‘Thrill, fill and spill’ and other container gardening secrets

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Container gardening is becoming more popular as water restrictions clash with rising temperatures across Southern Utah, and tips offered by the Utah State University Extension Office can help.

Stock image | St. George News

Container gardens are one of the fastest growing sectors of gardening, making it possible to grow vibrant gardens where traditional gardens are not possible, including balconies, decks, patios and small areas or locations with poor soil.

“Container gardening has become popular as planting areas in the landscape have become smaller,”  Jerry Goodspeed, Utah State University Extension horticulturist said in a statement.

Size matters

Containers need drainage holes large enough to allow proper drainage while preventing soil from clogging them.

However, if the hole is too large, soil will leak through the bottom with each watering. You can prevent that by placing a rock or solid object over the hole that still allows water to drain around it.

Planters must be large enough to accommodate the root system of the plants, otherwise the plants don’t grow properly or need excessive amounts of water.

As a general rule, any pot 8 inches or smaller in diameter will only hold small plants and for  annuals or perennials the container should be at least 8-10 inches in diameter, but larger pots are preferred.

Soil matters 

Potted plants at beer garden in Sussex England. | Photo from Wikipedia Commons, St. George News

Soil is a critical component in container gardening. It should hold water, but also drain properly.

“Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when purchasing potting soil,” Goodspeed said.

According to the extension office, plants will not grow successfully in soil that is continually waterlogged, as it leaves no room for air which is necessary for proper development and root growth. A good soil should be porous enough to drain properly but still hold water.

Providing a sufficient fertilizer is important to maintain proper growth and typically entails either applying a slow-release fertilizer at planting time or using a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks

The “thrill, fill and spill” beauty secret

The idea behind this gardening method is to group together different plants with similar growing needs using three components of design to create a stunning container garden.

Container garden showing “thrill, fill and spill” method | Photo courtesy of the Engledow Group, St. George News

The first component entails placing an upright plant in the center of the pot that “thrills” the eye and draws attention, like red fountain grass, snapdragons, geraniums, dahlias and others that reach at least 8 inches high and stand out from the others.

The planter is then “filled” with an accenting color using million bells or Osterspermum, and even some zinnias and impatiens work well, making sure not to use flowers that will overpower the “thrill” or “spill” flowers.

For plants that “spill,” using the black-eyed Susan vine, wave petunias, sweet potato vine, licorice plant and others works well

Some are even climbing plants, which can be both a blessing and a curse as they attempt to take over the planting pot or move up a post, which can be remedied by regular pruning.

For additional gardening tips and information, or for those interested in a live, online container gardening course presented by the Utah State University Extension Office taking place in August, click here.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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