Shade Loving Container Collection
Shade Loving Container Collection Care Instructions
Choosing Containers: Whether you choose to plant your entire collection into one container, to separate each plant into its own independent pot, or to mix and match groupings and solitary plants to your liking, you'll want to be sure you choose containers with drainage holes on the undersides. You'll also want to be sure to elevate your pot or planter so that water can run freely from the pot; otherwise, you'll risk having muddy soil surrounding your roots, which makes it hard for them to breathe. Saucers placed underneath your pots can catch dirty water and prevent stains from forming on patio stones and other materials.
If you live in a hot, dry environment with very little rain fall, you can skip elevating your plants; instead leave them flush to their saucers, which you can fill with bit of water for them to drink during dry spells.
Choosing a Soil Mix: Always choose a high-quality potting soil (sometimes called "soil medium," "mix," or "media") for container plants. Because water typically runs through potted plants, it's important to start them out with fresh, nutrient-packed soil that won't become easily compacted. Garden soil, top soil, and dirt dug up from the ground can be too dense and compressed for root systems to access air, water, and nutrients. Further, potting mix has the added advantage of including important plant food.
Prepping your soil mix: Before adding loose potting soil to your containers, it's best to moisten with water and mix well. Pre-dampening your soil is important for two reasons: 1) The soil will be less likely to sink down into the container after planting. By wetting soil first, you'll be sure to have the correct amount in the pot and your plant correctly positioned. 2) Some soils, when left completely dry, will act 'hydrophobic' - meaning that water will tend to run right over the top layer, instead of being easily absorbed down into the soil. Pre-moistened potting mixes readily accept water.
Planting Perennials in Pots: Fill your pots 3/4 of the way full and arrange your plants where you'd like them. Before filling the top 1/4 of your container with pre-moistened soil, gently loosen any roots that have begun to grow their roots into the shape of the pot. (Always consult growing instructions first. While most plants respond positively to this practice, a few varieties, such as Milkweed, don't like to have their roots disturbed.)
General Container Care: Your biggest goals as a container gardener are to keep your plants properly watered and fed. Additionally, you can positively influence their overall health and appearance by trimming back any spent flowers and dried or diseased-looking foliage. Many container gardeners mulch their potted plants by adding pebbles, chopped leaves, or straw to the top layer of soil, leaving a circle of space so that the plant stem is not in direct contact with the mulch. This will help to conserve moisture and to prevent soil-borne insects from setting up shop.
Watering: While the general rule is that all potted plants need more water than those grown in the ground, the pot size you choose will also factor into how often you need to water. The smaller the pot, the more frequently it will need water (maybe even daily). The larger the pot, the more likely it is that the top layers of soil will dry out completely, while the very bottom of the pot will begin to hold water. We suggest that you water your plants each time the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry, and that you check the bottom 2-3 inches by sticking your finger into the drainage hole; if it feels pretty wet, wait until next time.
Feeding: Because container plants are watered frequently, the nutrients in their potting mix will slowly start to run through the pot and will need to be replaced. The best way to feed your plants, is to dilute a liquid plant food such as Super Thrive or Fox Farms Big Bloom into your watering can every other week. This will ensure that your plants are receiving regular nutrition.
Overwintering: Many perennial plants need to experience dormancy as part of their annual life cycle. In the garden, they simply die-back to the ground and reemerge the following spring. The trick with perennials in containers is to allow them to go through dormancy without the soil in your pot freezing solid. Cold climate container gardeners will need to choose a method of overwintering their perennials, such as:
- Overwinter your pots outdoors, in-place: choose a larger pot size and line the outer edges with stiff insulation before adding potting soil. You can also wrap the outside of your pots with flexible 'wrap' insulation in late fall, for an added layer of warmth.
- Overwinter your pots outdoors, in a bed: dig a hole or trench as deep as your pot in the garden, and bury right in the ground in autumn. This will allow your plant to experience dormancy at the same temperature as a non-potted perennial.
- Overwinter your pot indoors, as a houseplant: many plants will do well when they spend their winter in a bright, cool area, such as a window sill or spare room. Choose a spot that is between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and keep the soil moist.
To learn even more, please visit our page Growing Plants in Containers.