First of all, to grow a really nice, full, attractive container planting, you must take care of plant health needs. Even with a good design, scrawny plants will make it look bad. It is important to use a large enough pot – plants can’t grow well with their roots cramped. Much difficulty in watering and fertilizing can be averted by simply using a bigger pot rather than a smaller one for the same number of plants.
Use good quality potting soil – we recommend our Egan Gardens custom blend, which is made for good water-holding capacity in planters. It’s what we grow in and we know it’s good. Inexpensive “big box store” brands are often mostly chipped Christmas trees composted for a few months.
Fertilize enough. Use Proven Winners time-release fertilizer in the pot at planting time, and supplement with Proven Winners soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks. If you prefer to use organic fertilizers, the E.B.Stone brand we carry is very good. In containers use more than you would in the ground.
Water correctly, with common sense, giving plants more during hot weather, less during cool weather.
If you start with good-sized, well-grown plants your finished product can look good immediately, rather than waiting half the summer before it fills in. If you start with small, young (less expensive) plants, don’t try to make it look full immediately by stuffing in lots of them, or as they grow (if they can grow) they will be overcrowded and competing heavily with each other for water and fertilizer.
Be sure of all plants’ sun or shade needs and your conditions. Check how many hours of direct sunlight fall on the place your container will be.
Second, the design part.
Use an upright-growing plant in or near the center, even in hanging baskets. Balance its expected midseason height with the width and height of the container. In other words, the taller the pot, the taller the vertical plant should be. You could also use a decorative non-plant item for height.
Around the rim, alternate trailing plants with bushy, semi-upright plants.
Choose a color theme. Usually you’ll want to use shades of all 3 primary colors (red, blue and yellow) plus white. Red Shades include bright reds, deep crimsons, and pinks of all intensities, salmons and everything between. This group has the most variation and does the most to set your theme. Blue Shades include blues of all intensities, purples and lilacs. Yellow Shades include yellow, gold and cream.
You can also create a monochrome color theme, using varying intensities of one primary color, for example mixing sky blue, deep purple, and white.
Finally, tips for the actual planting:
#1 Start with the soil at the level you’ll want to set the plants on top of – not up to the top of the pot’s rim so you have to dig it back out to get the plants in.
#2 Sprinkle time release fertilizer lightly and evenly across the soil surface.
#3 Loosen roots gently, don’t break up root ball, and set them on top of the soil. Fill in soil between the plants.
#4 Make sure no plant parts other than roots are buried in the soil, and that roots are buried. Check this as you water in the finished planter. You’ll want to end up with the soil level about ½ inch below rim of pot so water and fertilizer can be held without running off.
#5 Water in with a gentle stream of water all the way around each plant.
Now enjoy your beautiful containers all summer!