We never use our front door. No one does unless they are a new guest to the house…and then they only use it once. EVERYONE uses the side door to our kitchen. It was so dull and boring so I wanted to liven it up with some fresh potted plant décor. As I planted I realized I have developed some tips for successful container gardening over the years and I am sharing them with you today!
Every magazine that hits the mailbox showcasing potted plants makes me want to get my gardening gloves on, but truthfully the pictures are very unrealistic. If you’ve ever tried your hand at container gardening you probably know this. Those gorgeous overflowing pots of eye candy are difficult and expensive to recreate, not to mention they can die rather quickly if your thumb is not the right shade of green. To attain the fresh flowery showcase we all desire, here are a few tips to achieve your goal on a budget and with a successful, realistic outcome!
- We can’t all be gorgeous blooming flowers – The reality is flowers that push forth showy petals with dazzling colors are typically annuals. That means you have to replant new ones every year (annually). Most magazine articles you see show pots FULL of annuals. That’s great and all, except when you have to constantly replace everything in your pots and pay the bill that tags along with that time taking task. And friends, annuals only last a few months!!! My tip: embrace perennial greenery and use showy annuals for an accent. Think larger shrubs as a background for show stopping bloomers. Depending on the container size two to five plant variations grouped together look stunning, even if only one is flowering and the rest are interesting greenery! Change out the one little color section seasonally and the whole scenery will look fresh again, your pocketbook will thank you.
- Shop local – When you read articles about the latest plant trends please note, they may not grow where you live. Even your local big box store will carry plants that may not grow in your region! My advice: keep your eyes peeled at your friend’s houses or commercial areas for plants that you like. Then copy them! If you see plants growing in your town, then you know your chance of success is much higher. You might really want to grow lavender, but when you live where I do the water will kill it in no time so it’s a complete waste of money. Unfortunately you sure can head down to the hardware store and pick one up! So often I see people with their basket filled with plants that I KNOW are going to die in a matter of weeks if not days. It’s all I can do to not warn them. I have before, but often they don’t listen. Local nurseries and landscape suppliers are a great resource for plants that traditionally do well in your area, plus they are a bank of knowledge.
- Know your place – Pay attention to the sun and water requirements of the plants you purchase verses the place you are looking to garnish. Pot plants with similar requirements in the same container. My advice: read the fine print on those tags and be realistic about what is happening in your intended spot! Is it morning sun, afternoon sun, total shade, windy or wet?
- Vary the characteristics – Container gardening is just like decorating an interior. The most attractive spaces have a variety of color, height, texture and scale. Pair large leaf and small leaf plants together. Dark green with golden yellow green, fingerlike ferns with smooth caladiums. You never want to pair similar leaf structures together. The plants get lost and you lose impact. Keep this theme flowing with your containers. You can have a cohesive color palette mixed with varying textures for added interest. Think wicker, wood, terra cotta, galvanized metal and concrete. There are so many fun outdoor elements to play with! My tip: pick up old enamel pots and aluminum pans or baskets at garage sales for a fun outdoor scene.
- Dress for success – When planting your new friends be sure to set them up for success. Use good quality potting soil and a layer of mulch to help keep moisture in. Containers tend to dry out faster than plants in the ground. My secret: I always sprinkle a little fertilizer in the hole before I put the plant or flowers in the dirt, this year I used rabbit manure. (this is a great tip for annuals in your yard too!) It’s just that added boost to help them get off to a good start. If you continue to water with Miracle grow or something similar on a regular basis your potted plants, whether greenery or flower, will flourish. When choosing a container stay away from super small ones outside, they just don’t do that well! They dry out and over heat/freeze easily. I say stay in the 6 to 8 inch post size or higher.
- Take care – This seems obvious, but you need to establish a schedule to care for your new pretties! Over watering is a common problem when we first start and that soon moves into under watering. Your plants will get used to the schedule you give them if you keep it consistent, they are a lot like kids. 😉 My tip: get a cute watering can that makes the event more fun, then use it to decorate the area with! I’m on the hunt for a rustic aluminum watering can that isn’t $40!
A fresh swath of greenery to welcome friends and family never hurt anyone’s feelings! Happy planting friends. Let me know if you have any good container gardening tricks for me, I love to learn new green thumb tips. Please be sure to share these tips for others to enjoy, thanks a ton! You can visit our summer garden tour here.