Home & Garden

A guide to perfect potting

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

A guide to perfect potting

The container
One oversize pot makes more of an impact than several smaller ones. Pick a pot that accomodates the plant roots snugly (otherwise they will expend too much energy to fill the pot at the expense of the whole plant). And choose a pot that harmonizes with the flowers and foliage (the warmth of terra-cotta echoes the peachy-pick flowers of Diascia, for example). Don't forget that a drainage hole is a must.

The soil
For annuals, use a soiless mix. For perennials, combine the mix with composted manure, 2:1. For succulents, use a commercial cactus mix. Before you plant a container, dampen the mix so it's moist but not wet.

The plants
Choose annual plants appropriate for the light recevied by the plants. As long as they share similar growing requirements, different types of plants – annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, shrubs and trees – can be grouped in one container. Water each plant an hour or so before planting to moisten the rootball.

The arrangement
To fill a 12-inch tall container that's 18 inches in diameter, you'll need:
• one tall plant that's roughly one-and-a-half to two times the height of the pot;
• two plants to cascade over the side but leave space to show off the pot; and
• five filler plants of contrasting textures and colours. Airy, branching or mounding, these shouldn't be more than two-thirds the height of the tall plant. Use them to create a miniature landscape.

Remove each plant from its nursery pot and gently loosen the roots. Place the tall plant in your pot, slightly off-centre (and, if the pot will sit against a wall, at the back). Working outward, place the filler plants then the cascading ones. Top up the mix only to within an inch of the rim (to allow water to pool in the pot instead of running off), patting it down around the plants. Finish by watering with a solution of transplant fertilizer, such as 6-16-5, to encourage root growth. Sprinkle a balanced, slow-release fertilizer onto the mix or add a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every two or three weeks when you water.

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  This story was originally titled "A Guide to Perfect Potting" in the August 2004 issue.

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A guide to perfect potting