Snip, Snip Here & Snip, Snip There: Mid-Season Container Taming Tips …

Pots Filled with Vibrant Annual, Tropical & Tender Perennial Plants Accent the South-Facing Stone Terrace. The Sun & Moon Urn is a Long-Time Garden Favorite I picked up in Mexico. Empty Pots Make Great Accents Between Lush Plantings.

Having recently completed a whirl-wind maintenance tour of the Wildflower Walk and Secret Garden, my critical gaze took note of some annual containers in need of deadheading on the stone terrace, and tiny little weeds popping up between the decorative stone mulch in my succulent pots out on the steel balcony. By mid-season many containers and hanging baskets in the garden begin to look a little worse-for-the-wear. A phrase used by my friend Daisy earlier this year —at Walker Farm’s container garden seminar— immediately sprang to mind: “You control your plant, your plant doesn’t control you”. Well, then! Out come the garden scissors, fertilizer, and work tote. It’s time to bring those annuals back in line with their containers!

Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Tops the Terrace Dining Table

Although I don’t have hanging baskets in my garden this year, I do have cascading Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ spilling from a table-topping pot on my front terrace. Much like a hanging basket, this tightly planted container requires weekly fertilizing, pruning and daily watering to look its best. By mid-summer, dense root systems in pots and baskets can create an impenetrable, water-resistant web. When root-bound, container plants can remain parched while water pours over the top of the plant and down the sides. How to solve this problem?  I picked up another handy tip from Daisy at Walker Farm this spring: use a wooden dowel to punch holes through the root systems of annual baskets. Simply push the dowel in the dense tangle of roots and wiggle it a bit. Do this in several places between plants and water will find access to the center of tangled root ball. Thanks, Daisy!

Succulents, Tropical Plants and Ornamental Grasses fill Containers on the Steel Balcony Above the Secret Garden

Overall, the succulent containers on my steel deck need little attention, save occasional dead-heading. Still, air-born weed seeds do manage to lodge themselves between the stone mulch and must be gingerly removed to keep things looking tidy. I avoid fertilizing indoor-outdoor succulent pots in order to keep their growth in check. And pots filled with colorful companion plants, such as the Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’) often need a bit of pruning to keep them in balance with their neighbors. The ornamental grass pictured above, Carex comens ‘Frosted Curls —and many of the other non-succulent plants on this hot steel deck– seems content with little more than good quality potting soil, daily watering and weekly fertilizing.

Regularly Watering, Fertilizing, Cutting Back Foliage and Deadheading Spent Blossoms Keeps Container Plants Looking Their Best. I Fertilize Potted Plants Weekly and Water Daily (looks like I missed a few brown leaves there on the right, didn’t I?).

Some containerized annuals and perennials, like the Angelonia angustifolia and Lysmachia nummularia pictured above, need occasional deadheading or leaf pruning throughout the growing season. Others, such as the neighboring Verbena on the left in this vignette, need less frequent attention. All plants in this grouping were chosen for color, texture and season-spanning bloom. An added bonus? Regular pruning and deadheading promote an extended and generous display of blossoms, attracting all kinds of dinnertime guests …

A Hummingbird Moth Visits a Pot of Annual Verbena on the Terrace 

Callie Orange Makes a Pretty Centerpiece on the Weathered Cedar Table all Season Long

Monarch Butterfly Sampling Nectar from Potted Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’

Looking for more container garden maintenance and design tips? Below are a couple of my favorite resources for container gardeners at all levels. For more design ideas/care information on succulent containers, check out previous posts for ideas from Walker Farm’s spring workshop and books I love on the subject. Enjoy the beauty of annuals, tender perennials, tropicals and succulents up close, all season long with lush, healthy, well-maintained container plantings …

Container Gardening A Great Guide Book with Useful Information & Beautiful Photos from the Editors of Fine Gardening

Pots in the Garden Beautiful & Inspired Design Ideas from Ray Rogers (Timber Press Publishing)

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3 Replies to “Snip, Snip Here & Snip, Snip There: Mid-Season Container Taming Tips …”

  1. dinnie

    Hi Michaela,

    What do you use to feed your potted plants, as well as other plants in your gardens?


  2. Michaela

    Hi Dinny, For vegetable garden, I use primarily compost. I add a bit of greensand to my own compost as well. And in addition, throughout the growing season, I apply fish emulsion to some vegetable (such as onions, green vegetables, etc). The only fertilizer I use in the perennial gardens is compost. I test soil regularly and if it’s out of balance I will amend. For certain shrubs (acid loving) I will use Hollytone. Roses get Rosetone. And for container annuals, I use whatever water-soluble, slow-release, NPK (pelletized) fertilizer I find on sale. The key is to be sure it is slow-release. Some gardeners with soft water prefer a more acidic fertilizer. ;) M

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