Simple ways to keep your flowers beautiful & blooming all summer long
Are you ready to turn up the color on your patio, deck or porch? Try adding hanging baskets and patio planters overflowing with flowers. All you need to do is ask the experts (like we did) what to do to keep those blossoms looking great all summer long.
PICK THE RIGHT POT
For a patio pot to flourish, it needs to be big enough to hold enough soil and water to allow plants to put down a good root system. The best pots are almost as wide as they are deep and should be about 14-16 inches in diameter. For extra-large or tall pots, Mick Gainan of Gainan’s Garden Center suggests using a smaller liner for the plantings and filling the empty space. If you’re in a windy spot, rocks work wonderfully. If wind isn’t an issue, try chunks of Styrofoam.
Hanging baskets with coconut fiber liners dry out quickly, so you’ll want to line them with plastic and poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Then, fill them with soil and trim the plastic.
GREAT BLOOMS START WITH GOOD SOIL
Though it sounds simple, high-quality potting soil is a science and Gainan’s mixes their own custom blend, which they’ve developed after years of research. If you’re not going to use Gainan’s blend, Mick recommends choosing a high-quality soil with plenty of organic material, compost and peat.
“You want soils that will drain really well, so the plant’s roots can drive down to the bottom of the pot,” Mick says.
When choosing soil, he says, stay away from those with fertilizer in the soil. You’ll want to apply fertilizer yourself. If it’s in the soil, you can’t gauge the application amounts, which can result in over-fertilizing.
WHAT TO PLANT AND WHERE
For your patio pots and hanging baskets to do well, you’ll want to do some detective work. Take a look at where they’ll be placed and think about the amount of sunlight they’ll get and whether or not they’ll be in the wind. Then, choose flowers that are suitable for those conditions. You’ll know from their tags what they can tolerate.
Impatiens and fuchsias do well in the shade, and geraniums love the sun, Mick says. And petunias – especially the Million Bells variety – are a no-fail option that come in more than a dozen colors.
“If you have a picture of where these pots are sitting, we can help you put together something that will perform,” Mick says.
When designing a patio pot or hanging basket, Mick and his crew think, “thrillers, fillers and spillers.” The thriller is the centerpiece – the plant that makes a statement and catches the eye first. The fillers surround the centerpiece, and spillers trail out of the pot and add visual appeal.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, Mick says. For example, you can plant herbs in with your flowers and use them for cooking. Lemongrass will repel mosquitos. Mint repels deer. You can also experiment with growing vegetables like peppers and tomatoes in patio pots.
To keep flowers blooming, don’t forget to pinch off spent blossoms.
“Getting that spent flower off them makes room for another wave of color,” Mick says. “If they get a little wild you can trim them, and outside planters will start to reach to the light, so turn them every so often so they grow evenly.”
WATERING FOR BEST RESULTS
Like soil, water seems simple, but there a few best practices to keep your flowers happy and healthy.
Morning is the best time of day to water your patio posts and hanging baskets. It sets them up to beat the heat. If you wait until they’re hot from sitting in the sun, the cold water can shock the plants and damage the foliage.
The best technique for watering is to water the pot, not the plant. If you water over the plant, the leaves shed the water and it doesn’t make it to the soil. Water slowly so the soil does not get washed away.
If they are in full sun, check your pots in the late afternoon or early evening. If they are dry, they might need a second watering.
If, when you’re watering, the water runs through it as fast as you put it in, you need to come back in half an hour and water again. The soil has likely become too dry to absorb the water and it runs down between the pot and the soil. Rehydrating the soil can take several frequent waterings, Mick says.
DON’T FORGET FERTILIZER
Patio planters and hanging baskets need regular feeding, and Mick recommends Jack’s blossom Booster.
All fertilizers have a series of numbers in bold on their labels. The numbers correspond with ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The formula that works best for blooming plants is 10-30-20. The easiest fertilizers to use are water-soluble powders.
Mick advises giving your pots and baskets a good watering before applying the fertilizer. The soil should be hydrated before adding fertilizer.
“What that does is keep the fertilizer suspended in the soil until you feed it again,” he says. “You don’t want to fertilize a dry plant, and fertilizing shouldn’t be in place of a thorough watering.”
A good regimen of fertilizing based on the recommendations on the container will help protect your flowers against disease and insect activity and will help establish a good root system.
NOW… SIT BACK AND ENJOY
Outdoor living spaces are a place to gather, relax and enjoy a meal with family and friends. Flowers add sparkle and provide a backdrop for life’s special moments, so this season don’t hold back. Get growing!