Landscape Design

Looking for the magic of a full, flowering garden anywhere? You’ve come to the right place. That’s why patio pots, or container gardens are so appealing: the instant gratification and show of plants is impressive, plus you can add it to spaces that need some extra love – your front porch, your small morning breakfast nook, or even an apartment balcony. 

Many gardeners even grow fruits and vegetables in containers. But for today, let’s focus on flower pots. Our expert staff have made thousands (yes, thousands) of patio pots over the years, so we’ve compiled their best tips into this step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Choosing the Right Container

You may already have a container or pot to start with. If not, this is where you will begin. There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you decide which is right for you. 

Your first consideration should be size. Take a look at the space you are planning to place the container and take a couple measurements, or at least eyeball them. You want something to fill the space visually, but not impede any foot traffic through the area (especially important if you are placing these by your front door!) Generally, if the container is in a wide open area, you’ll want something fairly large. If it’s in a small area, you’ll need to look for something smaller. Keep in mind your plants will add height and sometimes width to your container. You can also mix pot sizes to create added dimension: one large and one medium sized container next to each other creates a nice little grouping to start with. 

👉Protip: The larger the pot, the longer it takes to dry out, making it easier to keep alive AND you can fit more plants inside. 

The depth is also important. Do you want a tall container to create height in your space? Or a short, squatty pot that you will fill with tall plants? Gardeners tend to choose a taller pot to create a bigger effect in their space, but it really does depend on the look you are going for. 

👉Protip: If you go with a tall container, you can fill the bottom half with a less heavy/expensive material like mulch. Then plant up the second half with potting soil and plants. 

Your next decision is style or color. Many people like to match a pot with the accent color of their home. Instead of trying to match the main siding of your home, choose the trim color to coordinate. Or you may want your pot to provide a bold contrast from your home to make it stand out. If you go this route, keep in mind you may also want colorful flowers inside the pot, so you’ll want to choose a pot color that coordinates with those (more on plant choice later). 

👉Protip: Not sure what color to go with? Choose a color that coordinates with your home so it can stand as a neutral against the seasonal plants you will add over time. 

The last thing you’ll want to consider with your container is drainage. With outdoor planters, it is very important that you have a drainage hole in the bottom of your pots. That way, as you water, it can go out the bottom and not set inside the pot (leading to overwatering and root rot). 

Step 2: Selecting Your Plants

Next comes the fun part (in our opinion): BUYING ALL THE PLANTS! 

This may seem obvious, but even seasoned gardeners may be tempted to put plants together with different light requirements. Resist the temptation. No matter how good that Fuschia would look with Lantana. 

Instead, choose plants that have the same or similar light requirements. What light requirements, you ask? Take a look at your space – how much sun are you getting? Keep an eye on your spot for a couple of days to see how much light it gets throughout. Here are the general rules of thumb:  

  • Full sun = at least 6 hours of direct sun daily
  • Part sun = between 3 and 6 hours of direct sun per day
  • Part shade = 3 and 6 hours of sun per day, but not in direct sun
  • Full shade = less than 3 hours of direct sun per day

Are you in the right section of the greenhouse for the light requirements you have? Good. Now let’s talk color. 

You don’t have to be a designer to understand a few basic principles about color. There are generally three color schemes gardeners use when adding plants to their containers: 

  1. Monochromatic (same color, different shades) 

These are planters with the same color plants in differing shades. This color combo tends to look more modern and sleek in comparison to the bright, colorful patio pots we are used to seeing. 

  1. Analogous (next to each other on the color wheel) 

Generally, these color schemes are either cool – think: greens, blues, purples or warm – think: yellows, reds, pinks, oranges. This color combo will look put together but still colorful. 

  1. Complimentary (opposites on the color wheel)  

These colors live across from each other on the color wheel. Red <> Blue, Purple <> Yellow, Pink <> Green. A mix of these colors will create a colorful, cheerful vibe that looks more wild.

Step 3: Planting

Now, we plant. Get your materials ready so you don’t have to stop halfway through and spend 20 minutes looking for your shears. Get those, some gloves, your containers, plants, and of course, some good potting soil. A good potting soil is light, fluffy, and likely a mix of peat and perlite or vermiculite (the white bits in the soil). Bagged garden soil or mulch are NOT ideal for using in an outdoor pot because they are either too heavy or do not retain moisture well. 

👉Protip: We have the same potting soil we grow in (we make it in-house) for sale in bags at our stores.

Take your bag of potting soil and fill up your pot up until about the depth of your tallest planted pot. You will likely have to pat it down a bit to compress it in place. Then arrange your ~still potted~ plants to get an idea of how you want to arrange them. This lets you change your mind before you commit them to a spot. 

Be sure to take a step back from your container to get a full view. Sometimes the planter can look different up close. This is also a great time to match your arrangements if you have two containers you are creating symmetry with. Move around and make sure you like your container from all angles. 

When you’re finally ready to commit, take your plants out of their nursery pots by gently squeezing opposite sides and wiggling them out. Place them in their spot, then fill in the gaps with soil. It’s best to leave a little room for growth over the season, especially if you have annuals that will grow large over just a couple months. But we’re not here to judge if you need the instant gratification of an overfilled patio pot right away. 

Then: water in your plants! They are very thirsty after going through so much change, plus it will help them settle into their new spot. Add more soil as needed. 

Step 4: Ongoing Care

You only thought that was it. The last (ongoing) step is care. You’ll want to water your pots daily if they are outside in the spring and summer. Check the soil by poking a finger into the soil. If it’s moist, don’t water. If it’s dry, give ‘em a drink. Because you have a drainage hole (RIGHT?), the likelihood of overwatering is much lower than underwatering. 

Check your plants for fertilizer requirements, but generally a water with liquid fertilizer mixed in once a week or so will be all you need to keep your blooms going all season. 

As the container begins to grow, some of the plants will start to outgrow the others. They will need occasional pruning to keep the planter balanced.

👉Protip: Most flowering plants do best when you deadhead them – meaning you remove the spent blooms. This allows them to put more energy into creating new ones. 

You are now prepared to create your own outdoor container garden or patio pot! Good luck in the garden, and stop by one of our stores to gather all the supplies you need for success. 

Take a look at our YouTube short with tips on how to create a successful patio pot:

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