Keep the beauty quotient high for potted plants with these can’t-fail ideas for container success.
Bigger is better. Because plants can grow more roots in big pots, place them in the largest container possible. Supersized pots also need watering less often since there’s more soil to hold the moisture.
Be a water wizard. Water when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Avoid leaving pots standing in water which can rot roots and promote disease. Too much water can be as bad as too little.
Go the hole way. Every container needs drainage holes. If you want to use a pot that doesn’t come with holes, drill some on the bottom or sides. If needed, raise the pot so excess water can dribble out.
Fertilize right. Repeated waterings wash nutrients from the soil quickly. To cut down on tasks, add a slow-release fertilizer at planting, then use a water-soluble fertilizer every other week by midseason.
For a full look right away, pack in plenty of plants. Abundantly planted containers look great in the short term but may get out of hand over time. Expect to prune or rip out anything that grows too big or aggressively.
Get the dirt on soil. Regular garden soil is too dense to use in pots. Buy (or make) a potting mix that contains peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, sand, and shredded bark or compost. Adjust the peat according to a plant’s needs for more or less water. If you’re planting hydrangeas, camellias, azaleas, dwarf berry bushes, or other acid-loving plants, opt for a soil mix that’s formulated for them. And for succulents, palms and cacti, choose a blend made for those plants.
Friends or enemies? Pay attention to the plant tags before you pair a shade-lover with a partner that grows best in full sun. Each will do best with others that have the same needs.
Experiment with design. The spiller-filler-thriller rule of thumb is tried and true, but it may be a little too predictable. Think about using any two of those type of plants in combinations, or fill a container with just one type of plant.
Easy does it! Look to grasses, foliage plants such as coleus, and self-cleaning annuals like begonias or impatiens for little care.
Plan seasonal swap-outs for ongoing interest. In northern climates, plant in weather-resistant containers that won’t crack below freezing. Add twigs or evergreens for winter interest, swap spring bulbs for summer annuals, and include grasses to shine in fall.
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