While I can’t seem to stop experimenting when it comes to the perennials in my flower beds, I’m much more consistent when it comes to my flower pots! I always reserve my pots for planting annuals, because they only last one season anyway, and it’s nice not to worry about them over the winter.
I’ve been planting and maintaining flower pots more or less the same way for over 20 years now. So while I may not have a breadth of knowledge when it comes to potted plants generally, I do have a depth of both knowledge and experience when it comes to growing flowers, and more specifically, petunias! :-)
(Speaking of petunias, and in case you’re interested in planting some this year, I thought I’d mention that I grew Supertunias for the first time last year. To say they thrived would be an understatement, because by midsummer, I had so many petunias that they were actually spilling over the edges and down the sides of my massive planters. Super, indeed!)
Now that planting season is upon us, I thought that I’d share my best tips and tricks for planting flower pots with you in today’s post. Whether you’re new to the game or just want to refresh your memory before getting your hands dirty, these tips will help you plant beautiful, healthy flower pots that you can enjoy all season long! :-)
11 Tips For Planting Flower Pots That Will Thrive
1. Choose Large Pots
While it’s easy to assume that larger pots require more care, it’s actually easier to grow plants in large containers than smaller ones. This is because large containers hold more soil, and the more soil there is in the container, the more moisture it will hold on to.
Small pots, on the other hand, have less soil, making them much more susceptible to drying out during hot weather. (This is particularly true for small hanging baskets, which may need to be watered upwards of twice per day to keep them from drying out.)
2. Don’t Forget About Drainage
When shopping for pots, look for ones with drainage holes at the bottom. Drainage holes allow excess water to escape out of the bottom of the pot, helping to prevent issues that can arise from overwatering (like withering leaves, wilting, and even root rot.)
For small or medium sized pots, the ideal size for drainage holes is about 1/2” in diameter, while larger pots should have holes that are about 1” in diameter. (And despite what you might read online, filling the bottom of a pot with stones, gravel, or other materials is not an adequate substitute for drainage holes!)
3. Fill Pots With Soil Only
And speaking of putting stuff in the bottom of your pots (a popular “plant hack” I often come across online), I would advise against it. Some people will fill the bottom portion of their larger pots with packing peanuts, empty containers, and other junk material because it makes the pots less heavy, but it also offsets the benefit of using a large pot in the first place!
The less soil you have in your pot, the more prone it will be to drying out. If you still want to be able to move your pots around once they’re planted, you’re better off investing in a few rolling plant stands rather than filling your pots with anything other than soil and plants!
4. Use The Right Type Of Soil
But which type of soil should you use? Look for soil that is specifically recommended for use in pots or containers, such as potting soil, raised bed soil, etc. These light and airy soils contain moss and other organic materials that help to retain moisture and deliver a steady supply of oxygen to potted plant’s roots.
5. Make A List Before You Shop
As tempting as it can be to simply run off to your local nursery or garden supply center and start shopping, it’s better to have a plan before you go! Having a list of plants to look for, supplies, and equipment will help you avoid “plant panic” once you’re actually roaming the nursery aisles.
At the very least, you’ll want to decide how many pots you’ll be planting and where you want to put them. That way you’ll have an idea of what plants to look for based on size and how much sun they’ll get throughout the day.
6. Group Plants With Similar Needs Together
While I like to stick with one type of flower in one or two colors in my plant, that’s just my personal preference! You can definitely mix and match plant types in your pots—as long as they have similar needs, that is!
Ideally, all the plants sharing the same pot should have similar water and sunlight requirements. If you’re not sure if two plants will play nicely together in one pot, ask a salesperson at the nursery or garden center and they should be able to help you out!
7. Read The Plant Tags
Another good source of information about a plant’s needs? Its plant tag! Be sure to read the tags that come with your plants to learn important details like how big it will get, how much light and water it needs, how long it will grow, and its growing “habit.”
Habits refer to a plant’s expected shape and growing behaviors, which is especially important to know if you’re mixing and matching different plants in the same pot. For instance, you could put a plant with an upright habit in the center of your pot where it can grow tall, then add plants with a mounding habit to fill in the space around the taller plant.
For added drama, put plants with a trailing habit at the very edge of your pots where they will drape artfully over the sides as they grow. (Oh, and don’t bother trying to keep track of all those tags—just snap a photo of each one with your phone so you can reference it later.)
8. Tease Twisted Roots
Plant starts at nurseries and garden centers are often root-bound in their containers, meaning that the roots have run out of room inside the container. It’s easy to tell whether a plant is root-bound or not, because the roots will be visibly coiled, twisted, and growing in the shape of the container.
When planting root-bound plants, it’s a good idea to “tease” the roots before putting them in their holes. Just use your fingers to loosen up the tangled roots, which will make it easier for your plant to make itself at home in its new container.
9. Don’t Pack The Soil Down
When planting pots, position the largest ones first before moving onto the smaller ones. And when you’re burying the root balls of your plants, you want to firm the soil around the plant without packing it down tightly.
Packing the soil too firmly makes it harder for water, light, and air to get to your plants roots, so try firm the soil around your plants just enough that they’ll stay upright.
10. Water Right After Planting
Just like you would when planting a vegetable garden or flower bed, it’s important to water pots immediately after planting. (Try to water them as gently as possible to avoid doing any damage, preferably using a rainshower-style watering can or hose attachment.)
The goal is to completely soak the soil, so you may have to water newly planted pots a few times over the course of a few minutes until you see water coming out the bottom of the pot. (Oh, and if you’re doing the planting in one spot and then moving them to their final destination, it’ll be a lot easier to move them before watering them!)
11. Elevate Your Pots
Once you’ve planted your pots, consider raising them off the ground by setting them on plant stands, casters, or “feet.” This simple measure can help prevent damage and discoloration to decks, concrete, and other surfaces, while also promoting airflow and drainage to keep your plants happy and healthy.
What are your favorite flowers to grow, or what flowers would you like to try growing?