Container gardens add splashes of color and life to your yard or porch.
Whether you live in a tiny city apartment or on a large country estate, gardening in containers is a way to add splashes of color and natural beauty to your environment. Use containers where soil is absent or of poor quality, such as on steps, decks, and balconies; along driveways and fences; and around trees, mailboxes, and flagpoles. Containers can also enhance permanent plantings. Add instant blooms the day of a party, move a mature sun-loving plant to a shady terrace, or coddle exotic flowers indoors until the weather permits outdoor display. Here's how to get started:
Choose your containers. Garden stores carry a variety of pots, boxes, and hanging planters, but more creative choices -- such as watering cans, hollowed-out logs, plastic-lined baskets, or even old boots -- also can serve. Containers should hold water well enough that plants won't dry out quickly, yet also be permeable enough to allow air circulation. Be sure they have enough root space for the plants they will hold.
Select your plants. We advise starting with familiar favorites and building around them. Create compositions of plants that complement each other but vary in form, texture, and size. Repeat related colors to establish a theme, then add a contrasting element for interest.
Group containers for effect. Don't stop with just a single pot -- the more the merrier! Mix and match pots and plants to make a powerful statement.
Tend faithfully. Water often. Remove spent blooms and leaves regularly.
An unusual zigzag pathway divides this yard. As part of the garden's artistic composition -- and to allow for more eastern and western sun exposure in an otherwise shaded garden -- the owner created a plant-free "clear zone" lined with various container plants.
Cedar shavings form the canvas for the garden's rock patterns, while antique black iron edging decoratively restrains the path from spilling out of bounds.
Dwarf snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus 'Floral Carpet'), begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum), boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica), dwarf hedge Yaupon holly (llex vomitoria 'Stoke's Dwarf'), and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) flank the path, providing color and textural contrast. The flowers' scents complement the cedar's fragrance.
1. Choose a lightweight soil mix formulated for container plants. Wet it before using -- right in the bag -- and let it sit overnight to evenly distribute moisture. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the potting medium, if desired.
2. Put enough soil mix in the bottom of the container that the root ball will sit at the same level at which it grew in the nursery. Loosen the moistened soil in the container you will use.
3. Gently remove the plants from their growing pots, grasping at the base of the plant. Punch bottom holes and remove the upper edges from peat pots.
4. Loosen the root ball of each plant before planting. Place plants in the container, then fill with soil mix and tamp down.
5. Tamp the soil around the plants after placing in container to prevent air pockets. Water thoroughly. Settled soil should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the container rim.