Container Gardening Basics

The Benefits

Container gardening is easy to do and there are lots of reasons why it's also a sensible gardening option. Here are our top 7 reasons to grow plants in pots.

1. Mobility. What gardener hasn't wished that a plant grew somewhere else? Plants in pots are easy to move around. Light up a dark corner with pots of white, pink, or yellow flowering shade lovers such as impatiens and Helichrysum. Some plants with a short blooming period, such as lilies or foxglove, look magnificent in containers and grow well in those temporary quarters. Transplant them to the garden when they're finished blooming. Of course, if you are about to move your household, containers allow you to take the garden with you.

2. Focus. Potted plants--and pots--create interest. Grouped in strategic places, they break the monotony of a terrace or a patio and create an ambient scene. Build a simple theme garden around a color or an idea. A collection of yellow and blue bloomers, such as pansies, Calendula, and heliotrope, makes a cheerful display. Pots of sedum and Sempervivum look simple but elegant.

3. Pizzazz. Nestle containers of bright annuals among duller plants in the garden for added color. To keep plants looking good: Water when soil dries; pinch off spent blooms, and fertilize weekly.

4. Flexibility. Rearrange plantings to suit the season or your mood. Enjoy pots of violets and narcissus in spring; petunias and dusty-miller in summer; and Coleus in fall.

5. Limitation. Contain thugs that are too invasive to let loose in the garden, such as ribbon grass (Phalaris), blue lyme grass (Elymus glaucus), and mints of all kinds (Mentha sp.). Plant these or other gregarious growers in terra-cotta pots, and then plant the pot in the ground, with the lip of the pot even with the soil surface.

6. Ambience. Pots set the stage in outdoor rooms or even steal the show. Group sun-loving plants around a large houseplant that's summering outdoors. A jumble of various pots stacked on stands and clustered loosely lends a pleasantly casual look. Containers aligned with precision and planted with trim specimens, such as rosemary standards or ivy topiaries, create instant formality. A trio of large pots makes a garden appear more settled; they suggest the accumulation of years' growth.

7. Scope. Plants that require a longer growing season than you have to offer can be started indoors to bloom outside in summer and fall. Frost-sensitive plants such as bay laurel and lemon verbena make wonderful houseplants in winter and spend the summer in the garden. Just make sure that in spring they are allowed a transition period from limited sunlight indoors to brighter light outdoors. This technique is the basis of the orangery concept, which includes growing citrus fruits in pots so they can move indoors in fall.

Continued on page 2:  Big Splash for Little Cash