Pick the Right Plant for the Right Spot

Follow these simple guidelines for an abundance of blooms.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

Use pots en masse for a burst of color. Vary the shapes of your containers, and fill them with pansies and parsley for an abundant display. This arrangement will last until summer arrives. Containers bursting with annuals and perennials put the focus where you want it. Whether they dress up the front entry, serve as the centerpiece of an outdoor dining table, or lead you toward the end of a path, pots play an important part in the landscape. So how do you plant them to help them look their best throughout the season?

CERTAIN SUCCESS
Pick the right plant for the right spot. Before you fall in love with a particular posy, use this simple Q and A guide to make smart choices.

LIGHT
Do you have sun all day long, only during the morning, or just in the afternoon?
All-day sun requires tough plants that can withstand dry soil and intense heat. Lantanas, Star Hybrid zinnias, sun coleus, ornamental grasses, and sweet potato vines are good choices for this situation. The same goes for afternoon sun, but a container that receives morning sun only tends to be more forgiving. In this situation, consider adding some petunias, New Guinea Hybrid impatiens, and trailing verbenas to the mix.

Is your container in dark shade with little sunlight?
Bring on the cool look without sacrificing color; mix annuals and foliage for spectacular combinations. Begin with impatiens in a light tone, and add caladiums for texture. A shady secret: White flowers and bright green foliage lighten up a dark spot. Use tropical houseplants such as 'Neon' pothos and striped 'Warneckii' dracaena for lime green zip in heavy shade. For a list of more great plants, see the box on page 89 of the March 2005 issue of Southern Living.

Do you have dappled light that filters through trees?
If so, try geraniums, New Guinea Hybrid impatiens, petunias, wishbone flowers ( Torenia fournieri), and Persian shields ( Strobilanthes dyeranus).

 

WATER AND FERTILIZER
Can the container be watered easily?
If your pot is not readily accessible for watering, fill it with plants that are extremely drought tolerant. Besides lantanas, Star Hybrid zinnias, sun coleus, ornamental grasses, and sweet potato vines, consider succulent hen and chicks, sedums, and yuccas.

How often are you willing to water?
This question is about time. When first planted, containers require water once every few days. As summer progresses, though, roots quickly fill the space, and the need for moisture increases to once a day. If time is short, pick drought-tolerant selections that survive with less attention. For a list of heat- and drought-tolerant plants, see "Blooms That Beat the Heat".

What is the wisest way to water?
Total saturation every other day is preferable to a quick spritz more frequently. Keep the hose going for a few moments after water comes out the pots' bottom drainage holes.

Is fertilizer important?
Containers must be fed consistently to remain happy. Use a water-soluble liquid such as 15-30-15 every other week throughout the summer. Never fertilize a dry pot; always apply plain water prior to feeding.

This article is from the March 2005 issue of Southern Living.