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Containers Add Variety to Landscape

Hanging baskets are now the most popular outdoor container, but all types are still used and can add a distinctive accent to porch, patio or sidewalk. Because pots, tubs and baskets are usually more mobile than boxes, they add flexibility to the landscape design not achieved in any other way. The arrangement may be moved for a different effect next year, or even during the same season. Even the container itself can provide interest, but it should not be so dominant that it competes with the flowers in it.

Plants in containers must thrive in a highly artificial situation. Therefore, good care is important. Regular, thorough watering is essential for plant health and flowering. Small containers dry very rapidly outdoors during hot weather. Daily waterings are usually essential, and occasionally both a morning and late afternoon watering are required. Because of these frequent waterings, fertilizers are quickly leached from the soil and must be replaced.

Plan to use a soluble houseplant fertilizer about every two weeks. Large containers that are not watered so often will not need such frequent fertilization. Special slow release fertilizers, when available, may be added to the potting soil to last longer and eliminate the need for frequent fertilization. Special slow release fertilizers, when available, may be added to the potting soil to last longer and eliminate the need for frequent fertilization.

Excellent drainage is also very important. Gravel, broken crockery or other coarse material in the bottom is beneficial in most containers, but not necessary in hanging baskets. All planters should be provided with drainage in the bottom. Even with adequate drainage holes, some containers do not drain properly unless the base is raised off the porch or patio surface. Bricks or boards may be used for this purpose. Not only does this help with drainage, but wooden containers often last longer since the bottom can dry between waterings.

Plants growing in any container need the best soil available. It should be well drained and high in organic matter. A good garden soil may be used, but should be amended with at least 50 per cent organic matter. If the native soil is extremely heavy, a coarse sand or loose material such as perlite should be added to improve internal drainage. Artificial soil mixes, available at garden centers, are also excellent. These are ideal for hanging baskets since they are not as heavy as a normal soil mix.

For a great plant for container gardening, check out the crocus

Many summer annuals are suitable for outdoor containers. Which ones are selected may depend to some extent on the exposure where they are used. A very hot south or west exposure best suits plants such as portulaca, ageratum, salvia, dusty miller, French marigold, petunia, lantana, annual vinca and verbena.

Many of these plants may also be used on an east exposure, but we might also use dwarf snapdragon, fuchsia, ivy geranium or begonia.

On a shady north exposure we might use ferns, impatiens, caladium, begonia or fuchsia. Indoor foliage plants could also be used in a shaded, sheltered location.

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