Lately it’s all hot sun, popsicles, and cut-off shorts around here. Summer-time has arrived, time to sit out on the patio or deck, sipping tasty libations and grilling. Today I want to share a fun container that you can plant to enjoy during said patio time.
Step #1- Pick Your Plants
I chose the above plants, because I thought they would do well in a sunny location, and because they prefer to run dry between watering. Keep in mind that in smaller pots, the soil will dry out more quickly. There are so many annuals out there for sun and shade, just be sure to pick plants that have similar growing requirements.
Look for a variety of form, texture and color. It’s nice to have some trailing plants as well as plants that have the height and heft to fill your pot. I chose the Zinnia and the Lantana for similar reasons. They both have show-stopping brightly colored blooms and they will continue to flower all the way into the fall.
I fell a little in love with this double-petaled variety of Sanvitalia which trails beautifully. Another lovely trailer is the heart-leaved Sweet Potato Vine. I also planted a Spider Plant, the easy-care houseplant we all know and love. A lot of houseplants can be brought outside for the summer, in a protected location. However, if you introduce it to the sun gradually, you can use Spider Plant in a sunny planter.
Step #2- Pick your Pot
I’ve put picking out a pot as step 2 here, but as I said above the size of pot you pick, will affect which plants you choose. Larger pots retain water better. The most important thing is that your pot have adequate drainage holes. So whether you’re using a traditional ceramic pot or a grandma-style boot or an old washing machine…just make sure your vessel of choice has good drainage.
Step #3- Cover the Drainage Hole
Counter -intuitive? Yes, a bit. But you don’t want all your beautiful soil to wash out. So use an old bit of screen, or a broken piece of terra-cotta. Something that will allow the water to flow out, but keep the soil in.
Step #4- Soil
Fill your pot 3/4 of the way full with a good quality potting soil. Avoid peat-moss where possible. The City of Seattle puts out an excellent potting soil under the Cedar Grove label made from recycled waste, that’s been tested for heavy metals etc. Basically, you want something black and rich without any added synthetic chemicals. Look for potting soil with natural amendments like seaweed.
Step #5-Place your Plants
Starting with the tallest plant, place your plants in the pot, leaving the roots intact for now. Just to eyeball it and see what looks good. When you’re ready….
Step #6- Plant!
Breaking up the roots as you go, place your plants for real this time. Click here for a tutorial on breaking up the roots of your plants as you pot.
Step #7- Fill In & Fertilize
Add soil to the top and work it in. While you’re at it, add an organic fertilizer. (There will be a post about this at some point but briefly, plants need trace elements and minerals that a synthetic fertilizer doesn’t provide). The three numbers on the front of the fertilizer stand for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Roughly, “Leafs, Buds and Roots” (Here’s a good explanation from BHG). Use either one with even numbers or a high middle number to encourage bloom. I’ll often just use my standard even-numbered fertilizer and then water with a bloom-boosting liquid seaweed fertilizer through the summer.
Step # 8- Water!
Now that you’ve thoroughly disturbed your plants’ root systems, help them out with a long healthy drink. As the summer progresses, check your pot in the mornings before heading to work. Plunge your hand in and if it is dry below the initial layer of soil, give it a good soaking. In 80 degree weather, this might be everyday. If temperatures drop, could be more like once a week. Keep in mind, that for container plants, rain does not work as watering. Keep checking your pot, whether it rains or not. Over time, you’ll get a feel for it.
Finally, kick back and appreciate all those beautiful blooms. I know I will. Did I mention that patio pots go great with cocktails? Enjoy!