9 Tips to Grow Perfect Container Plants
Let’s say you’ve got a tiny outdoor space or none at all or you want to make your entryway steps more attractive. Start a container garden. There’s no digging involved, and the plants don’t require much attention. Get started on yours today after reading the following tips.
1. Pick the right plants.
“Select plants that thrive in the existing light conditions – sun, part sun or shade,” says Melinda Myers, horticulturist (melindamyers.com) and instructor for the Great Courses video series, “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone.” Choosing drought-tolerant plants will also increase your chances of success.
2. Get the right variety.
You can have both native and non-native plants in your container garden as long as they prefer the existing growing conditions and aren’t invasive, Myers says. However, “native plants have adapted to the local conditions so they are a good choice. If their preferred growing conditions are met, they are the best since they attract more pollinators and support the rest of the native eco-system.”
3. Group plants as a trio.
Container gardeners often plant three to a pot, either three of the same plant or three different ones. Again, they should have similar sunlight and moisture requirements.
4. Select a focal point.
If you find a plant you like, look for a container that complements its size (plant and pot should be in proportion), color and the overall look you’re going for, Myers says. Other times the container, not the plant, can be the focal point.
5. Be aware of a container’s drainage capacity.
The holes in the bottom of a pot are vital to a plant’s survival. If the holes are too small, not enough water will drain, causing the plant’s roots to rot. Check the hole size of each container and drill bigger ones as needed.
6. Think beyond standard pots.
Many things – a tea kettle, colander, sewing basket – can be turned into a container as long as it can retain water and holes can be drilled in its bottom to release water.
7. Check on fertilizer.
Besides water, plants need food for a healthy life. Some potting-soil mixes contain fertilizer; check the bag to see how long it will provide nutrients for the plant. “I add Milorganite, a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer when I plant and again mid-season, if needed,” Myers says. “It releases small amounts of nutrients when you water. No mixing and weekly fertilizing for me!”
8. Don’t skimp on soil.
Leave about an inch between the potting-mix surface and the lip of the container. “That way,” says Myers, “when you water, the soil won’t wash out of the pot.”
9. Take plant tags seriously.
They’re loaded with information: how much sun and shade a plant needs, when it will bloom, how tall it will get and what zone it’s in. These bits of knowledge will help your plants thrive.
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