Success with Container Plantings

I want to have tubs and baskets that are beautiful all summer. Mine are nice until about mid-summer and deteriorate after that. Can you give me some pointers on keeping flowering containers beautiful all season long?

The secret to all season performance for flowering containers consists of a few basic requirements.

  1. Use containers with adequate drain holes so soil does not stay too wet.
  2. Use potting soils which drain quickly and do not retain excessive water.
  3. Water frequently enough that roots do not dry out.
  4. Provide frequent fertilization or use time release fertilizers.
  5. Use plant varieties which are adapted to the amount of sun containers will receive.

Check the drain holes on containers to make sure they are large enough so that some water runs through every time they are watered. If there is a saucer attached to the container, make sure it does not retain water for more than 24 hours. Plant roots need air as well as water. If soil remains too wet, roots deteriorate.

Potting mixtures which do not contain any soil are best. Test the mix before planting to make sure water runs quickly into and through the soil so it does not stay too wet. The newest potting soils contain time release fertilizer plus ingredients which hold extra water in the soil without reducing adequate space for air.

As days get longer and temperatures increase, soil dries out more quickly. Daily watering may be required by mid-summer. Some kind of automatic watering system will ensure that plants never dry out.

Use shade tolerant varieties for containers which are placed where they get no direct sun light or they only get a few hours of sunlight. Shade plants are best for containers which get only morning sun. Use full sun plants where containers get at least a half day of sun or get mostly afternoon sun. Check plant labels and ask questions so you choose the right plants.

Most flowers need protection from frost. So if you plant now be prepared to move containers inside on frosty nights.

There are two main reasons for deterioration of containers late in the season. 1. Inadequate watering so that roots frequently dry out completely and plants wilt. 2. Plants run out of nutrients. No matter how good the planting mix, most will run out of fertilizer by mid-summer. Apply time release fertilizer such as Osmocote or start weekly liquid fertilization immediately or 6 to 8 weeks after planting with soil mixtures which contain fertilizer.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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