Make Them Irresistible

from Country Gardens
Find out how flower combinations for container gardens can make all the difference. These tips on designing a container garden will start you in the right direction.

Create simple, stunning containers you’ll love to show off.

It’s the ultimate treat to come home to a pot wowing you with knock-out flowers and foliage that looks good for weeks. Lasting container garden success is easy to achieve with the right mix of pots, soil, and plants. These three ingredients are key to fashioning portable color and texture that will fix up any forlorn space in the landscape from balconies to benches. To fashion inviting mini gardens with a dash of intrigue, follow our easy container gardening guide.

Pot particulars
All great containers have one thing in common — excellent drainage. Without drainage holes, a lushly planted container will soon become a soggy, rotten mess. A cast-iron urn, fluted terra-cotta pot, resin container or basket all boast excellent drainage capacity.

When purchasing terra-cotta or ceramic containers, look for pots that have drainage holes. Plastic or wood containers without drainage holes can be remedied with the help of a drill. Add four or five 1/2-inch-diameter drainage holes per square foot of surface area on the bottom of the container. Cover the drainage holes with three sheets of newspaper or landscape fabric to keep the soil in the container while allowing the water to freely drain.

Traditional planting containers are made of metal, terra-cotta, wood, or plastic. Plan on watering terra-cotta or wood containers daily because their soil will dry out faster. Metal or plastic containers typically can be watered every other day. For a lightweight and moisture-retentive container, select plastic resin pots molded and glazed to resemble terra-cotta or stone containers.

For an unexpected look, transform an everyday object into a pot. Almost anything — from cast-off grain troughs to mesh bicycle baskets — can work as a planting container. Use a drill to add drainage holes to previously watertight vessels, and line baskets with moist sphagnum moss or coco fiber — porous materials that allow water to freely drain.

Flowers and Foliage
For an eye-pleasing container combo, select a trio of upright, mounding, and trailing plants. The upright plants serve as a focal point, while the mounding plants fill in gaps with splashes of color, and the trailers mask the edge of the pot.

The wide world of plants offers up an expansive palette of fine flowers and foliage for container gardens. Regardless of the type of plants you choose, ensure a healthy plant combination by selecting plants that will thrive in the amount of light and moisture the container will receive. For example shade-loving plants are a good choice for porch and low-light patio containers.

Mix a slow-release fertilizer into the potting mix if it is not already included. Follow fertilizer package directions for the amount to use.

Keep an eye out for root-bound plants. Plants grown in small nursery containers for extended periods develop a coil of roots. Before transplanting root-bound plants, gently loosen roots around the sides and the bottom of the root ball. Be vigilant of late-spring cold snaps. Freezing conditions quickly nip tender annuals. If temperatures are expected to dip near freezing, cover containers with a cotton sheet or a light blanket.

Now is the time to sink stakes and trellises into containers to support lanky plants and climbers. Create your own stakes with sturdy twigs and twine or purchase supports at a garden center.

Water consistently throughout the growing season to ensure your flowers and foliage thrive. Water once or twice a day during hot, dry weather, every other day during cooler periods, and less often when rain waters plants for you. Touch the surface of the soil with your finger to see if it’s time to water.

To give plants a midseason boost, sprinkle fertilizer on top of the soil and lightly scratch it in with a cultivator. Follow label directions for the amount to use in your container’s size.

Promote rebloom by pinching or pruning spent blossoms. Elevate pots with pot feet. Decorative and functional risers, pot feet promote air circulation, discourage sow bugs, and prevent stains on the surfaces of decks and patios.

When plants are looking a little bedraggled after a long, hot summer, replace them with cool-weather fall favorites such as ornamental kale, chrysanthemums, and pansies. These autumn plants perk up late-season arrangements and can also be tucked into bare spots in beds to act as focal points.

As the temperatures start to dip toward freezing, extend your containers’ growing season by covering planters with a cotton sheet.

At the end of the growing season, move tender container plantings you want to save indoors to overwinter. Tidy up single-season containers by composting the plants and soil, and cleaning the pot with hot, soapy water. Protect pots by storing them in a garage, shed, or basement through the winter.

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