Sunday, January 13, 2008

Potting Pointers

I found this pot with a root bound plant in it. I had a hint that it was root bound because it was always drying out and needing to be watered every day. It was easy to get the plant out with one good tug, now we will plant it in the ground where it will be much happier. It took about 9 months for it to get this large.

To start I gather my supplies together. I like to use Osmocote (or another timed release fertilizer) when I plant in a pot and I also use a water soluble fertilizer (such as MaxSea) to water the plant in with when I am finished planting. The water soluble fertilizer will be taken into the plant right away and the timed release fertilizer will keep releasing a little every time you water for the next few months. I use a screen to cover the holes in the bottom of the pot. When you place rocks in the bottom of the pot you risk the possibility of a rock getting stuck and clogging the drainage hole. The screen will keep the dirt in and let water out and keep bugs from being able to crawl into your pot to munch your roots. At the nursery we sell a handy little pack of round screens, but because we pot so many pots we buy large amounts of window screening and cut it into squares to fit our pots.

The next most important ingredient to a good healthy pot is the potting soil. Any will work just be sure that it specifies that it is a 'potting' soil. This will mean that it has been formulated to have good drainage and probably has some composted ingredients to help grow a healthy plant.

My favorite part of potting though is to pick out the plants. This is especially fun to do at the nursery because I can change my mind midstream, which I manage to do quite often. When choosing your plants there are a few things to look sure that all the plants in a pot have the same water and light needs and that the sizes of the grown plants will leave room for all to grow. I like my pots to look full of color so I will often fill in with some annuals that can be pulled out when other plants get too large. Using the method I am showing, you can also pull out a plant that goes dormant and replace it with something that is in its blooming season. Changing plants can be like moving furniture and provide a whole new fresh look with just a few changes or like I am doing here starting over from scratch with a new look in the same old pot. I like to look for 'color echoes' in my group of plants to tie the group together. The euphorbia I am using has several colors in it that were easy to pick up in some of the other flowers like the pink in the geranium which was in with the pot bound plant, but was hidden now it will stand out and echo the pink hues that are in the euphorbia. I also like to use some contrasting colors to make things look a little more exciting though it is also fun to do a monochromatic pot, but a little more challenging. I like to have a full pot. I chose a tall purple stock for the middle, these are annuals so will eventually need to be replaced. I take a tip from P. Allen Smith (be sure to check out the great new look of his website), and plant something tall and spikey, low and fluffy and something to drape over the edge of most of my creations. Occasionally I will choose a nice specimen and plant something like Irish Moss around its base just to cover the dirt and let it shine on its own.

I fill the pot up to about 2 inches from the top with the soil and then sprinkle the Osmocote so that it will be near the root zone. If you forget this step you could add the Osmocote at the end, but don't let it sit on the leaves of the plants or it will burn the leaves. Make sure as you pot your plants that you do not let them get buried too deep in the soil. Try to keep the soil level at the same level that it is in the nursery pot. Some plants such as Azaleas will get stem rot from having wet soil to far up their stem and this will mean sudden death to the plant. You also should be careful not to fill your pot too full with soil about 1/2 to 1 inch from the rim of the pot is usually a good level, too full and the soil will wash out when you water possibly leaving tender roots exposed to drying out not to mention the dirty mess around your pot. Some people like to use a mulch such as rock, bark, or moss to hide the dirt this does look good, but depending on what you have growing in your pot you might want to use a ground cover instead. Bark can harbor insects and their eggs and I don't recommend it around plants that are prone to aphids. Rocks can get quite hot when in the sun and some plants might not appreciate that. Moss is especially great for house plants, but be sure that you can pull it back easily to check for moisture. I have a few ground cover type plants that I like because the are low growing and spread enough to cover the soil, they are: thyme (especially wooly thyme and lime thyme), Irish Moss and Scotch Moss give a nice soft look on something that will need to be watered often. We sell a lime green colored veronica that is great to use for plants in full sun that don't like much water. The lime green color really pops colors like hot pink and purple. I could go on and on, but that could be quite boring so I will show a few pictures of pots that I have put together and some that other people have put together. The little Azalea Tree has been paired with some dwarf Cuphea and a lime green Bacopa. Another good mix with Bacopa for draping plant is cyclamen. This is actually in a hanging basket, but would look just as stunning in a pot with just those 2 plants and nothing more.

Bulbs are very fun to mix in with Spring annuals at this time of year. Here is a hanging pot with Paperwhites and English Daisies.

I have been having fun adding some edibles and herbs with flowers to pots. Here I added some Escarole and violas in a cute little basket. Makes a great little gift with many uses! To the left is a picture of a Redbor Kale which I have used in pots and the flower garden. The dark foliage is fun for setting off other plants and it is also edible. I love the curly leaves.

Another nice accent plant is the Diamond Frost Euphorbia which despite its name is very frost tender, but here in our zone 9 area it seems to survive a mild winter in a protected area. I love the lacy look of it and the way it weaves its way through other plants looking a lot like baby's breath in a bouquet. It gets much taller in the heat and loves our summers!

I hope this information is helpful to those of you wanted to experiment with potting pots of your own. Have fun and paint with plants!

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