Everyone wants to “dress up” their entry way, deck, or patio. And all it takes to get started is one great container! Here’s a step by step guide to creating your own "great" container.
The first step – choose your container. The choices are so varied that you’ll easily find something to suit your style. You can use colored pottery, sleek metal containers, or moss lined wire baskets on stands. There are even some fairly natural- looking, man- made material pots out there. Look at this purchase as an investment that you’ll re-use each year, and buy a fairly good sized container at least a couple of feet high or taller. The size will depend on the space you have to fill. But you want it to stand out and be a focal point, so don’t skimp with a wimpy little pot! Also get one that has a drainage hole(s) in the bottom. Your plants will thank you. Choose a pot that enhances the style of your home’s décor and color.
The second step - buy the best quality potting soil you can find to fill your pot. Or mix your own using one part peat, one part vermiculite, and one part perlite. The success of your efforts will depend on the quality of the soil you put in your container. Bargain basement priced potting soil does not have enough organic matter to allow the roots of the plants to receive the water, nutrients, and air they need to keep your plants blooming and healthy. Have you ever seen a pot that is filled with soil as hard as a rock when it dries out? That’s poor quality potting soil, and it’s everywhere so shop carefully!
The third step – decide what type of sunlight your pot will receive where you plan on placing it. Is it on the east side of the house and shaded from the hot afternoon sun? On a shady porch or deck? Or exposed to the sun all day long on a western exposure? This will determine what types of plants you need to buy for you pot. You’ll need to read the tag on the plants you’re considering purchasing to see if they like full shade, part shade, or full sun. Some plants will flourish in several types of environments.
The fourth step – decide whether you want to create a “seasonal “pot, or just plant your pot once. A seasonal pot can be planted with different types of plants and changed from spring to summer to fall. A seasonal pot can be planted first with plants that can handle a slight frost and cooler weather. Those plants include pansies, violas, snap dragons, parsley, potted tulips and potted daffodils. Then you replant with annuals or perennials when the early plantings fade. In the fall a few mums or some flowering kale can be tucked into the pot to replace faded summer flowers.
The fifth step – decide whether you want a mixed container with several types of plants, or whether you want to try the latest trend of just planting one single type of plant in your container. If you’re planting a mixed container, consider purchasing the following plant mixture. You’ll need a “thriller” – a taller striking plant like a spike (sun) or taller growing coleus variety (shade). Then you’ll need a “filler” such as a geranium or petunia (sun) or impatiens (shade). Finish with a “spiller” that will cascade over the side of the pot. Good examples of spillers include alyssum (sun) or lobelia (shade).
The trend of planting containers with just one type of plant is the latest planting style that is becoming popular. It can include both blooming plants and plants with great foliage like the many varieties of coleus. Just make sure you choose a blooming plant with a long blooming season so your container doesn’t fizzle out half way through the summer. There are hundreds of both shade and sun annuals that will bloom all summer long especially if you give them a little fertilizer periodically when you water. Just read the plant tags and fertilizer instructions, and you’ll be rewarded.
A final word on choosing plants – choose plants you like that suit your sun/shade situation. There are so many great plants to choose from, and this is where your creativity makes your great container personalized. You can always ask a staff person at the garden center for some advice if you have questions.
After you’ve planted your container, you’ll need to water until the water runs out the bottom of the container. That is the best method to continue watering all summer. Water when your soil is dry when you stick a finger down an inch or so into the container. You can over water, so always check the soil before watering. During hot July and August weather, you may need to water every day especially if your container receives full sun.
If you’ve never tried planting a container…try it! You may get hooked, and find one container just isn’t enough!
If you have questions on this article or any other lawn and garden topic, call Iowa State University Extension and Outreach-Woodbury County at (712) 276-2157 or email email@example.com.