In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2003
Regional Report

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Mixed container plantings add interest and are ideal for a patio or porch where they can be appreciated up close.

Flowering Containers for Instant Pizzazz

Flowering containers are a great way to add instant color and pizzazz to the landscape, and to provide gardeners with limited space a chance to garden. That porch, patio, balcony, or driveway can go from drab to dazzling with the instant impact of flowering containers.

Containers Are Versatile
Even if you have plenty of space, containers can provide a versatile, beautiful landscape accent. They can be moved around easily to create just the right effect. When a plant starts to decline, simply move the container out and replace it with another container, or replant with new color plants.

Many Choices Available
I love the many wonderful container choices available today. Terracotta, plastic, metal, and decorative styrofoam containers provide a variety of options. Hypertufa containers are popular too. Made from a mix of concrete and peat moss, these containers look just like hewn rock troughs or heavy concrete pots but are almost 10 times lighter.

I also like the whimsical. Keep in mind that you are not limited to things intended for plants. An old boot, a rusted out galvanized bucket, a chicken feeder, a wheelbarrow, or even a bathroom fixture can be turned into a planter by an imaginative gardener.

Container Sizes
It is important that the container has an appropriate width to height ratio (not too tall or too shallow). Tall containers tend to be dry at the top and soggy at the bottom. Shallow containers don't support deep enough root development and may result in drought-prone plants that lack a good root system.

Containers should provide adequate bottom drainage. Some containers come with holes in the bottom. If yours doesn't, drill holes to provide drainage before planting.

It is important to select containers of adequate size for the plants you wish to grow. Small-statured annual flowers like begonia, coleus, dianthus, alyssum, narrow-leaf zinnia, pansy, blackfoot daisy, dwarf marigold, and viola will do fine in a container as small as 1 to 2 gallons. Flowers that reach a height of 2 to 3 feet, such as some nicotianas and pentas, diascia, or gaura, need a minimum size of 3 to 5 gallons to perform well. Large containers are even better and will allow groupings of plants, which provide an especially striking accent.

Let Your Creative Side Flourish
Use your creativity and mix container shapes and sizes for attractive arrangements. Include a few hanging baskets or containers set on stands. Consider using some half-round containers attached to a wall or fence to bring a cascade of color to an otherwise plain, flat surface. Set a large container near a trellis or porch pillar and plant a vine to grow on the structure.

Growing Media for Containers
Garden soil is generally not the best choice for container growing. A planting medium (artificial "soil" mix) composed of ingredients such as compost, peat, sand, vermiculite, and perlite is best. These materials give the characteristics needed in a growing mix: good aeration and drainage, as well as good water- and nutrient-holding capacity.

Containers Need Frequent Watering
Container mix dries out quickly, and the container restricts the plant's root zone. You'll need to water your container plants more frequently than plants growing in the ground. This may be daily or twice daily if the weather is hot, the location sunny, or if the plant is a bit large for the container. Fertilize plants weekly with a liquid fertilizer mixed at the low rate recommended on the label.

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