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planting a container garden

By 5/12/2015

when we opened the new shop at cameron village, we knew we needed to plant to impress. the sidewalk there is flush with vibrant blooming containers outside each store. i sorely lack the green thumb my mother and grandmother had, so i knew we needed to call in backup.

jessica and i went to fairview garden center in raleigh, where we spent the morning with heather rollins and her grandmother-in-law, jo ann dewar, learning about the best choices for a container garden, choosing the perfect pots, and visiting with a family with a passion for plants that rivals my grandmother's verdant touch with anything planted and potted.


jo ann is 83, and as sharp as the exotic cactus plants they offer.  she, along with her family, celebrated their 40th year of business recently.  jo ann has her hands in the dirt at the greenhouse daily, as enthusiastic now as she was in 1947 when she started the company by growing poinsettias in coffee cans, and selling them to the winn dixie grocery chain.

keep reading for tips on creating your own container garden this summer that blooms as brightly as the beauty ann and heather created for furbish.

location, location, location.
the first step in planning a container garden is to decide where you want it to go.  inside or out?  sun or shade?  pick the spot and monitor the area for a full day to determine how much light your container garden will receive.  you will need to choose plants with similar light and water requirements to plant in the same pot.

map it out. 
next, give a method to your madness.  measure the size of your space.  remember, some plants grow quickly; the size of your container will change from the time you bring it home until the end of the season. plan your color scheme.  do you want the color to come from the pottery, flowers, foliage or all of the above?  having a plan in mind will keep you focused while you peruse a greenhouse filled with thousands of flower choices.

contain it.
choose a container that is the right size and style for your chosen location.  your container must have proper drainage.  over or under watering is the number one killer of plants.  adding pebbles or rocks to the bottom of the pot can help with drainage, along with selecting a good potting soil specially formulated for container gardens. 

dare to mix. 
playing with fun and funky plants is the best part of container gardening. here are some things to consider when shopping & planting:

the focal area is where the eye is drawn to first. develop focus by using large, coarse, or bright colored plant material in that area.

vary the form of the plant material you choose; use tall linear plant species to add height; mounded species to add mass; and low growing, cascading species to fill in, add depth, and soften the edges of the container.

add coarse, medium, and fine textured plants together.  three to five different plant species will achieve and assortment of forms and textures.

repeat color at regular intervals around the outside of a round container or along the length of a long rectangular container.  repeat color in several containers to “tie” them together. graceful lines of plant foliage add flow and rhythm.

don’t overcrowd your container.  give plants room to grow.  use larger and/or more plants in larger containers, and less and/or smaller plants in small containers.  a good rule of thumb: the height of the tallest plant should not exceed 1X - 2X the height of the container excluding pedestals.

container gardens tend to dry out quickly and require regular watering.  be sure to water the soil, not the plant in order to prevent leaf damage and the spread of disease.  regular fertilizing is essential for bright blooms.  organic fertilizer options like blood meal or plant tone are great in container gardens. regular applications of synthetic, water soluble plant food with micronutrients can also help increase bloom size and improve color.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. These are stunning!!! I would love to know the name of the white leafed plant with the pink stems that is at the back of the planter.

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  4. Loved this post! I need some new planters for my front door and I definitely do not have a green thumb either. The pots y'all picked out are gorgeous!
    ~Lucy from East Meets South

  5. playing with fun and funky plants is the best part of container gardening. here are some things to consider when shopping & planting:
    Hoang le from nhac san

  6. Great article, I love the plants and flowers - i have one mini garden in my little house.. thanks.

    foro de minerales

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  8. Most of your flowers like at Java especially at villages of centre of Java but your flower multicolored

  9. I love the plants and flowers thank for article.