How to Grow Potted Plants

Think creating a container garden is as elementary as scooping soil into a terracotta pot? Well, it is—if you follow these foolproof tips.

Garden retailers spent January and February, their slow season, unpacking fresh shipments of the new year’s crop of ornamental containers. You might consider following suit. The sooner you shop for flowerpots the more varied your options will be in size, color, and price. When spring’s flowering and foliage plants hit the shelves, your new pots will be in position and ready to get gorgeous. 

The bigger the pot, the less often it will need watering.
Buy the largest you can afford and place it before you fill it with soil.

Purchase pot feet or a plant stand on wheels for each container.
The pot can drain freely, and raising it off the wood, concrete, tile, or stone surface will help prevent mineral and water stains. And without a saucer, there’s no place to hold water where mosquitoes could breed.

Use a high-quality bedding soil rich with compost.
Contrary to what most gardening books advise, a lightweight, fast-draining potting soil is not the ideal choice for containers in our area. Water tends to drain off the top of potting media composed of wood fibers, sphagnum moss, and vermiculite rather than soaking into the mix. 

The “thriller, filler, spiller” method works well in a large flowerpot.
The concept popularized by Arkansas gardening expert P. Allen Smith works like this: add thriller plants for a vertical element. Next, use rounded filler flowers for lushness. And finally, plant spiller, or trailing plants, near the container’s edge.  A single specimen—a citrus tree, Japanese maple, sago palm, or hibiscus—also looks handsome.

Crowd transplants in a large pot for instant fullness.
Only sweet potato vines, popular in container gardens, grow fast enough to fill in empty spaces. If you use them, they will likely need to be cut back in mid to late summer.

A deep mulch helps keep roots cool.
Use finely shredded bark, small landscape rock, such as expanded shale or decomposed granite, or, for certain pot styles, crushed colored glass.

It is important to buy a bagged mix with compost added.
Containers are quickly depleted of nutrients because of frequent watering. Augmenting compost with regular applications of an organic fertilizer helps plants deal with the stress of Dallas’ heat and encourages more flowers.

 

(from left) Campania square, fiber cement container, Redenta’s ($22-$28); glazed bowl, Walton’s Garden Center ($72); Crescent double-walled, Madison planter, Redenta’s ($105); Regalos de la Tierra Pottery container with appliqued flowers, North Haven Gardens ($69.99); plastic Alan + Roth urn, Lowe’s ($73.98); poly-resin pot with 3-D della Robbia garland, Jackson’s Home & Garden ($59.99); Sago handmade, freeze-proof ceramic pot, Calloway’s ($149.99) 

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