Home Grown

Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners

Creating a Container Flower Garden

A flower bed bursting with colorful annuals is the summertime dream of many gardeners. But many don’t have the space or time to care for them. With a bit of planning and good choices, flower-lovers can enjoy their favorite blossoms in containers.

"In a world of limited time and space, container gardens seem to make more and more sense," says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Greg Stack. "Containers allow you to enjoy growing plants in places that might be thought of as impossible or unthinkable.

"Poor soil or no places to put plants in the ground are no longer excuses for not being able to enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening."

First, select a good pot. They are available in a variety of materials like foam, fiberglass, plastic or wood. Choose a container that coordinates or complements the color of your deck. Whatever you choose, make sure there is a hole in the bottom for drainage. This sounds really basic, but it is easily overlooked when shopping for a pot.

If you’re going to use plastic, make sure it’s double-wall plastic. Containers made of low-quality plastic or wood will deteriorate quickly. To extend the life of a wooden container, line it with heavy-duty plastic. Spray black plastic pots with plastic-friendly paint to make them more attractive.

Use clay pots only in partly shady areas. They dry out quicker. Put them in afternoon shade or fill them with succulent plants.

Choose a glazed ceramic or even plastic pot for a very hot, sunny location. Also, it may be a good idea to choose a larger pot as a larger volume of soil will dry out more slowly than a smaller volume of soil.

Concrete containers retain moisture and crack in the winter. They are also nearly impossible to move.

The next step is soil selection. Use a quality soil mix labeled as 'potting' or 'container' mix. These types of mixes are formulated to be sterile, drain well, and are much lighter than the soil in your garden. Many mixes available now come with time-release fertilizer incorporated into the mix, as well as moisture-retaining polymers that slowly release water to your plants after watering.

Regular garden soil is much too heavy, does not drain well enough, and may harbor pests and disease.

Don’t be scared to replace old soil or to pay for good soil. It’s better to spend the money on soil than to be disappointed by plant losses halfway through the season.

Fill up the container with soil to two inches below the rim. This will allow you to water the plant without soil spilling out of the container.

Once you have selected a container and soil, pick a good location for the container. Plant selection is often based on location.

Every container garden should have a thriller, a filler and a spiller:

The thriller is the tallest plant in the bunch. It grabs your attention in how it stands above the other plants.

The filler is a medium-sized plant that dominates the
center area of the pot.

The spiller cascades down the side of the pot, drawing attention downward.

Try using cannas or elephant ears as thrillers, coleus or ornamental peppers as fillers and sweet potato vines or petunias as spillers.

Coleus has been rediscovered by gardeners. It comes in some many colors and leaf shapes.

Use tall plants to attract attention or a small statuary as a focal point. Mixing plants with different textures will also create an interesting affect.

Gardeners who like to change out plants frequently may choose to place a pot in the center of their container garden. This way you can swap out flowering colorful plants as often as you’d like.

Color selection is a personal choice. Some prefer plants that flower in the same color scheme. Others prefer blending opposites, like pairing plants with blue flowers with plants that produce orange flowers.

The simplest method is to choose different shades of one color. Another choice could be a palette of warm colors, which includes red, orange, and yellow. Green, blue,
and purple are the cool colors.

Neutral colors like white, black and gray add depth.

Keep plant proportions in mind, too. Small containers should have plants that are small and will continue to be so.

Make sure all the plants you select have the same water and sun requirements. Choose sun-loving plants for sunny locations, shade lovers for shady spots. Do not mix shade-loving plants with sun-loving plants in the same pot, or one of the plants will be unhappy no matter where you place it

Despite all the choices involved in creating a container garden, remembering to water your garden is the hardest part.

One way to use less water is to plant in big pots. The bigger the better. The soil doesn’t dry out as quickly in larger containers.

Successful Container Gardens
A special section of this website, Blueprints for Building Containers, shows plans for creating specific containers.
Plants and Seeds
Includes Air Plants, Aquatic Plants, Bonsai, Cactus, Dahlias, Herbs, Iris, Orchids, Roses, Vegetables and more.

University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Complete Guide to Container Gardening
Complete Guide
to Container Gardening

Container Garden
Container Garden

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers
Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers

Smart Pots
Smart Pots

EarthBox Garden Kit
EarthBox Garden Kit

Home and Garden Center
Home and Garden Center

Talavera Planter Pot
Talavera Planter Pot

Canna Tropicanna
Canna Tropicanna

Organic Potting Soil
Organic Potting Soil

Blue Wave Petunia
Blue Wave Petunia

King Kong Coleus
King Kong Coleus

Persian Shield Plant
Danish Flag Afghan Poppy

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