What looks like a cast concrete or stone planter is really just a plastic flower pot painted to
resemble something much more hefty and pricey. A planter like this one will look
great in a staged home, either indoors or out, holding real plants or silks.
Take one cheapo plastic flower pot and turn it into a classy cement planter. Magic? No, it’s just paint, and you can do it yourself, even if you’ve never done faux finishes before. Don’t let the French word scare you.
Here’s my Step-by-Step for creating the flower pot pictured above. It’s a quick and easy DIY project.
- Gather Materials
- Prepare the container
- Paint with primer
- Apply a base coat of grey
- Sponge on white paint
- Apply black wash
- Add splatter
- Top 10 plants for containers
- Check out 44 Best Shrubs for Containers. You might know some plants and some may surprise you but one thing is sure– You’ll like to have some of these shrubs right away in your container garden.
- Best Shrubs for Containers
- The Complete Guide to Growing Perennials in Containers
- Who would Want to Grow Perennials in Containers?
- Why would you Want to Grow Perennials in Containers?
- Where is it Appropriate to use Containerized Perennials?
- How can I make my own Great Looking Perennial Containers?
- Overwintering Containerized Perennials
- Perennials that Typically Overwinter Well in Containers
- Perennial Combination Container Ideas
- Made for the Shade #1
- Made for the Shade #2
- Made for the Shade #3 – Emphasis on Foliage
- Consistently Moist Soil & Part Shade
- Late Spring Bloomers — Full Sun or Part Shade
- Red, White, & Blue Combination with Trellis
- Fall Bloomers — Full Sun & Average Soil
- Fall Container Idea #2
- Combination for a Dry, Sunny Space
- Attracts Butterflies — Full Sun & Average Soil
- Pink Monochromatic Combination — Full Sun
- Herb Pot — Full Sun
- Native Roots — Full Sun
- Mini Water Garden — Consistantly Wet Soil
- #1 POTTING SOIL
- All Containers Need a Little Elevation
- Pot Feet Benefits for Container Gardens
- What’s your take on pot feet?
- Related posts:
Doing this project outside is best. The paint will dry more quickly with better air circulation, and you’ll have fewer surfaces to protect. However, if it’s above 70 degrees, find a shady place or wait for a cooler time because the paint can dry too fast. Here’s what you need.
- Work surface and drop cloth
- Plastic or resin flower pot, preferably one with a thick top edge
- Two rags
- Medium grade sandpaper
- Paint stick to stir paint
- Paintbrush, not an expensive one
- Plastic bucket, 1-quart to 1-gallon
- Screwdriver or painter’s 5-in-1 tool
- Latex primer like Zinser or Kilz
- Natural sponge
- Cardboard, or 3 disposable paper or foam plates, or pieces of aluminum foil
- Three latex semi-gloss or satin housepaints or craft paints (medium or light grey, white, and black)
- Optional: clear sealer (either spray paint or liquid)
Prepare the container
Cover your work surface with a dropcloth to protect it. Using a dry rag, wipe the container to remove any loose dirt, including the inside. Put on your gloves. Sand the container’s outside surface.
Sanding will give the surface “tooth” to help paint adhere better. As you can see, I am recycling an old container. The container you faux finish needn’t be new, but it needs to be clean.
Paint with primer
Invert the planter and start at the bottom. Brush on paint. It will dry quickly, especially if you are working outside and it is warm or windy.
If the planter has feet, paint all sides to be sure none of the old color shows when you are done.Paint the bottom half, and the underside of the top lip before you set the planter right side up.Next, paint the sides with the planter in an upright position. Use your gloved hands to rotate the box from the top lip.
Paint inside the top edge, which will be visible even after the planter is filled.Your primed planter will look like this. Don’t worry about coverage. You’re just making sure the next coat sticks. Check for drips and runs before the prime coat dries.
Apply a base coat of grey
Follow the same steps as the prime coat, starting at the bottom when the planter is inverted.
Your planter should look something like this when it has an even coat of grey as a background.
Sponge on white paint
Dampen the sponge. Pour a small amount of white paint into the plastic bucket. Add an equal amount of water and stir. For my planter, which measured 15 inches tall, I used less than 1/4 cup of white paint for sponging. Dab the sponge into the paint and then dab most of the paint off onto a piece of cardboard, disposable plate, or aluminum foil. Practice on the interior of the planter until you get the feel of sponging to simulate texture.
Lightly dab paint onto surface, moving the sponge around to create a random pattern. I used a piece of aluminum foil to remove excess paint from the sponge. Overlap the sponging pattern, and leave some areas grey.
Apply black wash
After the entire surface is randomly sponged with white, wash your sponge well and put it away. Wash the plastic bucket, and use it to mix a small amount of black paint with an equal amount of water, about the same amount as you mixed of white paint. Brush the entire painted surface with the diluted black paint. It should settle into any groves and crevices. Lightly wipe the surface to remove most of the black wash. It should give the planter a slightly aged look.
Have a rag ready to wipe off the diluted black paint. The wash will look like this when you brush it on. Don’t worry about coverage, but make sure black paint gets into crevices. After the black wash is wiped off, your planter will have a softer look. The paint should dry quickly.
This can get messy, so protect any adjacent surfaces. Using the same black wash, load your brush with it, and then remove most of the paint. Rap the brush sharply against a screwdriver or 5-in-1 tool to make a splatter pattern of black paint on the planter. Rotate the planter to do all sides, including inside the top edge. You may choose to position the planter on a cardboard box and walk around it rather than rotate it. Aim for a random but all-over splatter pattern. If some drops are too large or look more like streaks than dots, use a rag to dab them away while they are still wet. Practice your splattering technique on the inside of the planter before you do the outside. Keep the brush at least a foot away from the surface. Your planter should look evenly splattered when you are done. You can do a lot of splattering or a little. I can imagine two of these, each with a topiary on either side of a front door.
It’s optional to cover your work with a coat of clear sealer. It can give the paint an extra layer of protection if used outside, and it can add a subtle sheen to the finish. I sprayed a coat of clear satin finish on this planter to make it look more granite-like.
This is a resin pot that I faux finished with pinkish undertones. You can choose natural stone colors that work with the colors of your staged home.
Ordinary plastic flower pots for indoors are perfect for faux stone finishes. Just prime, sponge and glaze.
Even glass vases can be converted to stone planters. Look for classic shapes like this one.
I paid just $8 each for these planters at Big Lots. They were plain brown plastic. One great thing about plastic pots is that when you move, they’re lightweight so they’re easy to take with you.
This is why I suggest using an old or inexpensive paint brush. The splattering will destroy it. The side of my brush is all banged in and the bristles are splayed. Save your Purdy.
You’re just a few steps away from creating an impressive but thrifty staging prop for your home.
And help yourself to more ideas and instructions for DIY projects in my $4.99 eBooks. Surprise yourself with what you’re able to do to stage and decorate your own home!
Top 10 plants for containers
Containers offer the gardener great versatility, and are a fantastic way to experiment with planting and design. From short-term bedding displays to permanent features of small trees and topiary, container planting adds another dimension to the garden, softening corners, brightening dull spots and providing instant, yet easily changeable, results.
When choosing your pot, stick to just one or two different materials. Take your cue from the style of the house and garden – red brick buildings are enhanced by terracotta containers, while a modern plot is the best backdrop for galvanised metal pots.
Choosing plants for pots (video)
Bigger pots have more impact and won’t dry out as quickly, but an eclectic group of small containers creates a quirky, ever-changing corner. Repetition can be effective, garden designers often use three or more identical containers planted with the same plants, for maximum impact.
Coreopsis looks great in a large pot combined with other annuals and perennials. Try combining with phormiums, euphorbia, nasturtiums and purple basil.
The cottage-garden feel of these daisy-like flowers adds a sense of informality and movement to containers. They work well with plants with silver foliage, but they’re also effective on their own.
Busy Lizzies are the perfect choice for shady gardens. Helped along by plenty of deadheading, they flower well into autumn.
Some clematis are suitable for growing in containers. Evergreen clematis is often sold tied to an upright stake, but its trailing habit makes it perfect for the edge of a container. Partner with spring bulbs for a dash of colour.
Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’
Ivy is one of the most useful and attractive plants for pots. ‘Ivalace’ has dark-green, shiny leaves with curled edges.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’
Variegated foliage is a real pick-me-up all year round. For a striking display, try it with creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, tulips, golden narcissi or primroses.
This elegant evergreen shrub has rich mahogany leaves that emerge a pale creamy colour before darkening. Slightly tender, it will need a sheltered spot over winter.
This male form is blessed with glossy evergreen leaves, and an abundance of tiny red buds through the winter, which open to pinky-white flowers in spring.
Hostas make beautiful architectural plants, and work well in containers, either alone or with other plants. Try combining with bleeding heart, or other foliage plants, such as heucheras.
Fountain grass is a real show-stopper. Grow in large pots with alliums for dramatic impact, or on its own to make a statement. ‘Rubrum’ has graceful stems and red-tinged, squirrel-tail flowers that fade to beige in autumn. Protect from frost in winter.
Check out 44 Best Shrubs for Containers. You might know some plants and some may surprise you but one thing is sure– You’ll like to have some of these shrubs right away in your container garden.
Whether you have a small patio garden, a rooftop garden, a balcony garden, or a big backyard garden this list of best shrubs for containers will provide you so many options to choose from.
Best Shrubs for Containers
1. Abutilon (Flowering Maple)
USDA Zones— 8 – 11
Climate— A subtropical shrub that can also be grown in cold climates, keep it indoors in winter.
It is also called “Indian Mallow” or “Flowering Maple”. Abutilon is a beautiful shrub that grows around 1 m tall when grown in containers and have beautiful hibiscus and hollyhock-like flowers.
USDA Zones— 5 to 9
Climate— It grows in temperate to subtropical climates. Growing requirements are similar to Azalea, which means it requires acidic soil to grow.
“Pieris Japonica” or “Lily of the valley shrub” is an excellent bush for container gardens. With some attention and care, it can grow up to 2 m tall.
USDA Zones— 9 – 11
Climate— Beautiful shrub, suitable for both warm tropical climate and temperates. In colder regions, you can grow it from summer to fall (autumn).
This charming South African shrub grows in full sun and requires dry soil to thrive. A balcony, terrace (roof) or patio facing south or West is perfect for this shrub. It pleases the eyes with its almost continuous flowering.
USDA Zones— 3 – 8
Climate— Suitable for cool temperate zones with mild summers but can be grown in tropics in winter
Aster comes in a variety of colors and blooms prolifically. It is an easy to grow plant that blooms in summer and fall. Both annual and perennial varieties are available.
5. Aucuba Japonica
USDA Zones— 7 – 10
Climate— Subtropical and mildly temperate. In colder zones, grow it indoors.
Also called “Gold Dust” due to its speckled foliage, it is one of the best shrubs for containers. You can grow it for its beautiful foliage as its flowers are not as aesthetic. It is a low maintenance perennial plant that can grow up to 2 m (8-10 f) tall.
Also Read: Shrubs that Bloom All Year
USDA Zones— 4 – 9
Climate— Climate with adequate rainfall and moist summer.
Azalea is one of the most profusely blooming flowering plants. It requires moist soil, partial sun, and acidic soil to thrive.
USDA Zones— 9 – 12
Climate— Tropics, subtropics, grow it as a houseplant in colder regions.
This beautiful ever-blooming perennial shrub is so vibrant and colorful and almost require no care in tropical and subtropical areas. It needs full sun and dry soil to thrive, and it is not susceptible to many pests and diseases.
USDA Zones— 9 – 11
Climate— Brugmansia is a tropical evergreen shrub, but it is also easy to grow in cold climates. To overwinter it, keep it indoors when the temperature starts to dip down below 50 F (10 C).
Brugmansia flowers smell well in the night and attract pollinators. Growing Brugmansia in a pot is easy. It is also called “Angel’s Trumpet”, and it is often confused with datura.
9. Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
USDA Zones— 5 – 11
Climate— Butterfly bush can be grown in both temperate and tropical zones, wooly butterfly bush grows well in tropics.
More commonly known as the “Butterfly Bush”, buddleia offers abundant flowering panicles with white to red through pink to purple or blue colors. Grow a dwarf variety in a large and deep pot. Remember that due to its rapid growth, it requires regular pruning and fertilization.
USDA Zones— 5 – 11
Climate— Boxwood is the most versatile shrub, it grows almost everywhere in all the continents.
The most adaptable and easy to grow shrub, boxwood is landscapers’ favorite and without a doubt one of the best shrubs for the containers.
USDA Zones— 9 – 11
Climate— Like all citruses, calamansi is a tropical fruit tree. You can also grow it in colder zones in containers and keep it indoors in winters.
It has a bushy growth rather and doesn’t exceed a height of 2 m. Thus, a suitable shrub for container gardening.
Also Read: How to Grow Calamansi
12. Callistemon (Bottlebrush)
USDA Zones— 8 – 11
Climate— Bottlebrush grows in climates with mild winters, easily in tropics. You can grow bottle brush in colder zones in the pot, but it requires care in winter.
A Beautiful shrub that attracts pollinators and looks exquisite in its bright red blooms, it also comes in other colors like purplish pink, lemon yellow or white.
USDA Zones— 6 – 10a
Climate— Camellia grows best in the climates with mild summer in temperates to subtropical zones.
It is a beautiful flowering shrub, but when grown in pots, it becomes demanding. Camellia requires humus-rich acidic soil and regular maintenance. You can read a helpful article on growing camellias in pots here.
Continue to the second page here >>
The Complete Guide to Growing Perennials in Containers
Gardeners and budget conscience homeowners everywhere are learning the benefits of container gardening with perennials.
With so many varieties of perennials to choose from for sun and shade, it’s now possible to create combinations that are just as appealing and colorful as those made with annuals alone, and the best part is that you don’t have to replant them every year. Sure, you can mix an annual or two in your perennial combination pot, but that certainly isn’t necessary if you choose your perennials wisely. You’ll learn more about plant selection below. For now, read on to see why so many people are container gardening with perennials.
Who would Want to Grow Perennials in Containers?
Maybe you can identify with the idea of not wanting to spend the time and money on new container plantings every year. But container gardens are also perfect for people who don’t have the space for or energy to tend an entire garden. After all, there are far fewer weeds to pull and plants to deadhead in containers! Other people live in apartments or high rises where container gardening is the only option. Some have physical limitations that prohibit them from getting down and dirty in the garden. For them, bringing the containers up to their level for planting is the best option. In short, container gardening with perennials is for everyone!
Why would you Want to Grow Perennials in Containers?
There are many advantages, over and above cost and convenience, to growing perennials in containers. Here are some you might not have considered:
- It gives the gardener a head start of at least a month over those planting only annuals because perennials can handle colder weather. This means that instead of waiting until after Mother’s Day to plant up your containers with annuals, you can have beautiful containers in April! If you just have to have annuals in your containers, you can add them after the last frost date.
- It allows the gardener to grow things that wouldn’t normally grow in their soil or climate. For example, if your native soil is clay, you can grow perennials that prefer lighter soil in containers and then place the container in your garden. Similarly, if your soil is alkaline, you can grow acid-loving perennials in containers. If you live in a northern zone, you can cheat your zone by planting non-hardy or marginally hardy plants in containers and then move them indoors for the winter months. Many gardeners are doing just that since the trend of using tropical plants in the garden began a couple of years ago. You can also use decorative pots to contain perennials that may be invasive in the garden but are still worth growing.
- Containers can be rearranged to give the appearance of continuous bloom throughout the season. Place them in a prominent place, such as on a front porch, when they are in full bloom, then rotate them out when they are finished. If there is a spot in the garden that is all-green during parts of the season, add a pot of flowering perennials there to liven up the space and add visual interest. Design your container plantings to coordinate with the seasons, so you have something in bloom for spring, summer, and fall.
- The container itself can add an architectural element to the garden. Sometimes it’s not what you put in the pot that’s most important–sometimes it’s the pot itself that holds the interest. This is especially true if the container is very large, brightly colored, or uniquely shaped.
Where is it Appropriate to use Containerized Perennials?
Hosta ‘Praying Hands’ is an excellent container perennial with upright stems and uniquely folded leaves
Perennial containers can be used anyplace you would normally use annuals. In fact, perennials offer you more options for the shade because there is a greater number of varieties that will grow there. Say goodbye to impatiens and hello to hostas, coral bells, lamiums, and many, many more perennials!
Before planting up your containers, decide where you want to place them in the yard. This will help you make wiser decisions on the types of plants to include in the pots. Consider where the primary viewing point will be from and design from that angle. Keep in mind that plants in windy locations or those exposed to the hotter afternoon sun will need to be watered more often than those placed in more sheltered, shadier locations.
How can I make my own Great Looking Perennial Containers?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through each step of the process, from choosing a container, to knowing which perennials to use, to how to maintain and overwinter them.
Choosing a Container
- Just about anything that holds soil can be used as a container. The only requirement is that it has at least one drainage hole. (See the “Drainage” section below for detailed information.) You can use containers made of clay, wood, metal, plastic, or other materials; each material has its advantages and drawbacks. Some experimentation on your part will reveal what works best for you. Plastic is lighter and the soil doesn’t dry out as fast, but it isn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing choice. Clay containers are attractive, but those that are not painted lose moisture more rapidly than just about any other material. They are also very heavy and cannot be left outside over the winter in northern climates. Imitation clay pots, which are actually made of a sturdy type of foam, are very attractive and lightweight. Many do not come with drainage holes in the bottom, but the material is very easy to drill through so you can make the holes yourself.
- If you are planning on grouping a set of pots, it is more visually pleasing if they are different sizes but have a continuous theme such as pot color or material.
- When it comes to planting perennials in containers, the rule of thumb is the bigger the pot the better. First, perennials have larger root systems than annuals, so they require more space to grow well. Second, perennials in bigger pots have a better chance of overwintering successfully. (Read more about this in the “Overwintering” section below.)
- When choosing a container, try to coordinate the pot type and color with the surroundings it which it will be placed. If you are planning on using the pots in the garden amongst other plants, you may want to use one that is made of a natural material, such as wood, to help it blend in with its surroundings. This takes the focus off the pot and places the emphasis on the plants. Also, try to match the degree of formality of the container with the style of its surroundings. For example, a basket of flowers would look more appropriate on the porch of a cottage style house than would a tall, stately urn. The urn would look better at the entrance to a formal garden.
- If you are trying to create a focal point with your container, you may want to choose one in a bright color and plant it up with foliage plants of a sharply contrasting color (ie. a bright blue pot planted up with chartreuse foliage). If you want it to stand out as an architectural element, choose a large container with an interesting shape that contrasts with its surroundings (ie. a tall, narrow container placed beside a round, mounded plant).
- Good drainage is absolutely essential for your containerized perennials unless you are trying to create a water garden. Any container you use must have at least one drainage hole. If the pot you choose does not have a hole in the bottom, make one yourself with a drill (there are special bits that can cut into just about any material) or don’t use it.
- Before you fill the container with soil, it’s a good idea to follow these steps:
- Screen the drainage holes so the soil doesn’t fall out of the bottom of the pot. Some materials that work well for this include landscape fabric (trim to fit bottom of pot) or self-adhesive fiberglass drywall joint tape. The tape comes in a roll; just cut a square to fit over the hole.
- Add a drainage layer to the bottom of the container. Some people like to use pea gravel or pottery shards for this. A mesh bag filled with styrofoam peanuts works just as well and is much lighter. This might work better for you if you plan on moving your containers around the yard.
Choosing a Potting Soil
- Any good potting soil can be used with containerized perennials. Not all potting soil is created equally, though, and with this item you usually get what you pay for. If a bag of potting soil feels just as heavy as a bag of topsoil, it’s not what you want. Potting soil should be lighter. Miracle Grow makes an excellent potting mix with the fertilizer already mixed in, which is great for gardeners who don’t like to spend the time or money on fertilizing. If you are using plants that prefer to grow in sand or scree, you’ll need to make those accommodations.
- Test the pH of the soil. Meters that measure pH are easy to use and are available at most nurseries. The $12 or so purchase is a good investment. This meter will measure the degree of acidity or alkalinity of your soil.
- Acid loving plants need soil with a pH lower than 6.5.
- Alkaline loving plants need soil with a pH higher than 7.5.
- Those that prefer neutral soil like it between 6.5 and 7.5.
- It is important to know what kind of soil the perennials you are using in your containers prefer. If your soil is not in the correct pH range, the plant will not grow well if it grows at all. To make soil more acidic (to lower the pH), add aluminum sulphate or garden sulphur to the soil. To make the soil more alkaline (to raise the pH), add lime to the soil. These items can be purchased at most retail garden centers.
- Since daily watering slowly flushes the nutrients out of the soil, it’s a good idea to supplement with small amounts of liquid fertilizer a couple of months after potting up the containers. You will know it’s time to add fertilizer when your normally healthy plants begin to show signs of decline (leaves will appear light green or slightly yellow).
Heuchera PRIMO™ ‘Black Pearl’ has dark foliage all season long that compliments just about any perennial you put with it, or use it as a stand alone.
Before we get into the design principles of container plantings, let’s first talk about selecting plants based on their cultural preferences. Most of all, the plants you use have to work together, not just look good together. This means that you will need to pair varieties with similar cultural needs if they are going to be able to grow in the same container. First, pair shade loving perennials with other shade lovers, not with those that prefer sun. Second, pay attention to the type of soil that each plant likes. Important factors include type of soil (sandy v. those rich in humus), pH (acid v. alkaline), and moisture (dry v. moist). Combine only those perennials that enjoy the same cultural requirements and you will have beautiful, hassle-free containers. If you want to grow plants with differing requirements, you can do so, but in separate pots.
The choice of plant material is critical to good design when working in small spaces like containers. Pay particular attention to foliage color, texture, and habit first, and then select plants for their flower color, size, form, and bloom time second. When working with perennials, understand that the flowers are a secondary point of interest because, unlike annuals, they appear only for a limited amount of time. A well-designed perennial container will look great even when the plants are not in bloom.
A landscape designer on Home and Garden television said it best when he said you should design the garden based on “Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers”. This is a handy way to remember the three types of plants essential to good design. “Thrillers” are the plants that command attention, like the tall spike in the center of a pot of geraniums. With perennials, since the blooms are not typically present for a long period, thrillers are usually plants with interesting architectural shape or colored foliage. “Spillers” are the plants that typically spill over the sides of the container, visually blending the container and its contents into one. “Fillers” are the plants that take up the space between the thrillers and the spillers. They typically make the planting look fuller and more finished.
Your container garden can include all three of these design elements (thrillers, fillers, and spillers) or you may choose instead to plant up your container with only one type of plant. Not every container you plant needs to have a combination of different varieties. For greater visual interest, you should include a pot or two of a single plant. For example, a single mature hosta in a large pot is stunning, especially when surrounded by containers of combination plantings.
Some Practical Considerations to Keep in Mind
- Compact, mounding or clumping plants typically grow better in containers than spreading ones. Those that spread will outgrow their container and require transplanting sooner than the clumping types.
- Because of root constraints, most perennials (especially the larger ones) will not grow to their mature size in a container like they would in the ground. For instance, a plant that would grow 3 feet tall in the garden may only get half as tall in a container. So if you would like your container to look really full the first year, start with more mature plants to begin with.
- Shade plantings rely heavily on interesting foliage because they typically do not bloom as long as their sunny counterparts. Design first for foliage, leaving the flowers for secondary interest. This is a good place to use plants with strong architectural interest.
- If you are planning on overwintering your container outdoors or in an unheated area, choose plants that are very hardy in your area (ie. ones that are two or more zones hardier than your zone) to increase their chances of overwintering successfully. (See below for detailed information on overwintering and for a list of perennials that typically overwinter well in containers.)
How to Plant the Container
- Start with a clean container. Be sure to disinfect previously used pots with a mild bleach solution.
- You’ll want the finished planting depth of your plants to be the same as it was in the pots they were grown in originally. Keep this depth in mind as you start to fill the container with soil.
- When planting the design, it’s often easiest to place the “thriller”, or focal plant, first and then add the “fillers” second. Tuck in the “spillers” around the edges of the container last.
- If the plants you are using have become root bound in their original pots, you’ll need to gently tease the roots apart so they will be able to spread out in their new container. If the root ball is a solid mass, make a few vertical slits in it with a knife and splay it out in the new container. (It’s best to buy plants that are not pot bound in the first place!)
- Be sure to leave about one inch of space between the soil line and the top of the container so the soil doesn’t wash out when you water the plants.
- Press the soil firmly around the roots to eliminate any large air pockets and then water thoroughly.
- Plants in containers generally need to be watered more frequently than those in the ground. Most will need to be watered daily, some even more often if the weather is particularly sunny or windy. Also, as discussed under “Choosing a Container” above, the material the pot is made of will have an effect on how often the plants need to be watered.
- When watering, do not simply place the hose or watering wand over the pot and sprinkle. This is a very inefficient method of watering because much of the water never reaches the soil. Instead, stick the hose or wand in the pot at soil level. Use a gentle stream of water, not full power, or the soil will be washed out of the container.
- When watering, it is beneficial to let approximately 10% of the water flush through the pot after the plant has had a good drink. This helps to dissolve and wash away any build up of salts in the soil, a common problem in containers. Too much salt in the soil can kill the plants.
- Regular morning watering is best. This allows the plants to dry out before nightfall, avoiding potential disease issues. Regularity is very important. Plants will not grow as well if they allowed to dry out completely between waterings. Potting soil is often difficult to re-wet once it has been allowed to dry out, making it impossible for it to provide moisture for the roots.
Maintenance and Grooming
- To maintain their best appearance and to promote rebloom, keep the plants deadheaded (remove spent blossoms). Also, remove any yellowing or dead foliage as soon as it appears.
- Once plants have been growing in the same pot for several months, some of the nutrients in the soil will have been washed away. Supplement with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer every 3-4 weeks to keep your plants healthy and happy.
- It’s a good idea to repot containerized perennials each spring. Give them fresh, nutrient-packed soil with some slow-release fertilizer mixed in and they will reward you with vigorous, healthy new growth. This is also a good time to divide any plants that have grown too large for the container and either repot them into a larger one or plant them in the garden.
Overwintering Containerized Perennials
Chances are, if you have taken the time to design, plant, and tend your perennial container garden all season long, you are going to want to overwinter it. Some gardeners choose to treat perennials like annuals, however, and simply toss them out after the season is over. Others choose to transplant their containerized perennials into the garden for the winter and then start over fresh with new plants in the spring. The choice is yours. If you’d like to try overwintering, read on.
Why do containerized perennials require special treatment to overwinter successfully?
- Temperature fluctuations are greater above ground than below it, and perennials do not like this.
- Perennials are less cold-hardy when grown in containers, so there is a greater chance for injury.
- Keep in mind that the bigger the pot, the higher success rate you will have in overwintering. This is because there is a larger volume of soil in a bigger pot to help insulate the roots, protecting them from freezing and desiccating.
- In warmer climates or those with a reliable, thick layer of snow cover, perennials are generally easier to overwinter. In the north and in places with unreliable snow cover, it requires more work to get them to pull through the winter.
Regardless of your climate, containerized perennials should be watered thoroughly just before the ground freezes to give them a reserve supply to use during warm winter spells. You can also add a few handfuls of snow to the top of the container occasionally throughout the winter (if overwintering under cover); this will provide supplemental water for the plants if the temperatures rise enough for it to melt.
This said, many containerized perennials do not survive the winter because they get too much water and they drown. When the pot accumulates water at the top but the soil is still frozen at the bottom, the roots sit in water until the soil thaws all the way through and the water can escape through the drainage hole at the bottom. Roots hate to sit in water, especially freezing cold water in winter. Avoid this scenario by overwintering your containerized perennials tipped on their side so water cannot accumulate at the top of the pot, or overwinter them under cover where they will not receive much water during winter or early spring before the soil thaws.
There are many differing opinions on how to best overwinter containerized perennials. Some of the methods described here may work for your climate while others may not. Trial and error is the best way to find out what will work best for you.
- The general consensus seems to be that the best way to overwinter containerized perennials is to take the entire pot and bury it in the ground. This way, the roots are protected like they would be if the plants were actually planted in the garden. Just be sure not to leave the pot in the ground too long in the spring or the roots will start to grow out the drainage holes, anchoring the pot into the ground.
- You can overwinter them by moving the pots into a cold frame or unheated garage for the winter after the first hard frost. Since all perennials require a period of dormancy or a cold treatment to bloom, don’t overwinter them in a greenhouse or other warm place where they will not go dormant.
- If you are overwintering your containers outside, place a grouping of pots as close together as possible in a sheltered site on the ground. This way, the pots can absorb the heat and moisture from the soil. The east side of the house typically is a good spot. Do not overwinter the containers on pavement or any other surface (such as a deck) raised above ground level. Containerized perennials left exposed on higher levels during the winter have little chance of overwintering successfully.
- You’ll need to cover the pots with some sort of insulating material. Try mounding leaves or evergreen boughs on top of the pots, followed by a thick layer of snow. If snow is not reliable in your area, use an insulating blanket made expressly for this purpose. You can also try wrapping the pots themselves in some sort of insulating material for extra protection.
Perennials that Typically Overwinter Well in Containers
- Achillea (Yarrow)
- Ajuga (Bugleweed)
- Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle)
- Armeria (Common Thrift, Sea Pink)
- Bergenia (Heartleaf Bergenia, Pig Squeak)
- Campanula (Bellflower)
- Cerastium (Snow in Summer)
- Coreopsis (Tickseed)
- Dendranthema (Hardy Garden Mum)
- Dianthus (Pinks)
- Echinacea (Coneflower)
- Geranium-Hardy (Cranesbill)
- Hemerocallis (Daylily)
- Heuchera (Coral Bells)
- Heucherella (Foamy Bells)
- Houttuynia (Chameleon Plant)
- Iris ensata (Japanese Iris)
- Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny, Moneywort)
- Lysimachia punctata (Variegated Loosestrife)
- Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not)
- Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)
- Polemonium (Jacob’s Ladder)
- Primula (Primrose)
- Pulmonaria (Lungwort, Bethlehem Sage)
- Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)
- Sedum (Stonecrop)
- Sempervivum (Hen & Chicks)
- Thymus (Creeping Thyme)
- Tiarella (Foamflower)
- Tradescantia (Spiderwort)
Perennial Combination Container Ideas
Made for the Shade #1
- Astilbe ‘Delft Lace’
- Heuchera ‘Electric Plum’ (Coral Bells)
- Carex s. ‘Banana Boat’ (Creeping Broad-leaved Sedge)
Made for the Shade #2
Made for the Shade #3 – Emphasis on Foliage
Consistently Moist Soil & Part Shade
Late Spring Bloomers — Full Sun or Part Shade
Red, White, & Blue Combination with Trellis
Fall Bloomers — Full Sun & Average Soil
Fall Container Idea #2
Combination for a Dry, Sunny Space
- Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’ (Anise Hyssop)
- Sedum ROCK ‘N GROW® ‘Superstar’ (Stonecrop)
- Festuca g. ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)
Attracts Butterflies — Full Sun & Average Soil
- Coreopsis BIG BANG™ ‘Galaxy’ (Tickseed)
- Penstemon ‘Blackbeard’ (Beardtongue)
- Liatris s. ‘Kobold Original’ (Blazing Star)
Pink Monochromatic Combination — Full Sun
Herb Pot — Full Sun
Native Roots — Full Sun
Mini Water Garden — Consistantly Wet Soil
- Asclepias i. ‘Cinderella’ (Swamp Milkweed)
- Iris ‘Black Gamecock’ (Louisiana Iris)
- Carex e. ‘Bowles Golden’ (Gold Sedge)
When choosing pots for plants … be creative! Try anything from an old boot, to that 16th century Baroque urn you just “had to have.” Just about anything can be used as a pot for plants providing it drains well (roots will rot in soggy soil) and doesn’t get too hot sitting in the sun. If the pot you select doesn’t have enough drainage holes, make sure to drill at least one “good-sized” hole for every gallon of soil used. If you can’t drill or punch holes into a particular planter, you can sometimes work around this, by planting in a separate pot and setting it inside the container you prefer.
When selecting a pot, it’s important to consider the size of the plant — or plants — you will be growing. Yes, size does matter! If the pot is too small, plants will quickly become rootbound and the soil will not be able to hold enough moisture between waterings. Plants that are allowed to dry out, or wilt, will not be productive.
#1 POTTING SOIL
Get your potted crops off to a great start and keep them healthy with premium quality potting soils. Designed to provide root support, moisture retention and healthy nutrients, these organic mixes will give you maximum results.
On the other hand, if the container is too large, your plants may spend all of their energy on root development and not enough on growth. According to the West Virginia University Extension Service, shallow-rooted crops like lettuce, peppers, herbs and most annuals need a planter at least 6 inches in diameter with an 8-inch soil depth. Larger containers, like bushel baskets and 1/2 whiskey barrels, are perfect for growing tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, and most perennials.
Pots and planters are available in many different sizes, shapes, and materials. Whatever type of container you select, consider the area where it will be used and plan accordingly.
Tip: Choose containers in proper proportion to the size of the plant. A container that is about one-third as tall as the plant (measured from the soil line to the highest leaf) often works best.
Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, terra-cotta pots look great just about anywhere and their earthy color will enhance the beauty of almost any plant. Made of a porous clay rich in iron, terra cotta has the ability to “breathe,” which keeps potting soils cool and wicks excess moisture away from plant roots, keeping them healthy. The main problem with using terra cotta, is that it is relatively fragile (watch for hard frosts that can crack containers) and it can dry out quite rapidly, especially in sunny locations.
Note: Some growers prefer glazed terra-cotta pots because they hold water much more effectively.
If you’re not concerned about container appearance or have plants that eventually grow to cover the pots they are planted in, plastic is a great choice. Plastic nursery pots are durable, retain moisture well, and are relatively inexpensive. They are also very lightweight, which makes them an excellent choice if you like to re-arrange your gardens.
Do not use black, or dark colored plastic pots if your container garden will be located in a very sunny location. These colors absorb heat and will get very hot, which can damage tender roots. Light colored containers reflect the heat and keep the roots cool.
One thing about concrete – it’s heavy! Which makes it ideal for containing large plants or trees that require more support to keep them…well, “contained.” It also has good insulating properties, protecting tender root systems by maintaining a comfortable soil environment. When planting in exposed or public areas, concrete has the added advantage of discouraging anyone from “accidentally” walking off with your prized plants or pots. Concrete planters can be left outside over the winter without harm, which is good since you’re probably not going to want to move them.
One of the most practical and natural containers for gardening. Wood planters look great, retain water well and are relatively lightweight. When selecting wooden containers, make sure that they are made with rot-resistant woods like cedar or redwood and check for quality construction, since wood will shrink and expand in the elements. Planters made out of pine or other soft-woods can also be used, but should be painted with a non-toxic paint or stain to prevent rot. As for expense, you can easily manufacture a wooden planter in no time with a few nails, some scrap wood and a creative idea.
- Pot risers: These are small recycled rubber squares that you put underneath your planters. They aren’t visible underneath your containers, so they don’t clash with any decor. They work like a charm, keeping your pot off whatever surface you have them on, not only helping drainage but also protecting your surface from stains and scratches. They are available in a variety of sizes for small pots to large container gardens weighing a ton or more.
- Pot Pads by Allsop Home & Garden: These are hard plastic domes with non-skid rubber grips that suction to your pot. That makes them easy to remove. The dome shape means that the points of contact with your hard surface are small. That will result in fewer areas where there might be stains as residues will wash or blow away. The increased airflow under your containers should help keep the plants healthier, reduce the risk of mold, and not set up a place where bugs can live underneath your containers.
- Decorative Pot Feet: Pot feet also come in decorative styles, from simple to elaborate. Browse garden sites to see ones that strike your fancy.
- DIY: You can make your own pot feet. You can cut PVC piping cut into rounds. Shop the flea market shot glasses, teacups, or saucers you can turn upside-down and glue to your pots. You can also use small terra cotta pots, turned upside down.
Have you ever noticed those unsightly watering stains that happen beneath your pots after resting on a porch, deck, or patio for a season or two?
Pot feet might just be the best thing you can add to your garden pots and containers to prevent water stains and a handful of other nasty and harmful problems.
Pot feet are a decorative way to lift your garden pots & containers off the ground. They also achieve three functional benefits essential for healthy plants.
Read on to learn about these benefits and learn why every pot and container garden needs pot feet.
All Containers Need a Little Elevation
‘Pot feet’ help lift a pot or container off of the ground or another surface to provide extra aeration. They also ensure that a plant is not sitting in standing water as the drain holes are not flush with the ground.
Garden pots and containers without pot feet don’t have enough space to allow for airflow or water drainage – making them susceptible to a slew of nasty and harmful problems.
Pot Feet Benefits for Container Gardens
Pot feet serve three vital functions when supporting planters:
1. Promotes Drainage
Pot feet provide air flow under the container which allows the soil to dry out completely between watering. The air flow that is created from pot feet is also very healthy for the roots of the potted plants. Providing your pots and containers with air and elevating them also prevents your garden planters from staining the surface beneath them.
2. Prevents Mildew
In wet weather, harmful rot and mildew can build up from overwatering and become especially saturated with water. It is vital to raise pots up off the ground to keep the bottom of the pot out of the water if they live outside or on and non-porous area.
3. Deters Insects
Vine weevil and any other insects that like the moist, dark conditions are particularly common pests of container-grown plants. Standing a plant pot on pot feet to lift the pot off the ground and allow air to circulate below it to discourage insects from hiding underneath pots and invading a potted plant.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Elevating the bottom of your garden containers greatly improves the health of your plants and increases their life expectancy!
What’s your take on pot feet?
What do you think about using pot feet? Do you already use them for your pots or are you planning to add them soon?
If you’re looking for some sweet pot feet, check out our new pot feet collection. These pot feet are designed to stylishly raise your container off the ground to prevent staining and provide improved airflow.