Container gardening with flowers is the perfect opportunity to experiment with your creative side: you are limited only by your own imagination. But then again, with all the expert help available even your imagination won't stop you. The basic requirements for growing flowers in containers are the same as growing vegetables: proper attention to container size and drainage, soil, water, and fertilizer. Here are a few refresher tips specific to growing flowers in containers:
Sunshine - Think about how much light your containers will get. On my porch the hanging baskets get strong morning light for about 4-5 hours.
If your containers receive less than 4 hours of direct sun, choose shade-loving plants like begonias, ferns, ivies, coleus, and impatiens.
If they get part sun (direct sun 4 to 6 hours a day or dappled sunlight most of the day), choose plants that thrive in partial shade like vinca, dusty miller, ageratum, nicotiana, and fuchsia.
If the containers will be exposed to full sun (six or more hours of direct sun daily), choose plants that stand intense light like lantana, verbena, geranium, moss rose, sage, zinnia, and strawflower.
Water - Getting enough water is crucial to successful container gardening. Too little and the results will be disappointing.
Watering your containers should be part of your daily routine. Soak the soil until the water runs out of the drainage holes. During hot, sunny, and/or windy weather, water twice a day. Grab a cup of coffee in one hand and the hose or watering can in the other and take the opportunity for an early morning stroll through your garden.
Drooping plants are a sign of neglected plants. Inadequate watering will result in reduced flowering and stressed plants that fall victim to diseases and pests.
If the potting soil dries out completely (for instance, your kids forget to water while you are away for a few days), soak the pot for a hour or two in a bucket or pan of water that reaches about one-third up the side of the pot.
Grooming - While you water, take the time to give your plants a bit of diva time.
Use scissors or hand shears to cut out dead or damaged stems or foliage, and trim off spent blossoms to encourage more flowers-you don't want your plants to develop seeds until the end of the season so you can save them for next year!.
In mid-summer, cut back gangly, leggy plants by about 2/3 to encourage branching near the plants base and fuller growth for the rest of the season.
Now let's focus on a couple container garden recipes. I love that so many experts are calling container garden designs recipes. Anyone can follow a simple recipe and these don't even require cooking! The first is my own hanging planter filled with petunias. I have a shepherd's crook in my hummingbird garden that has a feeder on one hook and a hanging basket on the other. It couldn't have been simpler to put together.
1 Hanging wire container with a coconut liner 1 bag of potting soil for containers 1 6-pack of petunias
Fill the container with soil to within 1" of the top. Evenly space the petunias around the pot. Hang on shepherd's crook. Water regularly (daily during dry spells) and fertilize with liquid fertilizer at half strength once a week. The petunias will soon fill in the basket and cascade down the sides.
The Better Homes and Gardens website has a vast list of container garden recipes to try as does the P. Allen Smith's Garden Home website. According to many of the websites and gardening magazines I've looked through, the darling of lush hanging baskets is Calibrachoa, also called Million Bells. The blossoms look to me like small petunias. You might experiment with these little gems, as they come in a rainbow of colors.
You can also get beautiful results with your container garden by combining foliage colors with flowers. Gathering a group of shade-loving plants around the base of a tree gives you an instant garden without the struggle of digging around tree roots. Try this recipe:
Put each of plants A, C, D, H, and I in their own individual pots, for a total of 7 pots. Divide plants B into two pots. Place all of plant E in one pot. Put 3 of plant F in one pot and the 1 left in its own small pot. Divide plants G into two pots of 3 plants each and the 1 left in its own small pot. Place the pots in a pleasing arrangement around the tree.
Take time daily to enjoy your container gardens...they are part of God's gifts to you for your pleasure.