Tips and Tricks for Planting Containers

Inspired by Helen Weis, Unique by Design out of Edmond, Oklahoma

The goal for every homeowner or business owner who had ceramic pots to fill each year is to be successful. We want lush, full pots that stand out as a center piece or draw people to our front entry. Grimm’s Gardens wants you to be successful too! The following tips have been adapted from Helen Weis, who is known for her container displays.

1. Plan Your Placement!

Have a place in mind to put your pots when purchasing them. If they are to go near a doorway, the basic guideline is to be symmetrical with the same containers on each side of the doorway. While this guideline is often ignored by artists, if you want a foolproof design method, start by following the rules and then branching out once you are more comfortable with the basics. Another placement idea is at the corner of a patio or deck. Use a group of 3 pots in similar styles but different sizes in one corner. If you want pots in two corners, keep each side symmetrical.

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Neutral pottery colors match well with bright flowers!

2. Choose Your Pots!

This is my favorite part! Go to the Garden Center and check out this year’s pottery! I love going for the bright colors – especially cobalt blue. The basic rule here – if you have a bright container, plant it in monochrome (all the plants bloom in shades of the same color.) If you have a neutral container such as black, white, grey, brown, or tan, to name a few; plant with bright flowers in multiple colors. For the best scale for an impressive display, choose a pot that is 1/3 of the height of your door or main accent feature such as an arbor or pergola. This needs to be the size of your largest pots if you are doing a cluster of different sizes.

3. Fill Your Pots

Start by placing a small screen over the hole in the bottom of the container. Next, fill the bottom ¼ with gravel. The screen needs to be smaller than the gravel. The rock will add weight to your container so it doesn’t blow over and aids in drainage so the plants don’t drown in a rainstorm. Finally, fill the rest of the container with potting soil, leaving plenty of room to plant flowers. We will add a little soil at the end to finish the pot.

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4. Plant Your Pots

Picking out plants can be a challenging part of container displays but it is also the most fun. Start with the center plant. This one will be the tallest and most dominant in the display. It should be about the same size as the pots that you chose, especially in height. This will add balance and keep your container from looking top heavy or under planted. If your container is going against a wall, plant this center plant in the back of the pot, against the rim. If it is viewed from all sides, plant it in the center of the pot.

Now look for filler flowers. These should be medium height and grow densely. Plant these around your center plant (or in front of the center plant if placing container against the wall.) Remember our discussion of color when we chose the container – choose bright colors to go with a neutral container, or monochrome to go with a bright container.
Finally add some spillers. These are the plants that will hang over the edge of the container. Any vining or trailing plant will do. Add these around the rim of your container.

5. Final Touches.

Top off any gaps between plants with potting soil. The top of the soil line should be half to one inch below the top of the rim. Fill in this inch gap with some long fiber moss to the top of the container to hold in moisture and keep soil from escaping when watering. Place the container on a riser of some sort so that it can properly drain and is less likely to leave a mark on the surface below. They make rubber square risers commercially, or use what you can find around the house. Raise the pot up only ¼ to ½ inch, just enough to let the water drain out of the hole in the bottom.
As the season progresses, don’t be afraid to cut back any flowers that are getting too big. They will recover and rebloom easily and your container will be looking its prime again.

Happy Planting!

Next Article: Fall Container Ideas

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