Tried-and-true tips for planting flower pots organically will ensure that your containers look great all season long.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gilmour. All opinions are 100% mine.
Do you spend money and time in the spring planting flowers in pots, hanging baskets, or containers only to have them looking yellowed, limp, and sad by mid-season? This used to be me and I was about ready to give up on growing beautiful planters because I didn't have the time to water twice a day in the heat of the summer (and lets be honest - I didn't want to, even if I DID have the time!) or remember to fertilize weekly, monthly, or whatever schedule I read about and I didn't want to resort to using chemicals.
But then I learned, through trial-and-error as well as exploring solutions, that there are a few tips and tricks you can use to grow flowers in containers that really do look good all season with simple basic care and maintenance. It starts in the beginning, when you're first planting your containers, and if you set the right stage your plants will have a foundation that will take them through the hot season with much better success.
Planting flower pots that look good all season starts in the beginning, so you'll not only find the planting tips promised, but also a complete tutorial for how to plant containers - the exact steps I now take every year that help me avoid mid-season dried-out-sad-looking containers.
How to Plant Containers with 7 Tips for Planting Flower Pots Organically
Tip 1: Gather the right supplies.
- Choose healthy-looking plants in complementary colors and three basic "shapes" - tall/upright, mid-level/spreading, and trailing (in the example above yellow zinnias = tall, purple & white verbena = medium/full, and pink & purple calibrachoa & alyssum = trailing)
- Use large flower pots (12" diameter and up, the larger the better)
- Good potting soil (though you can reuse soil by amending it - we'll discuss this more)
- Gloves & trowel
- Water absorbing crystals, either commercial or from a diaper (more on this below) Update: I now do not recommend using diaper material, since my experience after planting was not good and it didn't help hold water as well as the crystals.
- Multi-position watering sprayer so your tender new plants don't get beat down from the hoses regular spray.
- Good quality hose from your local home improvement store, like the Gilmour Flexogen hose, the only 8-layer hose in the market with a one-of-a-kind patented construction to make it the longest-lasting, most durable hose in its class which has been made in the USA for over 40 years and is backed by a lifetime warranty!
Bonus tip: after gardening for years on a budget, I have run through my share of cheap hoses that last a season - because we just aren't the people who are going to bring in our hoses every winter - and I've learned that it actually saves money to pay a bit more for a hose and NOT have to replace it every year or two (yes, it takes me awhile to catch on...)
Tip 2: Prep containers & soil.
If you're starting brand new pots, you won't need to worry about this, but every year after your pots will look a little worse-for-wear after the winter, like mine pictured above.
Note: I don't ever have the time, space, or inclination to take pots inside and I've lost a number of ceramic and clay pots over the years, so now I only use lightweight, unbreakable pots which tend to lose their paint after awhile, whether original or paint I've added.
- Clean your pots.
- Paint pots as needed. To refresh fiberglass/nonbreakable pots each year (or change their color completely) use a basic indoor-outdoor spray paint for whole pots (I find satin is best - flat is a bit harder to clean) and just touch up the rim with a foam brush and regular indoor-outdoor paint as needed.
- Trim any plants that overwintered and you want to keep or replant.
- Renew old potting soil by dumping it all in a large bin and mixing it with compost. I do this every year and only have to buy new potting soil occasionally - it works great!
Tip 3: Water your plants well before planting.
This is actually one of the biggest keys to transplanting flowers - or any plant - that will help guarantee that they will do well: make sure the roots are completely soaked using a gentle spray selection on your garden sprayer.
Tip 4: Add slow-release organic fertilizer and water-absorbing crystals to the pots.
This is my biggest tip! It literally changed my flower-container-life. If you do nothing else, after filling your pot 3/4 full of soil make sure to add these two things before planting your flowers:
- Choose a slow-release organic fertilizer like this one with a good ratio of nitrogen (promotes green growth) and phosphorus (promotes flowering) - those labeled "all-purpose" are fine. There's a lot more options than there used to be, so many home center nursery departments carry organic options.
- Add commercial water-aborbing crystals (here or at any local nursery department)
or use the lining from a new (!) diaper - wet it, cut the lining and scoop out the fibery-crystals.No- like I noted above, this didn't work well for me! I have friends that swear by the ease of the diapers, but personally I found that the crystals are much easier to use. You only need about 1/2-1 tsp. per pot (too much and they will absorb so much in wet weather that your plants may pop out!) and so a $10 1-lb container lasts 3-4 years for the 12 pots I have.
Tip 5: Space plants according to your planter and massage the roots.
- Arrange your plants depending on the type of pot - pictured above is the plant spacing for a hanging planter that will be seen from all sides: a large, main plant for the center (I love calibrachoas for this - they don't get as gangly as regular petunias) and then 6 smaller trailing/filler plants around the outside (pictured are 3 Creeping Jenny divisions that wintered over, 2 trailing verbena, and 1 alyssum).
- Once you have your spacing set, remove the plants and start planting with the center flower. For each plant, gently unpot it by turning upside-down and before setting in place, massage the roots a bit to break them up. This is important, especially for any plants that are root-bound, as it helps the roots start to grow into the soil. If you've ever pulled a sad plant out at mid-season to see that the root-ball is the same as when you planted it, you know what I'm talking about.
- Fill in all around the plants with potting soil, pressing down well to remove air pockets.
Tips 6: Leave a 1-2" space between the soil and top of the pot and water well.
- This space will make it much easier to water your pots throughout the season - the water will have a place to gather as it soaks in instead of running immediately off the sides (which will also cause the soil to spill over, making a dirty mess...)
- Use your gentle sprayer to water the planted pot thoroughly.
In the photos above are examples of plant spacing for regular pots, using the "thriller (tall plant), filler (medium/full plant), and spiller (trailing)" container formula:
- Use 3 plants in 12"-14" pots (one each tall, medium, and trailing), planting as described above.
- Use 5-7 plants in larger pots (2 tall, 1-3 medium, 2-3 trailing).
Note: the bottom picture is last year's planters taken in August, to give you an idea of how well pots do planted with these tips! In case you're wondering, the scheme for these pots were: tall thriller = Victoria Salvia, med. filler = geranium & petunia, and trailing spillers = ivy geranium, and mystery pink plant.
Tip 7: Easily maintain your containers by:
- Watering - every couple of days in cooler weather (check pots for dryness), once a day when it's hot. The crystals make it so you do not have to water twice a day. Bonus tip: if you live in extremely hot areas, give your pots a once-every-couple-weeks 'kiddie pool soak' - set them in a kiddie pool, fill it with water and let them soak it up for a day (this is also a great vacation watering tip!)
- Deadheading spent flowers once a week or so (if things are looking lanky mid-season for plants like petunias, cut them back - they'll look a bit sad for a week or so, but will bounce back and look better than before).
- Fertilizing once more mid-season - use liquid fish emulsion when watering or apply more slow-release fertilizer on the soil and scratch in a bit before watering well (though to be honest, I rarely remember to do this!).
So there you have it - a planting tutorial and my 7 tried-and-true tips for planting flower pots organically so they thrive all season!
Do you have any tips to add?
Disclosure: I received product and/or compensation for this post. As always, the opinions, thoughts, and projects are all mine and I will NEVER promote something I don't love and think you will find helpful - promise! This post also contains affiliate links and by clicking on them you help support AOC at no extra cost to you! For more info, you can read ourentire disclosure page here.