Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Annuals and Perennials for Containers (page 2 of 2)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Matching Containers to Plants

You might choose the plants first, then look for containers that will suit them, or you can start with the container and choose plants to complement the shape and color. You can create a lively mix of brightly-colored pots in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, or stick with a simple theme and let the flowers grab all the attention.

Annual flowers, with their compact root systems and short life span, can be grown in almost any container, providing it has adequate drainage. They're the best choice for window boxes, hanging planters, and wire and moss baskets. Annuals are also appropriate for planters that might be damaged by winter weather--at the end of the season, you can remove what's left of the plants, clean the containers, and store them in a safe place for the winter.

Perennials do best in relatively large containers. Wood and weatherproof plastic planters are good choices. In regions with mild winters, you can use clay pots; however, in cold regions these are likely to crack as the soil in them freezes and expands.

Planting

If you've purchased transplants or started your own seeds indoors, harden off the plants before planting them into their permanent container. It's much easier to move small flats around as you gradually expose the plants to outdoor conditions. If you're planting seeds, follow the guidelines on the seed packet to determine planting dates. You can move the planting date up by a week or two if your can move your containers to a sheltered spot if a cold snap threatens.

For perennials, it's a good idea to follow the recommended spacing. However, annuals can be packed in a little more tightly than you would in the open garden, to create a nice, full look.

General Care

The main difference between container and garden plantings is that you'll need to water containers more often--small containers may need watering twice a day during hot, sunny weather. And because the roots are confined and can't go searching for nutrients, you'll need to provide regular feedings. A weekly application of a balanced liquid fertilizer, such as a seaweed/fish emulsion mix, should suffice.

And you'll need to keep an eye out for insect and disease problems. While container-grown plants are sometimes less vulnerable to pest attack, because they receive extra attention and pampering, you'll want to examine the foliage, flowers, and fruit regularly. Many insects can be controlled with an occasional spray of insecticidal soap. Some insects, such as aphids, can be kept in check by simply hosing them off the plants every few days.

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