How to turn scorched into something special. Perk up your containers!
We start out armed with good intentions and rainy spring days and for a while our containers lead charmed lives. And then comes a stretch of summer sun, dry winds and a few days or more away and things can go downhill fast.
And who wants that? We’re finally spending more time on the patio and porch, maybe entertaining guests around the grill or over summer drinks and wanting to relax and enjoy our outdoor space.
So here are three ways to turn your containers around if they need a little TLC.
1) Water and Wait
Always check your container for moisture before you water. The topsoil can appear dry when moisture is trapped just beneath the surface. Most containers like to stay damp, neither standing in water nor drying out completely.
If it’s clear the soil has completely dried out and/or the potting soil has pulled away from the sides of your container, it may take more than regular watering to revive your plants. You can try submerging the bottom portion of your container in a tub or pail of water until the soil has expanded.
Or you can try tiered or incremental watering.
First, water the soil liberally. You’ll probably notice that most of the water is running between the gap in the soil and the container, over the sides and/or straight through to the drainage hole. Wait 30 minutes to an hour and water again. This time more water should be absorbed. Wait another 30 minutes to an hour and water once more. The third time, your plant should be well hydrated down to the root ball and taking up water normally. This is what you want each time you water your plant slowly and generously.
2) Pinch to Grow an Inch
Many annuals benefit from deadheading or pinching off spent blooms. Removing old plant material encourages new growth, a fuller, bushier growing habit and more blooms.
3) Plant Summer Smart
If watering and deadheading don’t do the trick, there’s still hope. Some of your earliest spring annuals may not hold up well under increasing sun and heat. Simply remove any dead plants from the container and determine what needs to be filled in. Turns out there are annuals that are perfect for your hottest spots. Learn more about 5 of our favorites.
And while we’re at it, here’s a list of easy-going, drought tolerant annuals that are water wise and refreshingly low maintenance, as fillers or in a summer container of their own:
- Solcito Zinnia
- Purple Knight & Royal Tapestry Alternanthera
- Dakota Gold Helenium
- Silver Mist Helichrysum
- Dragon Wing Begonia
- Serena Angelonia
- Landmark Lantana
- Mystic Spires Blue Salvia
- Succulents of all kinds
4) Cheat a Little
We use the word ‘cheating’ loosely. Grab & Go containers were created to give you immediate gratification or perking up without the work and without the mess. Fiber pots are planted up with seasonal combos especially for summer (and every other time of the year) and ready to be dropped right into your containers. You’ll want to check the tag, as designers will plant summer combos especially suited for full or partial sun as well as shade.
An Ounce of Prevention
Because containers have a limited reservoir for moisture (as opposed to landscape beds), they can dry out quickly in warm, dry conditions. In the hottest months of summer, you may even want to check your containers daily for moisture.
Frequency depends on the weather, but we recommend checking for moisture every couple days. If the soil just under the mulch, moss or surface is dry, give it a good, slow soak. It’s important to water your containers slowly, ideally with a slow steady spray so the force of the water doesn’t compact the soil.
The goal is to give the plant enough water to moisten the entire root ball. Because it takes water a little time to absorb and drain, watering slowly will allow the water to travel through the soil. Watering too quickly is the equivalent of a downpour for your lawn. It can only absorb so much water immediately and the rest runs off as wastewater.
You can also install self-watering systems that can be adjusted for the amount and frequency of watering.
We recommend feeding with a slow-release granular fertilizer when planting (we like Jack’s Slow Release Granular) and/or a water-soluble fertilizer like Organic Plant Magic every 1-2 weeks (follow product directions).