Stretch some spring and summer choices into fall with containers

One of the things we love best about containers is their versatility. You can start small and experiment, move and group your containers, plant and replant. And while switching them out for the seasons can be a fun way to mark the seasons and show your style, you can also get some mileage from your plants.

This doesn’t mean you’ll be committed to the same early spring pots you planted in March or April (unless you want to be and you’ve managed to keep them going strong), but it does mean you can save what works and plant up the spots around it.

The Basics

When it comes to containers, we like to encourage people to experiment. It would be nice to say the only rule is there are no rules, but there are just a few things to keep in mind as you create.

1) Start Fresh  One of the best things you can do for your plants is to give them a fresh start in rich potting soil that’s full of organic material.

2) Know Before You Grow  Always check your plant tags. You’ll want to grow plants together that have similar light/exposure and watering requirements for the greatest success. That doesn’t mean you’ll be limited to one or two plant shapes, sizes, textures or colors. There is plenty to choose from.

Fall in love with a full sun tropical and a low-light annual at the same time? Plant up two different pots and place them in the environments they need to thrive for the best of both worlds.

3) Feed and Water Generously  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).

The Anatomy of a Container

With the basics on your side, you can get to the fun part. Choose a color palette that coordinates with your home and other plants, design something playful or sophisticated or frame an entryway or border with the drama of potted trees.

We tell people to make it their own, but the same way recipes are guides to delicious outcomes in the kitchen, container recipes are guides to beautiful combinations that thrive. The concept is based on some of the same design principles used to decorate your home, including adding height or a focal point (thriller), filling in the space and adding texture (filler) and transitioning from one space to another (spiller).

Here’s how to start:

1) Thriller  Once you have fresh potting soil in your pot, start with your focal point, the star of your container. This is normally the tallest part of your pot, but you can also mound the soil in the center to give it added height. Thrillers are bold and beautiful, they may be surprising, filled with texture and/or the only one of its kind in the pot.

Thrillers that will make the transition:
  • Cordyline
  • Curly Juncus
  • Small shrubs
  • Grasses (many seasonal varieties)
  • Small trees

2) Filler  Everyone loves a container that’s full and lush looking. Fillers are low-to-mid-height plants that mound and spread, filling in spaces, holes and leggy thriller stems. They can echo the color and shape of the thriller or be a counterpart (round to the thriller’s spikiness or tiny and delicate to the thrillers large, bold silhouette).

Fillers that will make the transition:
  • Marigolds
  • Geraniums
  • Lantana
  • Sun Coleus
  • Osteospermum (similar to daisies)

3) Spiller  You can probably guess that these are the tendrils overflowing the sides of the container and softening the edges. You don’t need to reserve a lot of room for spillers, we often wedge them into tiny spots where they make the biggest splash. You can unify the look of the planting by weaving in complimentary colors or leaf styles or you can go for big contrast in the color or shape of the spiller.

Spillers that will make the transition:
  • Verbena
  • Creeping Jenny
  • Lobularia
  • Calibracoa
  • Bacopa
  • Pansies
  • English Ivy

And if this all feels like a little too much work, start with a pre-planted Porch Pot. You can still switch out any seasonal plants as needed.

Want to keep your hands clean and have pretty pots all year? Sign up for our Porch Pot Membership for four seasonal combos beautifully planted and delivered to your door.