Planting Flower Pots 101

Planting Flower Pots 101

I have to chuckle at this title….Planting Flower Pots 101….because truly…that’s about the highest level class I could conceivably be qualified to teach! :-) My SISTERS and my MOM, on the other hand, could teach MASTERS classes!

I, on the OTHER other hand, have pretty much done the same thing for the last 15 years when it comes to my flower pots….so I guess I can teach a thing or two about that. But that’s about it.

It didn’t even occur to me to do a post about it until I was talking with one of my nieces at dinner last Sunday and she was talking about wanting to plant some flower pots but didn’t have the slightest idea what to do.   That’s when I figured my limited, albeit LENGTHY, flower pot tradition, might be helpful to some of the beginning gardeners out there.

When I moved into my first house in Utah, my sister Rebecca gave me these three large faux terra cotta pots as a housewarming gift. As you can see, they have definitely seen better days. It was finally time to retire them this year.

Luckily I found these three wonderful replacements on clearance last fall for $11 each!


Anyway, I have basically been doing the same version of flower pots for my front entry for the last 15 years. When you find something you like…you stick with it. :-)

Jillee’s Basic Rule of Planting Flower Pots:  

Lots of ONE type of flower in ONE (or two) color(s) = IMPACT.

Opt for annuals that give you a lot of COLOR BANG for your BUCK. Petunias are the PERFECT choice, and I have been doing them for years, but this year I decided to give pansies a try.  I’ve always LOVED pansies, but they aren’t nearly as prolific as the petunias!

Here is a picture of my petunia pots at the end of last summer. This isn’t even at their PEAK!


So basically what I do is decide on one type of flower and plant as many as I can fit into all three pots. Usually I stick with the same color as well. There have been a couple of times I have done different colors in different pots, but it loses some of its impact.


This weekend I found of bunch of these pansies that were all in the same general mix of colors and decided to plant them. I just LOVE the colors!


Start with some good potting soil. Doesn’t have to be Miracle Gro…but it was on sale…so I splurged. :-)

Fill the pots ALMOST to the top. If you don’t put in enough soil…you won’t even be able to SEE the flowers…at least at first. They will be planted too low. Plus, you are going to be compressing the soil a bit when you plant each little plant.


Before planting….break up the compacted root ball of each plant.



Start in the middle and work your way out to the perimeter. I start with 3 in the middle and then plant a ring of roughly 9 more around that.

Once you have all your little plants in the dirt….sprinkle a few extra handfuls of soil in between each one and press down lightly…just to keep them in place.


You’ll also want to “deadhead” all the fading blooms. (Pinch off the dead stuff.)   Trust me on this. Your flowers will LOVE you for it and will reward you with bigger, better blooms!


Finally…..give them a GENTLE watering-in…preferably with a watering can. You need to be careful with these babies at this stage. Once they’ve been watered several times and the roots have been established…you can use the hose on a slow flow rate.



And there you have it!  They may not look like much NOW….but trust me on this one….soon enough they will be EXPLODING with color! :-)




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  1. says

    Jillee, I am going to follow your lead and plant petunias (and maybe some Cosmos in another pot) today. I have seen Jillee’s flowering pots, and they are truly dazzeling all summer long. Now that I have lots of full sun areas in front and back of my new home, maybe I can do this. Thanks for the instructions, Jillee.

  2. Christine says

    A great tip to make your flowers grow like CRAZY is to add your coffee grinds to them. I did this last year as an attempt to keep the neighbourhood cats out of my flowers and I ended up with the lushest, most beautiful flower bed.

  3. Karen Larard says

    I have tryed coffee grinds in my pots to keep cats abay, the cats did’nt mind it one bit. The plants loved it. What did work was tinfolie covering the soil, it looked awful but it only had to be there for a week or so for the cats to loos interest in using my pots as a litter box. Cats hates tinfolie, I dont know what it is they hate abought it but it defently workes.

  4. Regina says

    If you have large pots, use packing peanuts to fill about the bottom third of the pot (depending on the height of your pot) before you add the potting soil. It saves on the expense of potting soil and the pot isn’t as heavy if you have to move it around. I’ve been doing this for years. Just be sure you don’t use the biodegradable ones as water will dissolve them! I keep a trash bag in my potting shed that I collect the packing peanuts in all year round so I’ll have plenty when spring comes.

  5. Jeannette says

    Don’t you find that the water just runs thru the planting mix, and doesn’t seem to be absorbed? I’ve found that I need to mix in water prior to putting it in the pot. Then keep it moist. Anyone know what I mean, or if I’m doing something wrong?

  6. says

    I like your choice of flowers for these pots…especially the petunias because they will look gorgeous all summer. I’m not sure about the pansies in the south where I live…I don’t think they do well in the day-after-day heat. Love Regina’s suggestion to use the packing peanuts to cut down on weight and expense of potting soil! Thanks for the post.

  7. Jennifer says

    I have to disagree with you. I think the best way to do planters is to use lots of different plants. Start out with a really high, grassy plant in the middle for height and green color. Around that put some medium height flowers in different, bold colors like geraniums or gerber daisies. Around the edge put in shorter flowers as well as some ivy or other hanging plants that can hang down the sides of your pots to add some interest. Arranging the plants close together so you have very full pots also looks the best. Take a look at planters outside stores for ideas on color/plant combos.

    I don’t worry about planting perennials since I like to change up my potted flowers every year. I save my perennials like tulips and daffodils for my flower beds.

    • Regina says

      You’ve described the “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” way of planting a pot. You plant a thriller in the middle (something tall and eye-catching), a filler around it, and a spiller (something vining) at the edge. One thriller (in the middle or in the back) and one spiller (in the front) would be enough. Guarantee you it will be gorgeous.

  8. Steele says

    In regards to the comment stating add coffee grounds to your flowers to make them grow. That depends upon the flower. Coffee grounds lower the pH of the soil [raising acidity]. For example, petunias will grow in pretty much any pH soil however, they do like a more acidic soil with a pH around 5.4-5.8. Pansies are pretty much the same, liking a pH of around 5.4-5.8. On both plants, a pH above 6.0 will cause smaller blooms and a small plant. To lower soil pH you can use coffee grounds however, if your soil is around 7.0 [neutral] or higher [alkaline], coffee grounds alone won’t lower you pH quite enough. Add some sphangum peat to your planting mix [available at Wallys, Lowes, HD].

    However plants such as geraniums like a pH of 6.0-6.6, so adding coffee grounds to germanium would lower your soil pH and cause problems. If you happen to have sulfur water, thus your pH would be lower, add lime to your planting mix to raise the pH of your soil. [also available at the same].

    The best thing to do is to purchase a pH tester. I prefer the electronic ones so that I can monitor the pH over time over the pill test kit for a one time use.

    Jeanette, the reason the water runs through your soil so fast upon first application of water is there is a lot of air in the pot. You’ve probably noticed that after a week or so your soil and plant seem to have sunk and you need to add more soil to your pot. Before adding your plant, gently tap the pot on the ground to settle the soil a bit. After adding your plant, GENTLY press down on the soil. You may find you will need to remove your plant and add more soil before adding the plant again.

    Regarding arranging plants “close” in a pot. If you are transplanting from trays, you will need to take into consideration the eventual size of the plant. If you plant too close, this reduces air circulation and increases the risk for disease [fungus especially and white mold on the surface of the soil]. While a full pot looks lovely in the beginning, it does not allow for growth over time thus reducing the chance for larger and bigger plants and blooms.

    Living here in the desert, I prefer self-watering containers. If you try to grow in regular pots such as shown here or the classic clay pot, your plants will toast. This allows the plant to take on water as needed and encourages the roots to grow deeper so they don’t toast during those hot summer days due to the soil temperature going above 65-70F.

  9. mary i says

    Jill I love all your posts and have them saved.. anyway Do some research on useing Epsom Salt in the garden…it is my fave. Easy,cheap and IT WORKS!!! I have used it for 2plus years in my garden and it is awesome!!!! I feel that you can get the word out… I dont have a blog (yet :) ) so you can be my voice on this great garden/flower/houseplant/lawn helper….. This is not a PSA Just want to share… Thank you and Hello from Tuscaloosa Alabama.. PS Your c.wipes are great

  10. says

    I found your blog about a week ago, and have been having a blast making all my own products!! I already did laundry soap, but your newer version with oxi-clean and Purex crystals is awesome! Then in today’s post I read you are from Utah-what part? I’m in West Jordan. Thanks for such great information!!

  11. CTY says

    Epsom salts is good for the garden. I empty my Epsom salts foot bath water around my plants outside.

    Also– I know you were going for a great photo tutorial and that you probably already know this, but for newbies–according to Mel Bartholomew (square Foot Gardening) — the roots of plants are damaged when exposed to the sun.

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