Summer is here! Now is the time to put the finishing touches on your outdoor entertaining spaces for those upcoming summer barbecues. There is often a lot of hesitation when people start to put together the perfect summer container for their front porch or back patio. Many have the unwarranted fear of not doing it right. Here’s a tip – if YOU like it, it’s a great container! There are a handful of questions you can ask yourself to stack the deck in your favor in terms of plant success and visual appeal.
1. What container are you using?
Containers come in all shapes, sizes, and materials and some may have excellent drainage, while others hold water. If you choose a container without drainage holes, be sure to either add them, or add a layer of small rocks so that the soil is not staying wet. A well-drained container, though, should always be your first choice. The size of your container may determine the scale of your plants, as well. For example, if you are planting a very large, tall container, choosing large, vigorous plants would be appropriate, whereas those same plants may look out of proportion in a small, miniature container.
2. Where is it going?
The amount of direct sunlight is the biggest factor in determining which plants to choose. Annuals labeled for “sun” typically means they require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Annuals labeled for “shade” usually require protection from the afternoon sun but can handle some morning sun. In addition to sunlight, also consider if the planter will be up against the house and only viewed from the front or if it will be viewed from all angles. If a planter is only viewed from one direction, you might want to place the tallest plant in the back of the planter, whereas if you will be viewing the planter from all directions, you may want to place the tallest plant in the center.
3. What color scheme are you trying to achieve?
Color can come from both blooms and foliage. One option could be a monochromatic scheme with varying blooms in shades of one color. You may want to do complementary colors, or colors across from one another on the color wheel such as purple and yellow. If you are wanting as many colors as possible, choose all different colors of the rainbow.
4. Have you used a variety of textures and achieved enough contrast?
Annuals come in a variety of textures in terms of their foliage. Some are fern-like, while others have larger waxy leaves. Some foliage is grey while some are deep purple. Many plants are variegated, and some have a lime green hue. Using a variety of textures in a variety of colors adds the element of contrast, adding more depth to your container’s design.
5. Is your container balanced?
While not all containers have to be a symmetrical design, try to evenly disperse the plants throughout the container. If you are using foliage accents, disperse the blooming plants throughout the container, as well.
6. Have you used a variety of heights?
Many containers follow the standard “thriller, filler, spiller” design with the tallest plant in the center or back, and the plants gradually become shorter or more trailing in nature as they move toward the front or edges of the container. This helps shorter plants to remain visible and prevents the plants from being all the same height, adding interest to your design.
7. Are you watering correctly?
Watering your container correctly is the most imperative element of a successful container. More is not better in terms of watering. Overwatering can be detrimental to plant health and it can cause rotting and weakening of the plant. Weaker plants are more susceptible to disease and insect infestation. Water when you feel the soil in your container begins to dry out. It’s also important to not let your container dry out to the point of wilting.
Now that your containers are planted and flourishing, don’t forget regular pruning and deadheading to help keep your annuals healthy and blooming. Happy planting and enjoy the rest of your summer surrounded by the beautiful containers you created!
Colonial Gardens is a premier Garden and Event Center in Blue Springs. They offer a variety of classes and workshops where experts love sharing their knowledge about all things green! You can check out upcoming classes and events at www.colonialgardenskc.com. Follow on Facebook @colonialgardenskc for more tips and to find everything you need for your summer planting at the newly renovated Garden and Event Center!