Planting and Maintaining Beautiful Pots

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I call my sister-in-law, Sue, the “Martha Stewart of Cincinnati” - not only because she can whip up any casserole without a recipe (we will get to that in another article), but because her patio is filled with overflowing bountiful beautiful pots of flowers!!

When I asked her to share her secrets, the more she talked, I quickly realized, she puts a lot of effort into making these flowers thrive.   I would say the main thing is WATER, but let’s start at the beginning.

One of the most beautiful aspects is her choice of pots.  Although they are different, the mix of carved classical and newer rustic styles create a relaxed feeling on the patio.  These pots are maintained during the cold Ohio winters, covered with plastic bags to prevent cracking.

Usually Mother’s Day is the planting time in Cincinnati, and I would say that’s about right in the Midwest as well, give or take a couple of weeks depending on weather.  Starting with some small rocks in the bottom of the pots for drainage, potting soil should fill the pot, leaving room for the plants going in and a little soil to go on top of them.  Sue actually never dumps her soil from year to year, and starts each season with the base of soil from the year before.

One trick that really makes a difference in the health of her plants is using plant food when she puts them in the pots.  The kind Sue uses is Osmocote Smart Release Plant Food.  They are organic pellets that help nourish young plants.   This can be purchased through Amazon in the above link.

Another important piece to the equation is composition.  Her pots are very balanced looking in that she starts with a plant that will grow tall.  She adds a more bushy full plants on all sides and then fills in around the pot with a viney type of plant that will fall over the sides.

As for the types of plants she prefers…..Sue has stopped planting petunias.  As pretty as they are, they are too high maintenance for her taste now, and plants Mandevilla in her topiary pots.  Mandevilla comes on a wooden trellis, and she actually spends some time unwinding it, planting it and then wrapping it around her tall metal topiary.  This can take up to an hour.  Her white flowers that look like Impatience are Vinca and like the partial sun on her patio.  This year, she planted boxwoods as a tall centerpiece to some of her pots, and she likes how they will last into the fall and colder months.

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Aside from the plant food, Sue’s main tip is water.  It seems elementary, but she cannot emphasize it enough.  And this is impacting my own thoughts on watering to hear her talk!  

Sue not only waters before she goes to work in the morning and when she gets home from work in the evening, but she believes the real key to the success of her pots is a drip watering system.  This is a system of tubes set up through their sprinkler system, called Raindrip irrigation system, available through Amazon.  It is also easy to set up through a garden hose if you do not have an available sprinkler system.

The water is released to the plants as a mist and there is a timer to make your watering precise and adjust when the weather is especially hot.  It comes as a kit with tiny hanging baskets and is easy to put together.

Another tool that is key for maintaining beautiful potted plants is a good garden hose nozzle.  My mother-in-law gave Sue and her husband a really good one years ago, and they still use it.  This allows that easy “rain water” type watering for your plants instead of the heavier flow coming out of the hose.  We found one on Amazon that is very similar to hers, the iTECHOR Adjustable Sprayer.  It has eight spraying patterns and an easy-to-grip handle.

Some may say Sue’s pots are especially beautiful because she has a green thumb.  Well, that may be true, but definitely some effort goes into the beauty everyone is priviledged to enjoy.  After hearing her routine, I would say the most important thing is, “water, water, water!!!”