These tips are based on almost 30 years of personal experience. They will help you fill your pots full of vibrant blooms that you love.
Although I love to experiment with perennials in my flower beds, I am much more consistent with my flower pots. Because they are only good for one season, I reserve my pots to plant annuals.
For over 20 years, I have been maintaining and planting flower pots in the same manner for almost all of them. While I don’t have much knowledge about potted plants in general, I have extensive knowledge and experience with petunias and flower growing specifically.
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Today is planting season, so I thought I would share some of my top tips and tricks for planting flower containers with you. These tips will help you to plant beautiful, healthy pots that you will enjoy all year, no matter if you are a beginner or an experienced gardener.
Select Large Pots
Although it is easy to think that larger pots need more attention, it is actually easier to grow plants in large containers. Large containers can hold more soil and retain more moisture.
Smaller pots have less soil and are more susceptible to drying out in hot weather. This is especially true for small hanging baskets which might need to be watered up to twice daily to prevent them from drying out.
Drainage is important!
Look for pots with drainage holes in the bottom when shopping for them. Drainage holes allow water to drain out of the pot’s bottom, which helps to avoid problems that may arise from excess watering, such as withering leaves, wilting, and root rot.
Small pots and medium-sized pots need drainage holes of approximately 1/2″ in diameter. Larger pots will require holes measuring 1″. You should not fill a pot’s bottom with gravel, stones, or any other material, as this is not a good substitute for drainage holes.
Only Fill Pots with Soil
It is a common “plant hack” that I find online, where you can put stuff in the bottoms of your pots. I wouldn’t recommend it. People will stuff the bottom of larger pots with empty containers or packing peanuts. This not only makes them lighter but also reduces the benefits of having a large pot.
You can make your pot more susceptible to drying out if you don’t have enough soil. You will still be able to move the pots once they are planted, so you should invest in some rolling plant stands.
Use the Right Type of Soil
What type of soil do you need? You should only use soil that is approved for pots and containers. These soils are light and airy and contain moss and organic materials which help retain moisture and provide oxygen to the roots of potted plants.
Before you shop, make a list
It’s tempting to just run to the local nursery and start shopping. But it’s better if you have a plan in place before you go. A list of plants you want to search for, along with supplies and equipment, will help you avoid “plant panic”, once you are actually in the nursery aisles.
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Plants with similar needs should be grouped together
Although I prefer to keep my plants with the same flower type in each color, it’s not a preference. There are many options for mixing and matching plant types in pots. As long as they share similar needs, you can!
All plants should share the same water and sun requirements. Ask a representative at the nursery or garden center if you are unsure if two plants will be happy in the same pot.
Learn the Plant Tags
Another great source of information on a plant’s needs is its tag.
Habits are the expected shapes and growth habits of a plant. This is particularly important if you have multiple plants in one pot. You could place a plant with an upright habit in the middle of the pot so it can grow taller, and then add plants with a mounding or sloping habit to fill the space.
Plants with trailing habits should be placed at the edges of pots so that they can drape gracefully over the sides. You don’t have to keep track of all the tags. Just snap a picture of each tag with your smartphone so you can refer back later.
Treat Twisted Roots
Many times, plant starts purchased at nurseries or garden centers are root-bound in the containers they come in. This means that the roots have outgrown the space inside the container. You can easily tell if a plant has been root-bound by the way the roots are coiled and twisted.
It’s a good idea “tease” roots before you plant root-bound plants. To make it easier for your plant’s new home, you can use your fingers to untangle the roots.
Do not pack the soil down
Place the largest pots first, then move on to the smaller ones. When you are burying your plants’ root balls, it is important to compact the soil around them without packing them down.
Too much soil can make it difficult for light, water, and air to reach your roots. So, try to firm up the soil around your plants so they stay upright.
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Water immediately after planting
It is important that pots are watered immediately after they have been planted, just as you would with a flower bed or vegetable garden. To avoid any damage, water pots as gently as you can using a rainshower-style watering container or hose attachment.
You want to soak the soil completely. This means that you might need to water pots once or twice a day until the water is visible at the bottom. It’s easier to plant them in one place and then move them to their final location.
Pots can be elevated
After you have planted your pots, raise them by placing them on plant stands or casters. This will allow for airflow and drainage, which will keep your plants happy.