Want to turn your planter into a container garden work of art like these?
What you’re seeing are exquisite, long-lived plants that complement the aesthetics of the container materials. It’s easy – make sure you plant your container garden right the first time. We can show you how.
Step 1. Choosing the Right Garden Pot Material
The pots and planters you select for your garden depends on where it will be used, whether it will be exposed to the elements, and if it will need to be moved frequently. Design considerations such as colour, texture, and the rest of the architectural elements are also important.
According to BBC ‘Gardener of the Decade’, Katherine Crouch, “a good pot is a good investment.” So, choose quality pots that complement your theme.
Watch the video below as we review:
- Stone: Granite and Slate
- Lightweight: Fibreglass and Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC)
These planters are made of natural stone, which tend to be very expensive and heavy. But, they have a natural beauty, giving them a load of character.
Unlike wood or plastic, stone planters are strong and durable. They won’t rot or become brittle over time. Because they’re made of heavy material, they’re less likely to blow over in the wind or get knocked down by children or pets.
Many stone planters come in large sizes. These are strong enough that large roots won’t break the pot. The thickness of these planters also help protect the soil from temperature fluctuations.
Types of Stone Planters:
Tough, strong, and durable. Granite Planters are the densest and most impact-resistant of all. They’re ideal for displays and planting areas in public environments. Even if you leave them in areas with a lot of traffic, nobody will be able to take them.
The beautiful natural stone of slate planters is the finishing touch to any landscape environment. They’re durable and heavy, so they can withstand wear and tear of commercial use.
Slate is a natural stone made of sedimentary layers, the soft colours of the slate planters make them fun to plant and design with, as they match a wide palette of plants.
Stone planters are recognized for being durable, but they can be very difficult to move around. If you are designing a space, which requires the regular moving of planters, lightweight planters are the perfect alternatives.
Lightweight planters are not necessarily delicate. They can still protect your plants from harsh weather conditions, and they look just as elegant as your stone planters.
They are made from materials such as glass reinforced plastic, or a combination of fibreglass and cement. These pots are suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.
Types of Lightweight Planters:
These GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) planters are durable, but extremely lightweight. They’re ideal for situations where the planters would have to be moved, but not suitable for use as heavy physical barriers.
Lightweight Concrete Planters
Cement-based composite material that is internally reinforced with natural plant fibres. Well-suited for patio and poolside use, lightweight concrete planters can be easily moved for a party or gathering.
Terrazzo is a physically strong material that stands up to heavy use. However, weather conditions may cause them to fade and dry, so don’t leave them outside unprotected. Sealers are often used to prevent stains and fading.
Consisting of a variety of materials, most terrazzo pots are now polished and sealed to create a smooth finish. They usually come in a black or white finish, which goes with all colour schemes.
Ash Lennon of M. Lennon Pots and Planters, one of the leading suppliers of export-quality garden pots, has this to share:
Terrazzo, which is basically concrete with pebble ground back to leave a speckled finish is in fashion. It’s everywhere – bench tops, pavers it’s a clean cut gloss look everyone likes. They have straight edges, straight lines. They match so much with the contemporary style of housing these days.
Glazed pots are available in a wide variety of colours, patterns and sizes. Because of their low porosity, these planters have excellent water retention. It can also provide good insulation for the protection of root systems.
For Ash Lennon, glazed pots will make any garden sparkle. More so, the colours and patterns for these containers are limitless – blue, green, black, white, cream and reds.
He also adds…
To make a glaze pot we mix water and powdery chemical together, tip in on an uncooked pot and cook in a kiln to 1200 degrees. In the kiln, the chemicals react to leave a bright shiny glaze embedded into the clay.
Step 2. Select Plants for Container Gardening
When selecting plants for your planters, there are a number of factors to consider:
- Where will the container be sited?
- What is the function of the container?
- How much maintenance will the planters get?
- Is there a drip irrigation system or will the plants have to be hand-watered?
- Are there a lot of people around the area where you’re specifying the pots?
- Will someone be changing the container plantings for the seasons, or should they be planted to last the entire year?
Design and Colour in Plant Selection
Make the plants “talk to each other.”
Follow this trick and you’ll be able to create container gardens that look like they were designed by a professional.
Planters are great places to try new plants and interesting colour combinations. Select a group of plants in which each plant has at least one colour in its leaves or flowers from another plant in the grouping.
The overall effect is much more harmonious:
Gardening expert Matt Biggs, from Gardeners World UK, shares how it’s essential to put the right plant in the right place to get the combination right, and achieve harmony.
It’s no good planting a shade lover next to a sun worshiper, or adding a plant that overpowers the rest. To look right, a pot should be about 1/3 of the height of the tallest plants.
Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers
For BBC ‘Gardener of the Decade’, Katherine Crouch, every mixed container needs a thriller, a filler and a spiller.
For color combinations, use two or three closely associated colors from one side of the color wheel, and a small amount of complementary color from the other side.
For instance, you can have a pot with a thriller red/brown cordyline, three fillers of deep purple (one) and flame red (two) osteospermums and a spiller of lime green helichrysum.
Container gardens need these three types of plants. Thrillers are the stand-out plants – bright, big flowers, or interesting berries. You only choose one thriller. It may be a topiary or standard rose, lavender plant, or evergreen.
Plant choices for every type of container:
1. Plants for Privacy
One of the most frequent uses for pots and planters in public spaces is to create outdoor rooms, screened by plants. If you’re looking for plants to create privacy, here are some good choices:
- Pittosporum ‘Golden Sheen’
- White abelia
- Teucrium fruticans
- Conifer smaragd
- Viburnum tinus
2. Plants for Ornamental Value
Some are more interesting and better-suited to containers than others. Here are some hardy plants that look lovely in garden planters:
- Ornamental grasses
- Salvia and sages
- Shrub roses and rose standards
3. Drought-Tolerant Plants
If there’s no drip irrigation where the containers will be situated, you’ll need to specify drought-tolerant plants for the pots. It doesn’t mean they need no water at all, but they’ll survive more readily with sporadic watering.
Plant Selection Ideas for Interiorscaping
Interiorscaping not only improves the appearance of an interior space by adding plants. It can also improve the indoor air quality, design, and mood.
When choosing plants, take note of the following:
Consider Light. A pretty plant placed in an area with too much or not enough light will decline rapidly. Before specifying plants for interior containers, consult with the architects to learn the light conditions.
Chris Beardshaw is an award-winning British gardener, shares that high traffic areas and those adjacent to main pathways and terraces should allow sufficient light for easy access.
Consider the features you have already, and how you could use these to enhance the garden when lit – specimen plants, elegant planters and water features should all be enlivened when individually spotlighted.
Water Needs. Will someone water and groom the plants on a routine basis? Some plants need less maintenance than others.
Based on Location. Some plants provide a strong vertical accent, while others are trailing and well-suited for overhangs. Palms are ideal for adding height to interior gardens.
Selecting Plants for Public Spaces
Many IOTA planters are placed in public spaces to add a touch of class, divide space, or provide scale to large public areas.
There are two primary considerations when selecting plants for containers in public spaces: safety and maintenance.
1. Plants to Avoid: Safety Risks
Agaves: These majestic plants look great in any containers. However, unless you clip the large thorns off the ends of these plants, they pose a danger to pedestrians at eye-level.
Castor bean: These large herbaceous perennials are highly poisonous. Instead of the castor bean, try planting a hardy banana instead. They have similarly large leaves, and reddish coloring.
Oleander: Another poisonous plant, oleander should only be used in areas that see little foot traffic. Dwarf oleander would be well-suited to planters situated on rooftops or large walls, where people can’t get to their leaves and twigs.
Euphorbias: Some euphorbias are spiny, but all have poisonous milky sap. If someone who isn’t wearing gloves breaks off a piece of the plants and the sap gets on their skin, they can instantly develop a rash.
2. Plants to Avoid: Mess
Fruit trees: These include ornamental fruit trees that do produce fruit. While they’re lovely and produce a nice crop to harvest, they’re also messy for public spaces.
Lilly Pilly: Although very hardy, the Lilly Pilly does produce fruits that can become messy and slippery when dropped on walkways.
Canna Lilies: These enormous perennials have large flowers that become unsightly as they turn brown, and will drop off of the plant and stain the sidewalk.
3. Plants to Avoid: Fragility
The most fragile plant that is, unfortunately, used often in containers is the jade plant. Their leaves are easy to break off thus, it’s not recommended to use these plants where lots of young children can mess about with them.
Step 3. Let’s Plant Your Container Garden
After selecting your plants, and preparing your harmonious arrangement, it’s time to plant!
Materials needed include the following:
- Planter or container
- Potting mix (not garden soil)
- Watering can
- Slow-release fertilizer
Follow these steps to start planting:
- Make sure that with your container can facilitate good drainage. Badly drained pot water can cause problems, preventing air from circulating in the root zone, and promotes soil-borne diseases.
- Fill your plant pot with potting mix, leaving 25 cm of space from the top. It’s important to use potting mix rather than garden soil because potting mix is lightweight and has ingredients to promote water retention and drainage.
- Begin placing your plants. Some plants will have larger root balls than others, so you might be able to place one plant, then add additional soil and place other plants. Place larger plants first. It’s important that the plant stems aren’t buried in soil, because they’ll rot.
- Push the soil at the edge of the container down so that it is at least 3cm below the edge of the pot. This leaves room for water to sit and soak in when you water the plant.
- Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer into the pot. Add it around the edges and on top of the soil—don’t sprinkle it on top of the plants.
- When you’ve finished planting, water the container. Give it a good soaking and let the water run out the bottom of the container. Then, wait several days to water again.
- A good rule of thumb is to water your container garden when the soil down to the second knuckle on your index finger (if you stick your finger in the pot) is dry.
To Crock or Not to Crock?
There’s an old advice on gardening that encourage gardeners to line the bottom of their pots with a coarse layer, such as gravel, stones or old broken china – to promote good drainage.
Many people still do it, but according to scientists, crocking doesn’t help drainage at all. In fact, it can hinder it.
Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society, says a crock is actually likely to worsen drainage by creating a block. It’s better to have a layer of sand underneath soil that will allow water to drain into it and later be sucked up by roots if needed.
Associate Professor and urban horticulturist Linda Chalker-Scott, from Washington State University, states that crocking can lead to waterlogging.
The coarser the underlying material, the more difficult it is for water to move down across the interface and out through the drainage hole.
Basically it’s like having a smaller pot, and you’ll be wasting valuable pot space. You’ll just end up with crowded plants sitting in ‘too wet’ soil.
Step 4. Grow and Maintain Garden Pot Plants
Taking care of plants in containers is a bit different from maintaining traditional “in ground” gardens.
Timing of watering changes as plants grow.
When plants are small, water a couple of times a week. When plants are larger, they need more water. Remember the good rule of thumb: If the soil is dry down to your second knuckle of your index finger when you stick your finger in the soil, the container needs water.
Container gardens in public places need drip irrigation systems. It makes caring for the container garden easier, as you won’t have to check them to water them as often.
If the weather is extremely hot, one trick to keeping planters watered is to water the container until water runs out the bottom. Fill the saucer upon which the container is sitting with water so it is available during the day.
Plant your container garden with potting mix that has slow-release fertilizer in it, you won’t have to fertilize for a couple of months.
If you’re planting container gardens for a public space, adding slow-release fertilizer is a must. If you don’t use slow-release fertilizer, you’ll have to water with liquid fertilizer.
When fertilizing resist the urge to use more than the directions indicate. More is not better.
Deadheading is done to keep your plants in containers looking clean.
It means removing the deadheads, or faded flowers. Some plant stems are soft enough that you can pinch off the dead flowers with your fingers. Others require pruning shears.
For plants flowering at the top of long stems, cut the stem all the way back to the leaves at the base of the stem. Look for a leaf with a tiny swelling or bud between the leaf and the stem, and remove the flower and part of the stem by cutting back to the bud.
With the Seasons
Part of container garden care is renewing and refreshing.
Take a container from summer to winter by planting a small tree or shrub with evergreen leaves or interesting branch structure and color. Replace smaller surrounding plants with the seasons.
You can add:
Pansies for autumn, winter and spring.
Perennials for summer and winter.
Bulbs for spring.
English garden designer, Joe Swift, also adds that:
Pots are a fantastic way of adding seasonal interest and getting more plants in where you have paved areas. And don’t scrimp on the size of the pot. Two or three really big ones is a better option than five or six small ones.
He recommends planting strongly scented plants in your front garden such as Christmas box, a really tough evergreen, which you will notice as you enter or leave your front garden every day.
Keep Pests under Control
Pests will find and attack your plants whether you are in an urban or rural setting. Check under leaves and stems every now and then and look for signs of insects or their eggs.
Keep your plants strong and healthy. Water and fertilize them regularly to help them combat against pests. You may also cover the soil or place barriers around your plants so mice and squirrels can be kept at bay.
If they are not recovering from some disease or pest attack, take a practical approach and cut them off before they start damaging other plants.
Step 5. How to Grow Herbs in a Container Garden
Wait…what about Herbs?
To add to your container gardening experience, you can also grow herbs in your pots or planters. Keep them close to your kitchen to add the aroma of fresh herbs.
Follow the procedures on how to grow herbs in a container garden right from your own garden pots and planters:
Choice of Herbs. Your first reason to consider any herb has to be its taste. Grow herbs that compliment other vegetables you have planted in your garden.
Containers. Try using larger containers for herbs because the soil would absorb enough water for them to grow properly. You can also grow more herbs in one container instead of using smaller pots. Just make sure they’re compatible.
Placing your Container Garden. Consider the right location for your planter. An ideal location would be your patio, as most herbs are adapted to bear heavy sunlight.
English organic gardening expert and author, Jekka McVicar, says that when planning your garden, you can divide your plants into two sections.
Thyme, sage, rosemary, French tarragon and oregano that like full sun; and those that like partial shade, such as rocket, sorrel, mizuna, mustard, parsley and chervil.
Seeds or Seedlings. Seeds will give you a wider variety of herbs, and they are very easily accessible. Seedlings on the other hand are hassle-free as germination and transplanting will not be required.
Drainage. Make sure that your containers have large holes in the bottom to drain water properly. Herbs can rot in a lot of water.
Using Potting Mix. Potting mixes are recommended instead of regular potting soil. They have an ideal combination of balanced pH and nutrients for optimum growth of plants.
Use Special Fertilizer. For herbs, you should go for fertilizer designed for culinary herbs as you want the leaves to reach their maximum growth limit.
Whether you have a small garden, and whatever its style, there’s always room for some pots and planters. For those who only have a balcony, flat roof or windowsill, you can always rely on containers to become your garden. The process can give you just as much pleasure as any in-ground garden.
The secret is choosing the best planter to fit your needs – and your plants’. IOTA can provide you a wide selection of containers for whatever plants you plan on using for your garden.
Monty Don, UK writer and speaker on horticulture, points out that a collection of small pots, each filled with just one jewel-like flower, can be as entrancing as an avenue of huge and expensive ones.
On the other hand a large container can become the centerpiece of an entire garden and transform it simply by its presence, as well as providing an opportunity to grow something magnificent in it.
There are a wide variety of containers available in the market, you can design your garden in a way that both fits your needs and complements your unique personality. However you choose to create your container garden, make it your own.
Garden pots and planters are a wonderful addition to any room’s interior design or to an outdoor space. You can grow plants under different conditions, using the container of your choice.