Tips you don’t want to take for planted.

Let’s face it. After years of planting, we tend to get stuck in the same routine. It’s never a bad thing — when we find something that looks great, we use it. But down the road, the same look can diminish our excitement, and then it’s back to the drawing board. So when you’re looking to decorate your garden this year, why not spruce it up with something a bit patriotic using some red, white, and blue blooms?

Pick Your Pot

If you’re not very strong, you don’t want something heavy you have to lug around. This pot I used for the demonstration is lightweight and made of terracotta plastic. 

Soil Savers

Put a little gravel in the bottom so you don’t have to spend so much money on potting mix. Really anything that doesn’t decay, like empty plastic water bottles, would work. 

Potting Mix

You can use a mix with fertilizer, or you can stimulate the roots after planting with a water soluble fertilizer about a week or two later. Osmocote is a great fertilizer that lasts about four months. Another product is Soil Moist, which is a polymer that keeps the soil moist while you’re gone for a long weekend.

Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

With multiple flowers in your pot, make sure they’re all tolerant of the same sun or shade. For design, use a simple method known as “thrillers, fillers, and spillers.” This red canna lily, our thriller, produces beautiful flowers with height, and the sunpatiens, our filler, spread out and bloom as the lilies bloom. Then, the blue bacopas, our spiller, will hang over the edges, making the arrangement of red, white, and blue!

Getting Your Hands Dirty

This is the fun part — playing in the dirt! First, put your thriller into the center. For really root-bound plants, use a pair of scissors to loosen the roots apart. When planting, you don’t want to put your plants in too deep, but you do want to press down to give them some stability. To fill it all in, surround the center plant by alternating your fillers and spillers. Remember, the pot will fill as the plants grow, so don’t plant too much in the beginning.

Staying Grounded

Give your plants some water in their new home. If you’re using root stimulator, this is when you would mix a few tablespoons (depending on the brand) with a gallon of water and then water your pot until it leaks from the bottom. Plants in the direct sun may need watering about twice a week, while plants on your covered deck may only need to be watered once a week. Feel whether the first few inches of soil on top are dry, and for larger pots, make sure water isn’t sitting at the bottom, which can cause root rot. 

Joan Penno