Summer Container Care

Container with coleus

Keep containers looking good with water, fertilizer and the right pot.

Your containers may look lovely in early summer, but what happens when the weather gets hot and the summer gets long? Sometimes the containers get bedraggled. On a garden tour not long ago, we asked the homeowner how she kept her containers fantastic all summer long. She gave three pieces of simple advice.

First, she chooses big containers. Larger pots have more visual impact than smaller ones, and the bigger size insulates the plants more from extremes of heat and dryness. You don’t need to fill them all the way to the bottom with potting soil – bits of pottery, crunched up newspapers or commercial fillers can ensure your pots remain lightweight.

Second, she waters every day. Even when the weather is fine for plants in the ground, containers may need a daily drink. On rainy days, you may just want to check each container and water if the top feels dry.

Elephant ears in pots

A trio of pots near the back door.

Finally, this gardener fertilizes her containers every two weeks. Heavy nutrient consumption from plant roots along with the flow of water through the pot depletes soil nutrients quickly. The choice of fertilizer is up to you. Many gardeners recommend applying it at half the recommended rate to prevent burning the plants.

Other ways to keep containers healthy are to do selective pruning or replace some plants. Petunias, for example, can get leggy. Take a scissors and just cut them back a few inches. Give them some water and fertilizer and they will be blooming again in no time. This works with other annuals as well including bacopa and calibrachoa.

If as summer goes on, some of your plants look really bad, just replace them. Nurseries that are open all summer usually have perennials on sale. And, of course, grocery stores and hardware shops will soon have mums everywhere. So, plop a perennial in your pot. It will bloom the rest of the summer there, and you can transplant it into the garden in the fall, if you’d like.

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