roots are restricted to a certain amount of soil, their access to water is also limited. If the soil stays too dry for too long, it will stress the plants and cause them to wither or brown. To help establish healthy root systems and reduce overall stress, plan on watering on a schedule, which in the heat of summer could mean daily. If you’re in doubt, stick your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil is dry, it’s definitely time to water.
- The best time to water containers is early in the morning or in the evening, or at least when the plants aren’t in direct sunlight.
- Choose light-colored, non-porous containers (like plastic or glazed pottery) to help retain moisture in your soil, especially if the planter will be in lots of sun.
- Don’t forget! Containers need drainage holes in the bottom to prevent root rot and other nastiness.
- Adding mulch, moss, or pebbles to the top of your soil could help with water retention and pest prevention
Everytime you water your plants (which is regularly, right?), essential nutrients run out the bottom along with the excess water. This will eventually leach your soils of all the nutrients your plants need, and your garden will suffer. Regular fertilization will prevent premature die-off, as well as ensure that your planters are vibrant and lush.
It’s a good idea to mix slow-release fertilizer pellets into your potting soil when you plant the container, and then add additional nutrients throughout the growing season by dissolving a water-soluble fertilizer in the watering can once every week or two. (Because fertilizers vary in strength, always check the instructions for dilution recommendations. There is such a thing as too much fertilizer.)
Deadhead and Prune With Vigilance
Keep your plants looking lush and full by pruning leggy stems back to buds or branches, and by removing spent blooms and damaged foliage. This will allow the plants to focus their energy on setting new buds or sturdier stalks instead of just looking wild.
Giving your plants a regular haircut also helps alleviate stress due to heat or underwatering, as it helps them allocate resources more effectively. This is especially important if you are growing herbs, as allowing them to flower often affects their taste.
Rotate your planters every so often to ensure equal exposure to sunlight (and therefore even growth).
Manage Pests and Problems
Check your container garden every week or so for evidence of pests, such as nibbled blossoms, skeletonized foliage, missing flower buds, or pock-marked leaves. Compact, sticky spider webs and rust spots are also indications that you have a problem. Identifying the exact issue can often be tricky, but is critical for determining what you need to combat the issue. If google searches aren’t working this is a great resource, or you can try bringing damaged foliage to a garden center for advice.
Finally, the best way to have eye-catching container gardens is to refresh them a few times each year. Many people plant bulbs for springtime and then add annuals or vegetables as those bulbs die back. In the fall, replace your summer blooms with kale and pansies, which can withstand colder temperatures and add a pop of color to an otherwise dreary landscape. Be ruthless: pull out any dead plants and replace them at any time as necessary.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy:
- How Gardening Is Good For Your Health
- Herb Gardens – The Perfect Addition to Your Backyard
- Tiptoe Through the English Garden