Saturday, January 29, 2022
Jan. 29, 2022

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Gardening With Allen: Variety of plants adds interest to summer containers


I want to plant tubs and baskets for both sunny areas and shady areas. Which plants should I use in these different conditions?

Most nurseries and garden stores have a special section of potted flowers especially selected for containers. Many have trailing or spreading growth. Non-flowering plants with colorful leaves are often mixed in. A single upright plant is often added to the center of large tubs and pots to give some height. Look at already planted containers for ideas on which plants look best together.

Select plants according to their sun and shade tolerance. If containers are on the east or north sides, or under an overhang, shade tolerance is important. Plants for containers facing south or west or without any shade need to be sun tolerant.

Most plant labels indicate whether a plant prefers full sun, part shade or full shade. Some of the best plants for shady locations are begonia, impatiens, lobelia, fuchsia, browalia, coleus, lamium and nierembergia. Variegated ivies grow well in the shade or sun.

For sunny areas, some of the most popular flowers include diascia, petunia, ivy geranium, lobelia, bacopa, calibrachoa (million bells), alyssum, trailing snapdragon, trailing verbena, lotus and sweet potato vine. Some good upright plants are salvia, euphorbia, dracaena spikes, snapdragon and ornamental grasses.

Some of the best plants for single-variety containers are ivy geraniums, impatiens, hanging basket begonias, fuchsias, bacopa, calibrachoa (million bells) and trailing petunias.

Most of my tubs contain a mixture. I like to plant at least two or three plants of each kind per container. I place like plants across from each other or at equal intervals around the container. I make sure at least some of the plants near the outer edge are of the trailing type, especially in hanging baskets. I place plants so that their soil balls are almost touching each other to get a more immediate effect.

I prefer larger containers, at a minimum 12-inch hanging baskets and 14-inch pots and tubs. They do not dry out as quickly as smaller containers. Make sure planting containers have large holes for drainage.

The best potting soils allow water to move into the soil quickly and have peat moss or other materials that hold moisture. I like to add water-holding crystals such as Soil Moist to help retain extra moisture. Soil mixes are now available that already have moisture-retention crystals mixed in. Many potting soils contain slow-release fertilizer, which is also good. This usually lasts four to six weeks, and then more fertilizer should be added.

If you are using a mix without fertilizer or last year’s potting soil, add slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, before or when you plant. I mix fertilizer into the top inch or two of soil. Organic fertilizers are also slow release. You will need to make a second application in midsummer. If you use liquid fertilizer apply some every week.