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How to do you plant flowers in a pot or container? What do you put in the bottom of your planter? How do you ensure drainage? I attended an outdoor container gardening lecture at The Boston Flower and Garden Show and thought I’d share tips on how to create a basic planter.
5 Steps to Planting a Container
Whether you’re planting a container for outdoor flowers, vegetables, or herbs, the basic planter components can be the same. The trick is in the layering.
At the base of the container, add a reservoir to catch water. The reservoir can be as simple as a pie pan (or a Frisbee!).
Then, add shredded paper (e.g., newspaper). Fill up one-half to three-quarters of the space.
In the middle of the container, add a “slow-release” hard fertilizer (e.g., Osmicote) to provide the plant with food. It will last 3 to 4 months, usually into the middle of the gardening season.
Also, add a polymer in the middle of the container to attract and hold water. A polymer typically hydrates for 7 to 8 years (well beyond the life span of most plants).
As the top layer, add a mix of 80% peat moss and 20% perlite (or vermiculite). Do not use garden soil as it brings its own competition (other organisms, disease, etc.). Potting soil can work but is often too heavy. Peat moss is great because it holds moisture and provides air space. Perlite and vermiculite provide additional air space so that the mix isn’t too dense. You can buy the mix or mix it yourself. Most annuals have shallow root systems, so 4 to 8 inches of depth is ample.
Note: Although the basic peat moss and perlite mix should work fine for most flowers and mixed containers, there are a few plants that may need specialty mixes, namely orchids, succulents, and cacti.
Of course, you’ll want to check the moisture level in your containers every day. If the top 2 inches are dry, it’s time to water until it runs out of the bottom of the planter. It’s best to water in the morning.
In midsummer, you’ll want to add liquid fertilizer. Cut the strength in half.
Grow Veggies in Containers!
Flowers can also be planted with vegetables! For example, plant petunias with red chile peppers, ornamental grasses, and even herbs if you can squeeze them in.
Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann