Growing plants in pots and other containers on the front porch or back patio is a growing trend in gardening. In fact it’s expanding into other areas of the yard, including placing colorful pots filled with flowers or vegetables placed among flowers and shrubs in the landscape.
Patio pots welcome visitors
Containers are also used along steps, in window wells, around mail boxes and along fence tops. What better way to bring color and texture to your outdoor (and indoor) living spaces. Containers can even be used for a mini water garden with miniature water lilies and other aquatic plants. The applications are limitless.
It used to be that container gardening was mostly the realm of apartment dwellers who had no space to grow flowers or gardens, but that has all changed as plant lovers everywhere have discovered the many advantages of container gardening. Lets review a few of the many reasons people love container gardening.
Pansies in window box
1. It’s easy. All you need is a container (with a hole for drainage), some good potting mix, and some plants. You can grow in containers even if you have horrible soil or have no garden space at all. And no weeding!
2. It’s instant. You make a statement the moment you place the plant filled pot on the porch. The pot itself ads color and zing to your entryway, even before the plants have fully filled the pot with flowers.
A beautiful fall container garden
3. It’s changeable. Plant cold hardy plants like pansies in April. Change it out with frost tender plants like geraniums, or even tropical plants like hibiscus or mandevillea in early June. Then switch it out with frost hardy plants with a fall color theme again in September.
4. It’s moveable. Threat of frost? Just bring the container into the house or the garage for the night. Having a party? Move all of your pots onto the patio for your neighborhood grill fest. Moving to a new home? Take your garden with you!
Tips for Success
Watering- Plants growing in pots and containers need watered more often than plants growing in the ground. Small pots and hanging baskets may need watered once a day during hot weather. Larger pots may need watered less often. You can even set up a drip system on a timer that will water for you while you are away.
Feeding- Because plants are planted closer together, and because you are watering more often, plants grown in containers need fed more often. I like to use a timed release plant food like Osmocote at planting time. This will feed slowly for 3 months. But in addition, I still feed my containers and hanging baskets weekly with a water soluble plant food. My favorite is Fertilome 20-20-20 Water Soluble Plant Food.
Begonias and coleus love the shade
Shade or Sun?- You almost can’t go wrong when deciding what to plant in containers, but you do need to choose based on their sun preferences. Shady areas will require plants that will tolerate less sun, while sunny areas need plants that will thrive in the heat and direct sunshine. Most plants at the greenhouse will have tags that specify shade, part shade, or sun.
Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers- Let your creative juices flow when designing your container garden. It’s pretty difficult to “mess it up”. But a “tried and true” method for designing your container garden is to think in terms of thrillers, fillers, and spillers.
Thrillers are the focal point of your garden. They are bold and beautiful, either in color or texture- and usually tall, with dramatic flowers or leaves. Fillers cover the extra space in the container and either complement or add contrast to the thriller. Spillers are planted along the edges of the container so they can overflow and trail down the sides. This softens the edges and can anchor the pot to its surroundings.
Lettuce is beautiful as well as delicious.
Veggies!- Container gardening doesn’t have to be limited to flowers. It’s a great way to grow vegetables, too. If you want to follow the thrillers, fillers, and spillers theme you could use a caged or staked tomato as the thriller, peppers or herbs as fillers, and cucumbers as an attractive spiller that will trail down the sides of the pot. There are plenty of possible combinations. And there are no rules. Try mixing veggies and flowers in the same pot.
Give container gardening a try. You’ll be glad you did, for all the reasons stated earlier. I don’t think there is any form of gardening that is more rewarding, more adaptable, and more assured of success, than container gardening.