KC Gardens

Regular care keeps container gardens looking lush

A constant supply of water and regular fertilizer are musts for container gardens.
A constant supply of water and regular fertilizer are musts for container gardens. tljungblad@kcstar.com

Containers filled with colorful flowers can brighten up an entryway or patio, adding even more enjoyment to your summer. Containers come in all sizes, shapes and colors and are at home in the sun or shade depending on the plant selection.

But no matter the size, all containers need care for continuous beauty in the landscape.

▪ Water: Container gardening packs a lot of plants in a small space. A constant supply of water is a must. Water is lost from plant use and evaporation under the heat of summer. Water drives plant growth, and without it the plants will fail.

Unfortunately, there are so many variable that there is no set rule for how much and how often to water. The best recommendation is to check frequently and water thoroughly enough until water runs from the drainage hole.

The smaller the pot or the sunnier the location, the more frequently it will need to be watered. As the season goes on, you will start to learn the pots’ needs and figure it out. Just don’t forget to do it.

▪ Fertilization: Because of the limited soil mass and constant watering, fertilization is a must for the plants to thrive. There are several ways to do this, from slow-release granular, to liquid feeding, to plain old garden fertilizer.

Read and follow the label instructions on the liquid, water-soluble products.

If you use the slow-release pellets, here is a helpful hint: In a container under high summer temperatures these products get used up more rapidly. Cut the label feeding intervals in half. This will compensate for the quicker release due to the warm soils and amount of water moving through the container.

The other simple way to fertilize is to drop one to two teaspoons of a garden fertilizer into the pot once a month. Spread around the pot and water in.

▪ Grooming: Grooming a container is just good housekeeping. Timely removal of faded flowers and yellow leaves improves the overall appearance of the pot. Deadheading or removing the old flowers can also increase the number of blooms as the plants concentrate on developing new blooms, not setting seed.

Grooming may also mean trimming and cutting back some plants in the container. The goal of a beautiful garden is to have a balance of several plants all co-existing in a small space to create interest. No matter how we plant it seems that one plant in the pot becomes a little bullish or demands more space. Vigorous coleus can quickly overpower. Sweet potato vine can spill over the edge and cover the ground.

Cutting these back will help keep them more in balance with the pot. They will send on new shoots for a fresh look without choking out their neighbors.

With just a few simple chores, your containers will reward you with a summer of color.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org or visit KCGardens.KansasCity.com.