Spring is finally here! As the days get warmer, the trees leaf out, spring bulbs explode with color and our azaleas begin to bloom in all their glory, we begin to think about summer flowers. Container gardening is a fun and easy way to bring color to any garden regardless of space. There are a few basic steps before planting that will get you well on your way to success:
The requirements are simple for a container—it has to hold soil and have holes in the bottom for drainage. Common containers are clay, glazed pottery, and buckets, or let your imagination guide you. If the containers have previously been used, I suggest scrubbing them and sanitizing by soaking in a 1:10 bleach solution.
I like to use a good quality soil-less potting media that does NOT have fertilizer added. Mix 3 parts potting media to 1 part compost. Mix into the top 4-6 inches an all-purpose organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Plantone, which is my choice.
Select plants for your container that suit the location: shade, partial shade or full sun. You will often hear about spiller, thriller and filler plant choices. I use a combination of flowers, herbs, leafy greens, foliage plants and trailing plants. Spillers are your trailing plants and there are many choices: lime green or dark sweet potato vine, trailing coleus, bacopa, creeping thyme, creeping jenny, calibrachoas , wave petunias are a few. The fillers are plants such as coleus, caladiums, dusty miller, ferns, petunias, zinnia, Swiss chard, red lettuce, kale, basil, lavender, lantana, verbena, snap dragons for a few ideas. The thrillers are single plants that are a tall focal point such as fountain grasses, cannas, elephant ear, dwarf spruce, cordyline, spikes, hibiscus, or feathery reed grass, for example. This is your time to be creative with color and texture. Don’t be afraid to place the plants close together. As the plants grow they find the room they need and will mix and cross each other creating interest.
Adequate watering is very important. These containers will dry out quickly and do need frequent watering. Also, deadheading is important for continuous blooms. If plants become too leggy, pinch them back. Watch for pests. Many of the common ones can be treated with a simple soap solution. Lastly, fertilize often. I use a fish and seaweed emulsion with great success.
Have fun and happy planting.
Article written by Debora Wood, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.