Potted plants make such a big difference to the entrance of your home. Ahhh…
If you’ve been by a Sunrise Montessori school, then you’ve seen the flowers. They are welcoming, make your home or building more attractive, fill people with joy, and are relaxing by bringing nature closer to our everyday lives. About 7 years ago I decided that I needed to learn how to plant flowers and other types of colorful plants to make Sunrise prettier. I had ZERO experience. After much trial and error, I have humbly figured out enough to share some tips.
You may have heard that it’s EARTH WEEK and this weekend is GORGEOUS. The PERFECT time to get outdoors and plant some flowers. (I’ve been asked more than a few times to do a blog on gardening, so here we go!)
This blog will only focus on planting flowers in pots. I will do a blog next week on how to plant in the ground.
I have FANTASTIC resource links at the bottom of this blog, so please take advantage of them. The first is a short video that shows you step by step and the others offer slides, pictures and helpful tips.
Step #1: Decide WHERE you are going to put your pot or hanging basket
- On the porch? These pots will be likely medium to small in size, depending on your plan and porch size.
- Under a tree? You’ll need a large pot since it’ll be farther away and on the ground.
- Hanging under the eaves or on a tree branch? You’ll need to buy a metal hanging plant with a hook and also a liner (look for a liner with a plastic lining and burlap-type fabric on the outside, like what we use at Sunrise).
Step #2: Select your POT…What kind of pot should you buy? Width, height, color?
- The kind with holes in the bottom (you’d be surprised how often they don’t).
- Do NOT buy the terracota ones that look like dried orange clay. They are the cheapest, but are porous and dry out fast in the Texas heat.
- I don’t like plastic, but for the beginner, it’s a great choice. They are cheaper and help to keep your plants moister. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE HOLES IN THE BOTTOM. Most don’t. I have used a drill to create a few holes in the bottom when this happens.
- Go with pots that will CONTRAST with the plants you want to put in them and HIGHLIGHT their beauty, are WIDE enough to plant all the flowers you want to put in them, and TALL or SHORT enough to go with your overall design. You’re going for visual texture…layers of color, different heights, varied shapes. Put a smaller, shorter pot in front of a taller medium pot, for example. Or you can buy three that are exactly the same, just different sizes if you don’t want them to look too busy.
- So what color pots then? I have found that the royal blue pots go well with pretty much every color flowering plant (other than plants that are completely green, like ferns). Yellow pots go great with pink and orange flowers. Orange pots go well with red and yellow flowers. Rule of thumb: The pot is NOT the focus. The flowers are! So think of the pot as a way to make the flowers more attractive to look at. As Coco Chanel once said, dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman. Your pot makes the flowers either beautifully memorable or hum drum boring.
- Special Note! If you buy a pot because the POT is the FOCUS, not the plant, then I recommend you only do one plant in the pot. See picture below.
Step #3: Select your “Filler, Spiller and Thriller” flower arrangement
The magic behind focal-point planters is the inclusion of three key plant proportions in your pot. Great designs include a “thriller,” a tall plant usually with a strong statement of form and color, “filler,” plants that fill the space hiding the soil and “spiller” that weeps over the edge of the pot. The result is a three-dimensional arrangement that looks opulent, mature and permanent. (Source #3) If you look at the picture below of a wine barrel plant from last year at Sunrise West, the Thriller plant is the tall pink one in the back, the spillers are the small pink flowering plants on the sides that haven’t grown enough yet to “weep” or spill over the sides and the filler is everything else. Notice that I added a little clay man. Your pots can have things other than plants in them for fun!
Flowers and plants that do well in pots in SHADED or SEMI-SHADED areas:
- Potato vine
- Hydrangea (this one is shade only and constant moisture)
- New Guinea Impatiens
Flowers and plants that do well in pots in SUNNIER areas from June to September:
- Zinnias (FULL SUN at least 4 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Marigold (FULL SUN at least 4 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Phlox (FULL SUN at least 4 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Penta (FULL SUN at least 4 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Snapdragon (FULL SUN no more than 2 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Calibrachoa (FULL SUN no more than 2 hours a day + any other kind of sun)
- Pansy (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Petunia (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Dahlia (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Geranium (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Impatiens (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Begonia (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
- Caladium (MORNING SUN or partial, diffused sun)
*This is from MY experience. There is an art and a science to flowers. Please feel free to experiment!
…And don’t forget the potting soil! I prefer this one from Round Rock Gardens, which is their least expensive potting soil:
Step #4: Where to buy supplies?
- Round Rock Gardens off Sam Bass Road/I-35. If you want the BEST potting soil, BEST selection of pots, flower options that you can’t find at big box stores, and people who can give ADVICE on everything they sell, this is the gardening center for you! They are more expensive, so I don’t buy everything I need there. I do go there for nicer pots, soil, and unique hard-to-find flowers or colors.
- Lowe’s, Home Depot, HEB and Costco. There are pros and cons to each location. Everything is cheaper than a local nursery, but the selection and/or quality aren’t as high.
Step #5: Okay, you’re ALL IN! What do you need to plant some flowers for your porch?
- Potting soil (do NOT buy Miracle Gro). Go with the biggest bag of regular organic potting soil.
- Pick your “Thriller” or tall plant, your “Filler” or shorter plant and “Spiller” or draping, overflowing plant for each medium pot. If you have a small pot, pick one.
- Don’t buy the pots until you have the flowers you want in the cart and match the pots to your flowers. If you already have pots at home, take a picture of them to refer to as you shop.
- Once you get home, get all your supplies and a hose and set yourself up under a tree. That way, when you spill dirt, it won’t be noticeable when you’re finished.
- Water your plants that you bought. They usually are dry.
- Put some potting soil in the bottom of your pot so that it’s about 1 inch deep. If it’s a large pot, put some rocks or broken pottery down first to help it drain (see links below) and add a few inches of soil. Water the soil and then mix it up with your hands a little bit so it’s all moist. Then add some soil to all the side and spray it a little so it’s moist.
- Take your plant out of its container by turning it UPSIDE DOWN while you hold it on your palm between your fingers so that it slides out onto your hand. NEVER pull it out by yanking on the plant itself.
- Loosen up the roots at the bottom and sides of the plant (see links below), then put it in.
- Add soil to keep it in place and spray it a little before covering it with more dirt, especially if you have other plants to add to the pot. It helps the dirt to stay in place.
- Don’t forget to leave at least one inch of space between the top lip of the pot and your dirt! Otherwise every time you water, the dirt and water will spill out. It also helps the water to evenly distribute when you fill it up with water and you know how much to water (to the brim!).
- Once all your plants are in the pot and covered with dirt, water LIBERALLY. Check the soil as you water for areas that have fallen down a bit and add more soil as necessary. Water again. Let it drain for a few minutes before picking it up and moving it to your porch. Then lightly spray the sides of the pots with the hose to rinse the dirt off of the pots.
- Water EVERY OTHER DAY. Here’s how you know to water: Stick your dry index finger down the SIDE of the pot into the dirt. If you don’t feel any moisture on the tip of your finger by the time the dirt is at your knuckle, you need to water. You really cannot overwater a pot because they drain. And newly potted plants have roots that are exposed and need to stay moist to continue growing. The first two weeks are critical, so water, water, water. If the temperature is above 90 degrees every day, you may need to water daily (especially the hanging ones…those dry out the quickest). Check your plants to see what they need.
- Don’t worry about fertilizing. Fertilizing potted plants is really easy to mess up, so wait until you have a season of experience and go light on it.
- To encourage more blooms, remove the dead or dying flowers as you water (this is called “deadheading”).
- To clean your hands, put your hose on “stream” and run it under your fingernails. Then wash inside with soap. You can also wear gloves, but I do not because it’s harder to “feel” as you go and I’ve accidentally broken off more stems than I care to admit. But if you get your nails done professionally, wear gloves.
And wa-lah! You have a beautiful, welcoming home for everyone to enjoy! Welcome to the Green Thumb Club!
BONUS to planting flowers…It’s something most don’t do (so yours will stand out all the more) AND it’s art. I am not a creative person by nature. I used to teach math, if you get my drift. But creating flowering pots? A home that greets you with flowers hanging in the trees, bursting out of the beds along the walkway? It’s like I’m painting a landscape. Once you get a taste for it, you’ll be hooked and a new hobby will be born.
Next week….how to plant flowers and colorful plants in the ground around your house!
Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!