By The Good Earth Garden Center | Photography by Jeremy Smith
From your neighbors’ pots last year to that often-gazed upon five-year-old article featuring the most amazing, lush planters, spring inspiration is all around!
But when you get to the garden center, your carefully laid out plan flies out the window because there are so many options! How do you choose which plants to get? Why do some pots grow together well and turn out looking professionally done, and others… well, don’t? The professionals from The Good Earth Garden Center have these helpful tips.
Step 1 Put a small amount of drainage rock in the bottom of the planter and fill the planter most of the way up with good potting mix. Then mix in the appropriate amount of Good Earth brand Jump Start – containing mycorrhizae – to give the roots a (you guessed it!) jump start.
Step 2 Choose a plant that has height to add vertical drama. This is known as “the thriller.” For containers viewed from all angles, place the thriller in the middle. If there is only one viewing angle, place the thriller in the back.
Step 3 Add filler plants. These are rounded or mounded plants that are placed around or in front of the thriller. Place them mid-way between the thriller and the planter edges.
Step 4 Add the spillers next. Plant the spillers around the edges of the container. Plant them all around if the container will be viewed from all sides or plant them only in the front if the viewing point is only from the front.
Step 5 Water the plant, and make sure you have some fertilizer on hand. Feeding your newly- planted container is key; use time release fertilizer at planting then supplement through the season with BR-61, a water-soluble fertilizer.
Small to medium thriller options include annuals such as salvia, angelonia, celosia, coleus, dracaena spikes, big or whopper begonias, compact tropical plants and smaller ornamental grasses. Medium to large thriller options include tropicals such as hibiscus, mandevilla, elephant ears, palms, as well as many larger-growing perennials, shrubs, and small trees.
Filler plants depend somewhat on the thriller choice; choose plants that will remain shorter than the thriller. Generally speaking, these are annuals or perennials such as diamond frost euphorbia, petunias, smaller coleus, begonias, cuphea, foliage accents, New Guinea impatiens, small tropical ferns, lantanas, vinca, geraniums and gerbera daisy.
There are many great spiller options including annuals such as fan flower, bopa, million bells, wave petunias, sweet potato vines, trailing vinca, verbena, silver falls dichondra, wire vine, torenia, and perennial groundcovers such as creeping Jenny and various ivy plants.
The Nitty Gritty on
• When picking out a planter, make sure it has a drainage hole or drill one if necessary.
• Keep finished soil level ½ to 1” below the lip of the pot; this will give water a place to rest while it soaks in.
• Choose plants with similar water needs.
• Check the planter often and water accordingly. Consider buying a moisture meter if you are uncertain; at $10, they are well worth the small investment.
• Take finding a plant sitter off your vacation list by modifying your current irrigation system to accommodate your pots. (Yes, that is a thing, and The Good Earth has a specialist for that!)
Choosing the Right
• If you get mostly morning sun, choose shade to part-sun plants. If you get afternoon sun, choose sun to part-sun plants. Keep in mind that full sun plants need at least six hours of sun. Make sure you get plants with the same sun needs.
• A good combination planter has texture and color contrast.
• Don’t be afraid to use shrubs, ornamental grasses, perennials or even small trees in containers.
Use Good Earth brand Professional Growing Mix. It has pH balancers and Actino-Iron root protection. The Good Earth grows all its own perennials in this mix and has for many years.
• Fertilization is key. Think about all the watering you will be doing all season. Nutrients will quickly leach out of the soil and replenishment won’t happen naturally. Use Ferti-Lome Premium Bedding Plant Food at planting then feed with water-soluble
BR-61 every 14 days. It’s like steroids for your blooming plants! For non-blooming plants such as ferns, use John’s Recipe or Ferti-Lome Start-N-Gro.
• Petunias getting leggy? Million bells look more like hundred bells? Trim thinning, leggy annuals back in July; make sure to water and fertilize as recommended and watch them re-flush.
• Watch for insect damage. It may not be obvious, but puny plants may have aphids or spider mites. These pests aren’t hard to control once they have been identified; bring a sample in to The Good Earth, and they can guide you from there.