Here comes the fun part!
Container gardening is really as easy as three steps once you get the placement and pot type under control. To have a truly magnificent container of blossoms and foliage all you have to do is follow a simple, easy to follow chart.
You need three things:
A Thriller: These are most commonly the flower selection that speaks out to you the most such as Geraniums or Lantana. You want this plant to be something that will be the belle of the ball and flashy as the strip in Vegas. A good example would be a Geranium or Dragon Wing Begonia
A Filler: These are the flowers that will contrast and compliment your Thriller. You want this selection to be predominantly a bold foliage with a mounding, perhaps upright growth habit. Although this plant doesn’t HAVE to bloom, it you think it doesn’t detract from the Thriller. A good example would be a Spike or Caladium
A Spiller: Think Ivy, but don’t use it unless you absolutely have to. The Spiller is going to soften the texture of the container and give a little texture contrast to the height in the container. The Spiller can be foliage or flowering. A good example would be Million Bells or Lobelia.
Easy to remember and even easier to put into use! Another easy way to remember is “Up, Down and All Around”.
Words Of Caution!
There are some annuals that are amazing and beautiful in the summertime that may NOT be suited for you area.
Plants to watch out for:
Sweet Potato Vine: Although its foliage is non stop and incomparable in beauty, it is also very VERY aggressive. Stay away from this if you have a smaller container. At the end f the season your container will also be full of the tubers (yes, actual little sweet potatoes, but don’t eat them) so it makes it difficult to reuse the potting soil in the next season.
Annual Lantana: Although these are absolutely fabulous for use as an annual in the ground, in many situations they are impractical for use in containers and especially in hanging baskets. They put forth amazingly dense root systems and will eventually choke out any companion plants in the pot with them. Avoid these unless you have a large pot!
Ivy: This plant is really a gorgeous ground cover…sometimes, and its really a great vine to grow up a topiary…sometimes. Usage of Ivy in a pot isn’t strongly recommended due to its aggressive nature and ability to lure spider mites from miles around. There are much better Spillers out there!
Remember, these are just tips! If you insist on using Ivy. Do it.
Are You Ready To Get Some Dirt Under Your Fingernails Now?
We’re going to divide you into two groups.
Are You Shady?
Container gardening in shade can be a bit tricky if you’re not certain what you’re doing. Most of the time the biggest issue is the surplus of water and deficit of sunshine to dry out your pots. There are plenty of selections of plants that will thrive for you in these conditions.
Great Thrillers for you Shady Container:
The Dragon Wing Begonia forms an excellent mound of bright, tropical blossoms in either Reds, Pinks or Whites! Beyond the color, these require little to no maintenance and are relatively drought tolerant!
New Guinea Impatiens
The New Guinea is far superior to the regular Impatien due to the larger, showier blossoms. In a broad array of colors, there is also different variations of foliage to choose from. New Guineas can also tolerate a bit of morning sunshine.
Great Fillers for your Shady Container:
Coleus comes in more colors and variegation than you could ever imagine! These are easy going, bushy plants that will give great color contrast to whatever Thriller you choose. Just mind your selection, there are varieties of Coleus that take more sun.
These Elephant Ear look alikes can take a huge amount of neglect and dry dark soils. They add a tall pop of color and brightness to any container. A great feature is they don’t overrun other companion plants in the same pot.
Great Spillers for your Shady Container:
Also known as Clown or Wishbone Flower, these happy little flowers will cascade and spill over the sides of your pots and add color all season long. A good heavy shearing around the fourth of July will assure you color for more months to come.
Instead of Ivy (boring), Fuschia will take its place gladly in your shady container. These beautiful blooms are pendulous on the stems and resemble little earrings. The real excitement is the bud right before it opens…see it in person and you’ll understand!
Are you a Hot And Sunny?
Sunshine is a blessing to most flowers, but can also be quite a curse to the gardeners trying to maintain them! The most common ailment of flowers in the sunshine is NOT ENOUGH WATER. Please mind yourself and select a potting soil with water retention crystals to aid in the hydration of your plants. Also, remember to dead head occasionally!
Great Thrillers for your Sunny Container:
Angelona (Staff Favorite)
Spiky plumes of delicate flowers emerge from thin stalks, creating whats commonly referred to a Summer Snapdragon. No deadheading required and heat tolerant. These will NOT let you down!
This is an old timey favorite, for a good reason. The large clusters of bright flowers bring a pop of color with a very small work load on you. It is encouraged to snap off the spent blooms to promote vigorous new blooms to show.
Great Fillers for your Sunny Container:
Grass Like Annuals including Spikes, Sedge and Rush
There is a large selection of grassy annuals (and a few perennials that will work for you). Using a grassy plant will eliminate the need to dead head anything and also great a soft texture against your other plant selections
Please note: This is a perennial, so it will be more of an investment in the future of your planter. Heuchera comes in a huge array of colors and stays evergreen for you. This can also tolerate a fair amount of shade if it stays on the dry side.
Great Spillers for your Sunny Container:
Million Bells (Calibrachoa)
These cheerful little petunia like flowers spill out and over to create magnificent displays of blooming color. In warmer climates they have even been known to blossom right through the winter months! No deadheading required, but make sure they don’t try out!
Scaevola (Fan Flower)
When you want pretty flowers cascading from a container in hot, dry conditions, choose scaevola – also called fanflower. Trailing several feet in ideal conditions, this annual (grows just one year) produces pretty fan-like blooms in brilliant blue or white!
This is not an all inclusive list mind you! This is just an easy to follow guide to get you started on your own container gardening adventure. Print this list out and take it with you to the nursery, select one plant from each of the categories and make fill yourself with pride for creating your own masterpiece.
We’re here to help if you need further assistance!
Watering is Key! Some flowers will drop every single bud if you let them get to a level of desiccation. Make sure you have water at the ready at all times, mother nature doesn’t always do her job!
Fertilzer is your Friend! If you’re not the most diligent gardener, you might want to invest in a slow release fertilizer that you’d sprinkle on at the time of planting (Osmocote). If you are a little more nurturing, we suggest using Jacks Classic Blossom Boosting Fertilizer every two weeks.
Deadheading Isn’t Just For Hippies Anymore! A little effort goes a long way when it comes to removing spent blossoms off of your containers. When removing spent blooms, it is suggested you get as far back to the mother plant as possible, taking the entire stem of the flower
Later in the season, we’ll discuss how to container garden with perennials, but for now, lets get those annuals out and ready to go!