Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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Narrow-leaf zinnia is an easy-care, heat tolerant summer annual that grows well in containers and as a low, mounding border plant.

Containers for Color

I love growing foliage and flowering plants in containers. Containers are a great way to add instant color and pizzazz to the landscape, and they provide people with limited space a chance to garden. Your porch, patio, balcony, or driveway can go from drab to dazzling with the addition of flowering containers.

Container Versatility

Even for gardeners with plenty of space, containers provide a versatile landscape accent. They can be moved around easily to create just the right effect. When a plant starts to decline, simply move the container and replace it with another or replant with new plants.

Container Choices

I love the many wonderful container choices available today. Terra cotta, plastic, metal, and decorative styrofoam containers provide a variety of options. Hypertufa containers are one of my favorites. Made from a mix of concrete and peat moss, these containers look just like hewn rock troughs or heavy concrete pots, but they are almost 10 times lighter.

Don't forget the whimsical when selecting containers. An old boot, a rusted-out galvanized bucket, a chicken feeder, a wheelbarrow, or even a bathroom fixture can be turned into a planter by an imaginative gardener.

Container Sizes

It's important that containers have an appropriate width- to-height ratio. Tall containers tend to be dry at the top and soggy at the bottom. Shallow containers don't support deep enough root development and may result in growing drought-prone plants that lack good root anchorage.

Containers should also provide adequate water drainage. If a container doesn't come with holes in the bottom, drill holes to provide drainage before planting.

The Right Size

It's important to select the right-sized container for the plants you wish to grow. Small-statured annual flowers such as alyssum, narrow-leaf zinnia, pansy, blackfoot daisy, dwarf marigold, and viola will grow fine in a 2-gallon container. Flowers that reach a height of 2 to 3 feet need a minimum 3- to 5-gallon container. Groupings of plants may require something even larger.

Container Design

You can use your creativity and mix container shapes and sizes for the most attractive arrangements. I include a few hanging baskets and containers set on stands on my patio. Consider using some half-round containers attached to a wall or fence to bring a cascade of color to an otherwise flat surface. For a vertical effect, set a large container near a trellis or porch pillar and plant a vine to grow up the structure.

Container Soils

An artificial soil mix composed of ingredients such as compost, peat, sand, vermiculite, and perlite is best for growing in containers. These materials give the aeration, drainage, and water- and nutrient-holding capacity needed for proper growth. Avoid using garden soil, which compacts easily and may foster disease.

Watering Containers

Container media dry out quickly and can restrict the plant's root zone. You'll need to water your container plants more frequently than plants grown in the ground. This may be as often as once or twice a day during hot weather or if the plant is large for the container.

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