The Q&A Archives: Gardening in Containers

Question: What are the best annuals and perennials for growing in pots? For example foxgloves, delphiniums, hollyhocks, dahlias. I haven't had much success with verbena, dahlias, or even petunias. Could it be the thumbs not green enough?

Answer: Most annuals and perennials will adapt to growing in pots, providing they're given the light they require, enough water, and reasonable soil. So, let's start at the beginning. First and foremost, use pots that have adequate drainage holes. Plants don't like soggy feet! Secondly, check the amount of direct sunlight your plants will receive each day. Some plants love bright sunshine and others prefer shady conditions. Next on the list is potting soil. Instead of filling your pots with soil from the garden, use a good commercial potting soil mix. The mix will have compost and peatmoss and perlite; all important for good drainage. Potting soil will also be loose enough for the roots of the plants to penetrate deeply, the organic matter will release nutrients to the roots, and there will be just enough moisture retention plus air space to keep the roots healthy. Now comes the fun part: choosing the plants. If your site is mostly sunny (including hot afternoon summer sunshine), try growing Calendula, Columbine, Primrose, Snapdragon, Geraniums and Asters. If the site is mostly shady (or gets only morning sunshine), try these: Pansy, Impatiens, Lobella, Fuchsia, or Begonia. Plants in pots usually require more frequent watering, so check the pots everyday and water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Make sure you apply enough water that it runs out of the holes in the bottoms of the pots. Every few weeks you can immerse the pots in a bucket of water to thoroughly saturate the soil and eliminate any air pockets. Because plants in pots are watered more frequently, you should feed them more often, to replace the minerals lost when they're flushed out of the soil. Use a complete liquid fertilizer, diluted to half-strength, about every three weeks. I'm sure you'll have better success with your containerized garden, now that you have all of the 'tricks of the trade'.

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