6 Tips for Beautiful Pots

container gardening

No matter how big your garden, balcony or porch is, container gardening fits them all. Now that May has come, it’s time to plant our with flowers to enjoy all summer and welcome those who come to our homes and backyards. Of course, plant and container varieties abound—sun and shade plants, monochrome color palettes of plants and mixes, and a variety of shapes, sizes, and container materials. That’s the beauty of container gardening – you decide what works best for your space and which plants will thrive! And of course, you can plant your favourites!

Here are six my great-grandmother taught me about container gardening that have helped me over the years:

1. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of your container for drainage.

Whatever pot you choose to use (wire hanging baskets lined with moss, terracotta, or stoneware), make sure your pot has holes in the bottom for drainage. If not, you can drill some yourself!

2. Select plants for your containers with the concept of “tension, filler and sprayer” in mind.

P. Allen Smith, himself a master of container gardening, said in his article: blog post, “I like to use the structural concept of tension, filler and spill…. You start with tall tension plants that add a vertical element to the combination…. Then use more rounded plants as fillers to give the appearance of rough abundance…. Finally, spills come into play. These back plants soften the rim of the container and balance the height of the tension.” Below are examples of “stress, fill and spill”!

potted flowers

3. Err next to more plants for a fuller looking pot.

When you wonder why some people’s pots look so good, it’s probably because they use more flowers and plants. Think big when it comes to containers!

4. Don’t be stingy on potting soil.

There are many potting soil options available; Your local garden store will be helpful in recommending potting soil and fertilizer for your containers based on your planting region. Some potting soil mixes contain slow-release fertilizer, but it’s always a good idea to fertilize your plants regularly when watering. Most gardeners recommend fertilizers of at least 5-15-5 (NPK ratio for Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) because 15 Phosphorus helps ensure great blooms! Be sure to fill your container with potting soil before adding your plants, leaving only about 3 inches from the top of the container.

After installing the “strain films, spills and fillers” add more potting soil to the container, making sure each plant is fully and compactly covered with soil and the surface soil is level with the top of the container.

container gardening

5. Water and fertilize your container gardens regularly!

Containers require frequent—daily—watering, especially during the hot summer months, and it’s always good to water when the surface soil is too dry to the touch.

6. Don’t forget the “dead head”!

Pinch or plucking dead flowers with your fingers or garden shears allows new blooms to form and can even help create fuller plant pots.

Here’s to “tension, fillers and spills!” for some examples!

Solar Voltages:

  1. geraniums
  2. pentas
  3. Cone Flowers
  4. Box
  5. coleus
  6. zinnias
  7. Shasta Daisies
  8. gaura
  9. Hibiscus
  10. Carex Herbs
  11. verbena
  12. lily
  13. angelonia
  14. Universe

Shadow Tensions:

  1. hostas
  2. caladiums
  3. coleus
  4. begonias
  5. Ferns — Autumn Fern, Japanese Painted Fern, Boston Fern, Soft Shield Fern, Western Sword Fern, Asparagus Fern
  6. columbine
  7. Mother-in-law’s Tongue and Snake Plants
  8. phlox
  9. fuchsia
  10. inpatients
  11. Silver Inch Plant

Solar Fillings:

  1. vinca
  2. sun patients
  3. Merigolds
  4. sedum
  5. lobelias
  6. coleus
  7. sage tea
  8. Euphorbia Diamond Frost
  9. clove
  10. dusty shafts
  11. Ferns—Foxtail Fern, Ostrich Fern, Cinnamon Fern

Shadow Fills:

  1. inpatients
  2. heucheras
  3. hosta
  4. ferns
  5. lobelias
  6. coleus
  7. fuchsia
  8. begonias
  9. bacopa
  10. Ferns—Boston Fern, Asparagus Fern
  11. caladiums
  12. Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Solar Spiller:

  1. sweet potato vines
  2. creeping jenny
  3. Following Lantana
  4. following vinca
  5. following petunia
  6. portulaca
  7. catnip
  8. sedum
  9. blue stun
  10. bacopa
  11. asparagus fern

Shadow Spiller:

  1. lamium
  2. english ivy
  3. creeping jenny
  4. trailing rosemary
  5. the trailing bacopa
  6. Begonia in the back
  7. bleeding heart
  8. lobelia
  9. following Coleus
  10. bacopa

What are you planting in your containers right now?

Laura Fincher is a native Mississippian. His great-grandmother and mother taught him container gardening at an early age. Her great-grandmother made elaborate moss-covered wire baskets each year; she would fill them with caladium petunias and trailing purple canes (Tradescantia zebrina). Every year, Laura and her mother look forward to planting their potted garden and talking about sweet memories of planting flowers together.


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