Designing and Planting Containers
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Containers filled with vibrant colors can create a dramatic effect for your landscape. Patios and decks can be transformed into private garden rooms, defining the space where you live. Special consideration should be taken before you choose how to create your container garden. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Soil - Choose a quality potting soil that you like. Experiment with different soils until you find one that suits your needs. As a general rule of thumb, choose one potting soil mix for all of your containers. Each different potting soil retains more or less water than others. It is easier to water containers that have the same soil, versus containers with a variety of different ones.
When adding soil to your containers, do not put rocks or pebbles on the bottom of the container. Contrary to belief, a layer of rock can cause poor drainage. This will increase the chances of root rots or other diseases. You may however, put broken clay pieces, or something similar, over holes in your containers. This will help prevent soil from washing out the bottom of the container.
- Planting - Be creative when designing your containers. For a real dramatic effect, use complimentary colors. Purple and yellow are two complimentary colors that make a striking combination. Blue and orange are two other complimentary colors that work well together. Use tall spiking plants to give your container some height. They should be at least as tall as the container itself. Plants of varying heights and textures will help give your containers character. When purchasing your plants, look on the plant tag to see if they will suit a specific location. For example, shade plants such as tuberous begonias and caladiums will not grow well in full sun.
- Watering/Fertilizing - Proper watering and fertilizing is the key to season long color for your container garden. During hot, dry periods, you may need to water smaller containers in full sun as much as three times a day. Check each pot daily for water. If the soil is dry one to two inches down, it is time to water. It is important to let your containers dry out slightly between waterings, or roots will not develop properly.
You will need to fertilize biweekly with a water soluble fertilizer. Nutrients are leached out of the soil as water drains out of pots. Regular fertilizer applications are necessary. A granular slow release fertilizer can also be used. This can last anywhere from one to several months. Visit your local garden center or nursery for different fertilizer options.
Check your containers weekly for signs of disease and insect damage. As flowers fade and die on individuals plants, you must cut them off. This is known as “dead heading”. Removal of spent blooms will encourage more flower production, and will make your container look more attractive. For more ideas on container gardening, visit a local garden center or nursery.
Lynn Loughary, LLoughar@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Wyandotte County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension