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5 Tips for Summer Container Planting

by Elizabeth's Picks, Flower Care, Plant Care, Plants

Did you spend last weekend planting?

Have you started summer planting and transformed your outdoor space into a beautiful oasis with gorgeous plants and blooming flowers?

Whether you have a large backyard, a small balcony, or anything in between, you can do your summer planting and create a space where you will want to spend long summer days reading, having a glass of wine and enjoy being outdoors.

By following these five simple tips, your container plants will look great all summer long.

Designing

Oh, where do we start?

There are so many options to choose from! You could do a mix of all tropical plants and keep the main focus on the green, or you could create an explosion of colour with a variety of different annuals. You could also do a blend of both, or some large tropical plants that can be mixed with a variety of flowering annuals.

The last option is my personal favourite!

I love mixing large showing tropicals! Tropicals include plants such as birds of paradise (strelitzia), snake plants (sansevieria), peace lilies (spathiphyllum), alocasia, oleander, Dipladenia, philodendrons, million bells petunias or portulaca. If you have a rather large planter, you can start with more mature plants in a 10” growers pot for instant gratification and then mix in the smaller 4” annuals. If you have a small planter, you can start with tropicals in a 6” growers pot to give you the same feel, but on a smaller scale.

When designing your summer planters an easy option is to think of a filler, spiller and thriller! 

CANNA LILY on a wooden deck in a pot against. wall
7" distressed container for plants
10 inch dipladenia medium pink plant in a pot with flowers blooming on a brick floor
Suggestions of Thriller Plants:

  • Palms
  • Birds of paradise
  • Mandevilla
  • Oleander standard
  • Alocasia
  • Cordyline
  • Kimberly queen ferns
  • Canna lilies
  • Hibiscus standard
  • Ivy topiary

The filler plants are usually medium-sized in your container to add colour, size and interest.

  • Maidenhair ferns
  • Caladium
  • Geraniums
  • Guara
  • Mexican heather
  • Limelight dracaena
  • Bromeliad
  • Hibiscus
  • Oleander bush

The spiller plants are usually smaller cascading annuals or flowing greenery.

Also, the placement of your planter will be your decision. If you place your planter against your fence or at the front of your home, place your tallest plant (the thriller) at the back of your container. Place the fillers at the sides and your spiller at the front.

There is no sense of planting spilling plants at the back of your planter where they can’t be seen throughout the summer, likewise with large plants. You want to avoid planting bigger plants at the front because they will block the sunlight from the rest of your plants, and you won’t be able to see them. 

bromeliad striped plant in a pot against a white background
6 inch sanseveria superba futura in a green pot against a white background
6 inch autumn fern rotated in a green pot against a cream background

Sun VS Shade

Sunlight or shade is critical when it comes to designing your summer planters. You may want to place a big, beautiful ficus lyrata at the front of your home where they can get lots of sunlight when actually, they prefer indirect light. By doing this, you will lose your investment of money and time. Most tropicals prefer the morning sun and the afternoon shade to keep them from burning. Most flowering plants prefer the afternoon sun to flourish and flower all summer long, just for you.

Some shade-loving plants for outdoor summer planters:

Some sun-loving plants for outdoor planters:

  • Bougainvillaea
  • Passionflower
  • Majesty palms
  • Mandevilla
  • Petunia
  • Zinnia
  • Portulaca
  • Sedum
  • Flapjack Kalanchoe
  • Dahlia

Watering

It is best to water your summer outdoor planters daily when the weather is warm. Unlike indoor plants, your outdoor plants do not want to dry out between watering. The stress of inconsistent watering with the heat will be too much for some of these tender beauties. Watering daily (especially at the beginning) will help your plants establish strong roots.

After planting, fill up your watering can and use all of it to water your plants. Make sure that the plants are not floating. You may need to add in some more soil around each of the plants to ensure they are anchored in properly. Be sure not to leave any spaces between your plants that are not covered with soil as this will cause your plants to dry out even quicker. Be mindful of the amount of rain they are getting in an exposed area as well.

Even summer planters in a shady area need watering daily, especially if they are in a windy area as this can cause your plants to dry out as well. Your plants will tell you if they are thirsty, look at the signs! Drooping leaves and blooms, limp flowers, dropping leaves will all suggest that your plant needs its thirst quenched. I like to water my planters first thing in the morning to ensure they have what they need for the day ahead.

8 inch ficus lyrata bush against a white background
6 inch angel wing jasmine in a black pot on a brick floor
10 inch philodendron birkin in a black pot against a white background

Soil & Fertilizing

When planting your summer outdoor plants, it is best to start with a high-quality soil with a good mix of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and fertilizer. I usually suggest Pro-Mix or Miracle-Gro soil.

You do not want to use generic garden soil or black earth as the soil is too heavy for the plants. You won’t get the results you’re looking for. If you are making your own potting mix, do so, with sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite or pearlite and some granular fertilizer.

Twice a week, fertilize your plants with a good quality fertilizer.

Make sure to follow the instructions on the package to avoid burning your plants. You can use fish-based fertilizers that have seaweed or liquid kelp, for best results.

Deadheading

Every couple of days, pinch off any spent blooms to keep your flowering plants looking good all summer long. This will help encourage new blooms and more attractive greenery.

I would love to see what you are planting in your containers this summer! Show us your beautiful creations by tagging us on Instagram or Facebook.

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