Contain Yourself: Making Potted Plants Pretty

Tips on Making Your Planters Pop Like the Nursery’s

Courtesy Photo

Back in the day, when I used to go to the nursery, I always wondered why their color bowls and planters filled with annual or perennial flowers were always blooming profusely and looked so darn amazing, while the pots that I attempted at home always looked like, well, like I did them.

Through trial and lots of error, here’s what I discovered about making my containers look as exceptional as the ones at the nursery or better.


• Use more plants, and put them closer together than is recommended on the little plastic tag. This results in a finished look from the beginning and gets even better as the plants grow in.   

• Whether starting from six packs or four-inch containers, don’t buy overgrown or root-bound plants. Young seedlings in bud are best. At the nursery, when no one’s looking, I’ll gently knock a few out of their cell packs to check the roots before buying.

•Use a quality potting soil such as FoxFarm Ocean Forest for everything you grow in containers.

• Arrange plants appropriately. Put taller plants in the center and graduate to shorter or trailing ones toward the edges if using a round container that will be viewed from all sides. Plant taller plants in the back if viewed from one side.


•Water thoroughly and often until the plant roots have grown out into the surrounding potting soil. Oftentimes, plants are grown in a very “peaty” mix that can be difficult to rewet if allowed to dry out completely.

• As plants become established, keep soil evenly moist. Don’t allow soil to completely dry out, but avoid watering when it’s already wet.


• At planting time, I mix an organic pre-plant or flower bloom fertilizer such as Dr. Earth or E.B. Stone into the potting soil.

• To keep flowers coming, I use ½ or even 1/3 of the recommended dose of Maxsea 3-20-20 or fish emulsion every other week or so.

Other Tips

• Remove spent flowers (deadhead) continuously to keep plants blooming.

• Choose the proper plants for the appropriate exposure. If short on sun and you want to have colorful containers in the shade or filtered sun, use impatiens, or other shade-loving flowers. On the other hand, zinnias, marigolds, and petunias won’t bloom in low light and need full sun.

• Small containers naturally dry out faster. Use the largest pots you can manage.

• Clay pots are porous and have to be watered more often. Plastic ones retain moisture but look ugly. When possible, I plant into plastic pots and then slip them into an outer decorative or clay pot.


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