Gardens - Container Gardening

Expert tips on container gardening

Carol Cowan
Photography by
Joe Kim/TC Media

Learn from the pros and create gorgeous mini-gardens in pots.

Surprise factor
One of the tricks of great container design is to plant a few specimens that will strut their stuff in August and September just as everything else is starting to look a tad weary. This is where summer bulbs come into their element.

Plant bulbs (at the depth recommended on packaging) before adding any other goodies. Then wait for the oohs and aahs as the flowers emerge in mid- to late summer.

Five favourites
ORIENTAL LILIES midsummer blooms

GLADIOLUS CALLIANTHUS tall, fragrant, white flowers with chocolate brown centres; late summer blooms

PINEAPPLE LILIES (Eucomis spp.) midsummer blooms

THREE-LEAFED CLOVER (Oxalis regnellii has green foliage, while O. triangularis has dark purple) won't stop blooming until first frost

SPIDER LILIES (Hymenocallis cvs.) with their insect-like white flowers; midsummer blooms

Paul's maintenance
1. Never use topsoil or garden soil in containers. In general, all planting mixes should be porous and free-draining. Potting soil is your best bet.

2. Place a piece of screening over the drainage hole(s) on the inside of pots to keep out insects such as earwigs and slugs.

3. If you're a forgetful waterer, add a coir-based product such as SoilSponge to hold in moisture and extend the time between waterings. This particularly applies to containers exposed to hot, direct sunlight and those placed in windy locations.

4. Because containers need frequent watering, which leaches nutrients from the root zone, regular fertilizing-preferably with an all-purpose, water-soluble product-is necessary. Follow manufacturer's directions, as more is not necessarily better. If you plant herbs and vegetables along with flowers and foliage plants, use an organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion.

5. Deadhead all flowering plants on a regular basis to promote additional blooms; pinch back foliage plants to encourage bushier, more compact growth.

6. Check containers daily-twice daily during extreme periods of heat. Water thoroughly, but only when soil feels dry to the touch two to three centimetres below the surface. It's best to water in the morning.

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