Placed along paths, decks, patios or near your front entrance, containers overflowing with blooms are an easy and economical way to spruce up your landscape. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
Tools and Materials
|Containers|| Plants and flowers
Step 1. Start with a theme
Think like a painter composing a picture. Consider color, shape and style. For instance, you might decide on plants in dark tones, chosen for their variety of textures and leaf shapes, to complement a modern Asian-influenced arrangement. Attractive vegetable plants can be mixed with herbs for a container garden that’s as good smelling and tasting as it is striking. Shrubs and perennials are great for year-round container interest. Other unusual container themes include:
- Window boxes with long, draping plants
- Miniature perennials for a bonsai-like effect
- Plants chosen to epitomize the season
- Plants that love extremes: shade-lovers or hot, tropical plants
Choose Plants for Maximum Interest
Build your container garden starting with three different types of plants:
- Tall, spiky plants in the center of your planter for height and/or movement. Try ornamental grasses for a dramatic focal point
- Smaller foliage or shrub-like plants around the middle to fill in and add interest
- Vining or cascading plants that will drape over the sides of the pot
Combine Plants With Similar Growing Needs
Grouping plants with the same sun and water requirements give them all an equal chance to thrive. Then give the plants room to grow. Read plant care descriptions to learn how large the plant will become at full maturity. To achieve a full look quickly, you can crowd plants more closely in containers than in the garden—within reason.
Be Weather Smart
In most regions, early spring is unpredictable—cool one day, warm the next. If you’re planting before your last frost date, choose plants that will tolerate a light frost. Hold off on planting tender annuals, such as basil, dahlia and zinnia, until after your last frost date.
Step 2. Choose your container
An enormous range of containers is available, including moss-filled hanging baskets, deck rail planters, window boxes, and pots and urns of all shapes, sizes and colors. Consider your container’s surroundings for the best choice.
- You don’t need to spend a lot to fill a big space—opt for one or two large containers, each planted with a single shrub that cuts an elegant and dramatic profile.
- Cluster smaller containers together in uneven numbers for visual interest. Stack a few on upended terracotta pots to create an arrangement of various heights.
- Bigger pots are easier to care for because large volumes of soil retain moisture longer so you water them less frequently.
- Unglazed clay and terracotta pots are the most economical choice, but the porous material dries out quickly so you water plants more often. Use them for plants that require excellent drainage such as sedum and other succulents, rosemary and thyme.
- Glazed ceramic pots retain moisture better but they’re also fragile and need to be moved indoors in colder temperatures.
- For large pots, opt for high-density resin containers that are lightweight, chip-and crack-resistant. Containers made from a blend of resin and natural stone offer a rustic look while being lighter and more affordable than traditional stone urns.
All the best intentions can go to waste if you don’t meet the early requirements of your container garden. The following tips are an easy checklist you’ll want to follow as you get started:
- Don’t reuse last year’s soil for your containers. Try quality brands that use new technology to hold 33 percent more water than ordinary soils, releasing it to the roots as needed.
- Pour or scoop soil around the roots of your plant to the top of the pot but don’t pat it down. Add water to settle the soil so it’s no more than an inch below the rim.
- Slow-release fertilizer gives newly potted plants all the nutrients they need to get established in their first month.
- A thin layer of mulch on top helps soil retain moisture and fends off weeds.
- You can plant warm-season, tropical flowers before your last frost date in southern regions, if you’re prepared to protect them during a late cold snap. If temperatures drop below 30 degrees, shelter containers in your garage or cover them with burlap or recycled fabric.
- Some plants, including basil, celosia, ornamental peppers and zinnias, are especially sensitive to cold. Bring them into a warm area if temperatures are expected to drop below 45 degrees.
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