Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Container Planting Tips

By having plants in containers, everyone can be a gardener! Even if all you have is a shady six foot slab of concrete for a balcony, you can spruce it up with all sorts of color throughout the year.

Cold winters where you live? With containers, you can grow plants outdoors in the summer, and move them indoors in the winter.

The keys to successful container gardening:

• Combine plants with the same sun and watering requirements.

• Make sure the pot you choose has drain holes, and plenty of them, and that they aren't blocked. Otherwise, the plants will croak from their number one enemy: wet feet. Muddy soil at the bottom of the pot usually leads to yellowing leaves on top. 

• Match up a plant to a similiar sized container. Too much soil in too big a pot surrounding a little plant retains too much water, leading to wet feet. Increase the size of the pot for the plant gradually, as it grows.

• Pamper your container plants with special soil, such as potting soil or potting mix. Don't use your backyard dirt: it might contain pathogens such as weed seeds, disease spores and bad bugs, such as nematodes. Plus, it's way too heavy!  (demo potting soil versus planting mix)

• When filling the pot, leave room at the top, about an inch, to allow more water to get to the plant roots. Otherwise, it just spills over the top way too quickly.

• When choosing annuals for containers, try to choose those that have not yet bloomed. Plants that are in a blooming stage are too busy producing flowers instead of roots. A plant that hasn't yet bloomed has a better chance of getting its roots established.

• When you remove the annuals from their small nursery six pack, be sure to lightly scrape your nails along the root ball, to free up the roots. 

• Position your plants so that the tallest plants will be in the back; or, in the middle, if the pot will be viewed from all sides.

• Water your containerized plants until you see water coming out the drain holes. Use a shower head setting, not a forceful jet of water.

• If water comes out the bottom immediately, the soil ball has retracted away from the sides of the pot, probably because it got too dry. Break up the sides of the soil ball with a trowel or small fork; add more soil around the side if necessary.

• Because fertilizer is being leached out of the soil during all those waterings, feed your plants every two weeks instead of monthly, but cut the dosage in half, so you don't burn your plants.

• Pots can act like ovens, if they are on hot concrete in the summer. Raise them off the ground with a plant stand or a board to allow more air circulation.

The right pot, the right plant in the right place, some water and fertilizer...anyone can have a colorful garden and a green thumb!


  1. Great tips. What do you think about putting packing peanuts in the bottom of the container to reduce weight?

  2. If you use lightweight pots, the packing peanuts at the bottom tend to make the container top heavy, and could blow over. That's our experience, anyway.

  3. Good point. I knew you would know...thanks!