Now that spring is finally here,
I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself!! Well, if I can't contain myself, what can I contain? How about some plants!
I call myself a "pot freak" because I cannot pass up an interesting container to add to my collection. At last count, I had 80 pots. Now, I must admit that is a little over the top, but hey, I only have a few pair of shoes in my closet. So there you go!
There are so many types of containers on the market today. The most common is a simple terracotta pot; but ceramic, stone, plastic, glazed, fiberglass, wood, hypertufa, and concrete are also available, just to name a few. Pretty much, the sky is the limit when it comes to container gardening. If you can fit enough soil into something for a plant to grow and it has a drain hole, it has now become a container for your garden. How about an old boot? A birdcage, maybe? Step outside of the planter box, and try something unusual for your next container.
Different types of containers have their pros and cons. Some are subject to freezing, cracking, or rotting; some will last for years; some are heavy, some are lightweight; some are inexpensive, some a little pricey. I'll let you do the investigating to see what would be best for your budget and design.
As any good gardener knows, our plants will only do as well as the "soil" they are growing in. Mixes for containers are available under a variety of trade names and are usually referred to as "soil-less" mixes. These soil-less mixes may contain peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, bark, or coir fiber (ground coconut hulls). What I usually do is buy a good quality potting soil, then I add a little compost to add some "life" to the mix, and I also add a little expanded shale to ensure good drainage, and I'm ready to plant.
Containers should be filled to within about one inch of the top to allow room for water. Your containers will drain better if the soil mix goes all the way to the bottom of your pot and you do not add any gravel or filler in the bottom of the pot.
Now for the good part, the plants!!!
When planting containers, remember that you want...
a "thriller" (tall plants),
a "filler" (plants to fill in the middle),
and a "spiller" (plants that trail over the edge).
How about a container filled with a variety of Caladiums, Red Dragonwing Begonias, and Creeping Jenny for a shady spot. Or try Red Cordyline (Ti Plant), Purple Pentas, and Sweet Potato Vine for a partial sun/shade area. For a full sun spot, try Purple Fountaingrass and Sweet Potato Vine, or Variegated Tapioca with Blue Daze spilling over the side.
A suggestion from the April 2011 Southern Living magazine is to first find a foliage plant that you love. Then choose a second foliage plant with complementary hues and contrasting textures. And finally, add a bloom that pulls it all together.
The combinations are endless!
Once you've got your containers filled with colorful combinations, you will need to fertilize periodically and water as needed. You can use a water soluble fertilizer or a granular time-released fertilizer. What I usually do is just save a little of the organic granular fertilizer that I use in my perennial beds and sprinkle some of it in my containers a few times a season.
If your containers are in a shady spot, you may only need to water once a week or every few days. If they are in full sun, you may need to water as often as every day in the middle of the summer. Stick your finger into the potting soil; if the soil is dry, then water; if it is moist, hold off for another day or so and check it again. We can kill plants by over watering more often than under watering.
By far the best container book I've ever had is called Easy Container Gardens by Pamela Crawford. She gives great plant combination ideas, and they all work for our Zone 7/8 climate! For even more great plant suggestions for your containers, go to www.dallasplanttrials.org. Jimmy Turner with the Dallas Arboretum has lists of tried-and-true annuals for our area.
For a list of great plants for containers and to see pictures of some combinations that I've used in the past, click here
I hope I've inspired you to pot up some colorful containers for your garden this spring. Maybe you'll even add a few new containers to your collection, too.