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Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Pot To Plant In....(Tootsie Tip #1 Planting a Container Garden)

I have decided to revisit a few of my Tootsie Tips...I thought that with spring coming, we might all benefit from a little refresher!


Okay kids!!!! Today we are going to plant a pot or two together! Lets get started...

When you plant a container garden for your patio do you fill your pot with dirt? Do you leave the plants lots of room? Water every few days? Well if you answered yes to one or all of these desperately need my help. The information I am about to relay to you is such that I got about 20 years ago while cutting classes in college. I was sitting home watching T.V. and hanging out, flipping channels, when a show caught my eye. It was the first season of Martha Stewart's television show. I believe it was called Martha Stewart Living or something like that. It is the only episode I ever watched of any Martha Stewart show, and it is on one of those things I can say I learned and use a lot in my gardening life. I am now happy to pass this little secret or two on to my friends.

Yes even back in my early twenties I was a very passionate plant fanatic. I was known to cut classes to go plant shopping…I LOVED skipping school for any reason, but well, you know…. Now.... Stop picturing me skipping school, and get back on topic here! *)When planting annuals there is one major thing you need to remember. They are called ANNUALS, because they die after a short period of time. Therefore they do not have a lot of time to get done what needs to be done. That's where you come in. You are the hands that will make it happen for these tiny short lived plants. They are already fast growing…we are just going to give them the ideal conditions to make them grow (and maybe even a touch quicker)


White Alyssum

The first thing you will need to choose is a pot. In this case I will use both a hanging basket, and a patio pot. My patio pot is 17 inches in diameter, and the hanging basket is 10 inches in diameter.


I keep any soil that is not sealed in a bag, in a garbage can with a lid that fits tightly.
This keeps any unwanted bugs from making a house out of my soil.


The scoop is a chicken feed scoop. It is larger than the average shovel, and makes life a lot easier.
In the case of the hanging basket, you will need to purchase a bag of potting soil. There are brands that boast that they are made specifically for this type of planting. I am not going to say that they are wrong, but I will say that I have never bothered with it. I just use regular potting soil.


Fill your pot about 4 inches from the top of the pot with your soil of choice.

I would not recommend you using dirt from your garden. Regular soil tends to become hardened after a couple of watering's, and may not offer enough nutrients in such a small quantity. Potting soil also offers ingredients that will hold the water you give your plant for a little longer than the run of the mill dirt your garden offers.
Once your pot has been filled to the 4 inch level, you need to choose your plants. I use several plants per pot. It may be tempting to use one or two and call it finished. This will work, and may be pretty, but it will not be as full or large as if you use several. In my hanging baskets or 2007, I used 7 wave petunias per pot. I could have used more, but these plants are very aggressive growers and did not require more.
In my 2008 pots I used 5 wave petunias, 5 trailing lobelia, and 5 alyssum plants. WOW that seems like a lot doesn't it? Well, here is the reason. Some of the fillers may not live, and some will not be as large as others.

When planting annuals, or any plant for that matter, you need to remember that a plant has leaves, stems, blooms, and roots. The plants will concentrate on establishing their root systems before they will begin to show any progress on top. Once they are root bound and "comfy" in their pots, they will begin to grow. After all they are full down below the soil, so they have no where to go but up! So stuff those plants into that pot, add a little soil if necessary to make sure that the roots are not being exposed to the air, and firm lightly to make sure there are no air pockets in the soil.
In the case of the pots I am using for this issue....I used 6 wave petunia, and 20 alyssum for the large 17 inch pot, and 8 pansy, and 12 alyssum for the 10 inch pot.
Once you have finished stuffing the pot, you should water. I suggest watering with a liquid plant food. This fertilizer will not only help your plant to overcome the planting shock quicker, it will give them a kick in the roots to encourage vigorous growth. Water well, and place in a nice shady location for the first day or two. High heat and full sun will end up making them wilt and will set them back a bit. For an annual, even a few days is critical growing time. Once the plant has bounced back from the planting, you can place in the chosen area or home in your garden. Water daily, and use your plant food weekly.


Fertilizer for plants is like chocolate for us. It goes straight to work. It makes things grow. In the plants case it makes the roots and the foliage and flowering more vigorous. In the case of me and the goes straight to my rump and makes it grow too! Ha ha… Did I just say that?

Now...lets get on to bigger pots.

If you are like me...I am protective of my pots and if there is a storm coming, I like to move them to a more sheltered location. If I fill my pots with nothing but soil, I would not be able to easily move them. Wet soil is HEAVY, and lets face it...none of us are iron men and women. (and if you are....kudos)


What I like to do is use large chunks of Styrofoam. I save all the packing from items that we purchased over the last several years. I have also been known to use a small garbage bag filled with empty pop cans, or an old pot inverted to fill the pot some before I add the soil. There are chunks of foam in my stash that have been used again and again for about 12 years! I have received much criticism about this for years now. People screaming that it is not ‘green’ for me to use the stryo…well what could be greener than me re-using it again for years and keeping it out of a landfill? Just sayin’, let’s get back to our pot…


I like to fill my pot at least 1/2 way with the "spacer" material, before I use my soil. Again use potting soil, and fill to at least 4 inches below the rim. You will want to poke the soil in to the filler a little so as to ensure that there are not any air pockets in your pot. I tend to poke around to make sure that all the little crevices are filled in and that the soil is not falling in anymore before I move to the next step.


Choose your plants. In my large patio pots I used 1 dracena spike (optional) 3 geraniums, 6 wave petunias and lobelia and alyssum to fill it in between the others. I tend to fill my baskets super full. Once you have added your plants, and are satisfied with the arrangement, top fill to leave about 2 inches from the rim. Water with your fertilizer solution, set aside (in the shade) to recover...and voila! You have a successful patio pot.


Watering your pots daily is a must. They are more prone to dry out than the gardens we plant. Pots are smaller, and not as deep. We have also just filled those shallow pots to the brim with plants. Water generously and choose one day of each week that you will use as your fertilizing day. I use Feeding Fridays, or Fertilizer Fridays. Something like that is easy to remember. I will also be making a post one day each week to remind you to feed your gardens both ground and potted.

I certainly hope this has helped take the mystery out of planting a container garden. If you should have any questions....absolutely leave them for me to answer...if I can. Coming up soon, is a post about window box plantings…stay tuned!

Until next time…happy gardening!

*)*)*) to those special three...(you know who you are- special hugs just for you!) *)

¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

original post date 5/23/08
also posted at G4S


Anonymous said...

I had some catching up to do here. Thank you for your great advice. I have full sun to plant in for the first time ever in our yard, so now I know what will work and what. I've made all of those mistakes about container gardening. Now I know. And one more thing--Gollum is so right about your many talents. I don't think you recognize how gifted you are because you have incredibly high standards for yourself!!!! Hugs, Pam

Anonymous said...

It's finally time for a break around here. I've been in the shop since 7:30 this a.m. attacking the storage room that I not so fondly call the "war" room. I am winning the battle. Your blog is so informative and so welcoming. You refreshed my memory to things I had put waayyyy in the back of my memory. I love all the containers on your patio. I have several of those milk cans, just might have to put a pot or two around them and one on top. You are certainly good for the soul. Hugs to you dear friend. Lynne

Scooterblu's Whimsy~Rhonda said...

Thanks for all the great tips! I know I will be referring back to your site, as I have questions! Your flowers are beautiful! I used million bells for the first time this year in my containers and they are my new best friends! I just love them!

Hope you have a great holiday weekend! ;) ~Rhonda

bmwgal1948 said...

Tootsie I love all the information you are sharing. You have some flowers on your list that I have never tried to grow,but I am going to try some of your favorites.I am still having a slug problem.The coffee grounds seem to work for a short time but now I think they like it! Love Nickelback! Sure miss Ya girl!! Linda aka BMWGal

Life on the Edge said...

Thank you so much for all your planting advice! I have such a brown thumb and really like getting some suggestions! I never cared so much about flowers before, but now that I live in a home where the previous owner was such a wonderful gardener, I want to make the most of these beautiful gardens! I am thinking about planting some window boxes, so today's advice will really come in handy if I do!

Scooterblu's Whimsy~Rhonda said...

Hi Tootsie, Yes, I remember seeing you from RMS, and still go over there occasionally. I left you a message or two yesterday, I believe it was! I am southerndecor, at RMS. I put on my comment there, at the end...scooterbluswhimsy. I do hope you will add me and drop me a quick comment just to let me know you've been by if you have the time...I love to know who is visiting! Opening my comment box, is like opening a Christmas present...I get so excited! Take Care! ~Rhonda ;)

mrsben said...

Oh Tootsie: What I can say except, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Your instructions on Container Planting is so much better than any Gardening Digest. I actually comprehend it...smiles, and fully appreciate your knowledge and patience to assist non-gardners like myself. Hugs -Brenda-

Justine said...

Hey Tootsie! I have a question even though I'm not the digging in the dirt type. What if you want to plant in something that's not meant to be a planter and has no hole in the bottom to let water drain? Like right now I have a philodendron on my mantle and it's in a ceramic bowl with no drainage. I don't know how often to water it!
Just wondering how you'd prepare your "pot" if you decided to use, say, a watering can to plant in. Thanks girl!
Justine :o )

Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

Great advice for the novice. I think people as happy to hear such good information from someone that shows them. You're great!!
Hugs, Terrie

Tootsie said...

Justine! If you like I will leave you a tip for this on my blog...or on comments...just be patient.

Anonymous said...

Hi, so happy I stumble upon your blog through RMS. I am a newbie, we're in a townhouse so right now I'm doing containers. So far I have done 2 hanging baskets and 2 small pots that I bought pre-planted and they were pretty sad looking. (I paid $1 each.) I took out what looked really dead gently removed the rest and added some good soil and some dusty miller. So far looking good, not sure what the plants are, but I can go to the garden center and figure it out..hopefully. Anyway, your garden is so beautiful!!!!! I hope one day that I can have 1/2 the green thumb as you! As I was doing my baskets, pots and some herbs the other day I realized how much I enjoyed it. It was peaceful and fun, and at least so far it all looks so pretty.

I was wondering if you could explain something to me. I feel sort of dumb asking, but how do we learn if we don't ask??? Anyway could you explain what dead heading is and what pinching back is? And is removing spent blooms the same as dead heading? I think I understand that dead heading is removing the "dead" bloom. So is that JUST the bloom, not the stem? So a flower that has a single bloom, you just "pop" that off.? But what about a geranium? The "bloom" has all those little flowers, what do you remove?
And pinching back? How, what, where?

Thank you so much for your help and your lovely blog.


Tootsie said...

Renee...stay tuned. I will do a post that will answer your question next week! thanks for stopping in!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Tootsie, I too do container gardeing on ,y deck and do ALMOST what you said. I just DO NOT stuff my pts enough,,, but NEXT year I will remember and stuff those babies!!!! Thanks again, Pinky

raxx a day in the life said...

HA! This is the post I was looking for! I had to scroll past so many other posts to get to it! I have a big pot that i am going to fill tomorrow, I have to find some styrofoam overnignt I was going to put just 3 petunias but now i may add a plumbago or anther plant.

What a great post this is, you shoud post it again on Sunday, for 'sunday best'

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Terra said...

I have lots of potted plants on my patio, and liked reading your tips here, including the styrofoam idea.

La Petite Gallery said...

I don't have the space as I have so many plants inside now. A few more
months and I'll work in the Garage.
Great post thanks for sharing. Happy Valentine;s Day.


Mumzie said...

Oh my! Thanks for all the GREAT information...which has come at the perfect time. I'll be planting a couple of pots this weekend, and will use your advice. Looks like I've been too sparing with my number of plants, and fertilize occasionally. Plus I've always used rocks on the bottom of my pots! Yikes. Martha Stewart uses those white peanuts, but I like you big reusable pieces better. Oh, and "Fertilizer Fridays" make so much sense...I can remember that!!! Thanks, Mumzie

Donna said...

wow thx I have just learned some valuable lessons to make my pots pop this summer...i will let you know how I make out and I will be fertilizing but great for the reminder..

Sandy said...

For the past 20 years each spring I pot plants.. within 2 months time they all look so wilted, spoiled or dead! You have given me some good advice and in a few weeks I'm going to follow your tips to the letter!
Thank you from someone who might have lots of flowers and plants, but they always end up looking bad and I keep replacing them every month or so...

Olga Poltava said...

This is a great article. I tried planting a container with annuals, but it didn't work that great. I found many useful tips in your article. So this spring I will try again. Thank you, Tootsie.

Tootsie said...

Dumpster Decorators said...

Good advice. I use pine cones in the bottom of the pots sometimes.
Monday, May 03, 2010 7:23:00 PM

Tootsie said...

I wanted to watermark the photos so that they would not be ripped off and used on someone elses blog, but didn't know how to do it so that the comments would not have been I copied the original comments and put them on...I so appreciate all the comments...that even one lost is too many! Hugs!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Great job on planting techniques, we are on the same wavelength. I just did an inventory of all my pots yesterday.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8:34:00 AM

Rosie leavesnbloom said...

Hi Tootsie - I do all that too with my pots. The feed really does help reduce the transplant shock. I feed with a nitrogen rich feed up until the end of June and then a high potash one from July onwards. :) Rosie
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:10:00 AM

Andrea said...

I am always blessed with knowledge when I come by here.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:15:00 AM

Love the Decor! said...

Thank you for the wonderful advice!!
I am planning on planting all of my pots this weekend so the info was very timely
I have been so busy but I ma trying to catch up with everyone now. Have a wonderful day!!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:26:00 AM

The Japanese Redneck said...

Thanks for the lesson.

Have a great week Tootsie.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:34:00 AM

Tootsie said...

Denise said...

Your post has posted twice? Loved seeing how you do this, I often think I should plant less because they'll grow and fill in, it's nice to know I could be adding more, after all, they won't last a year and the next time I can change it around. :-) Thanks for sharing
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:06:00 AM

RainGardener said...

Great post Tootsie. Very informative!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:37:00 AM

Noelle said...

What wonderful advice. Especially about filling the empty space of containers with styrofoam.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:43:00 AM

Terra said...

This a great tutorial and I like your idea of planting lots of plants, so it will look lush once the plants fill all in. Also, good idea about using styrofoam at the bottom of the pot.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:59:00 AM

Maureen said...

Love the teaser title! Saucy girl!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:07:00 AM

Nancy's Notes said...

Now I always love stopping in, I always learn so much from you!! You're the best!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:24:00 AM

Jeannie B. said...

I love this post!! I like pots on my patio but am not always pleased with them. I can't wait to go buy plants to go in my pots. And go in search for styrofoam! Thanks
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:01:00 PM

Bonnie said...

Great post! Love the chocolate comment. I can relate to that.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:47:00 PM

Tootsie said...

Mary at Deep South Dish said...

Nice tutorial! I don't think the Styrofoam trick would work in this tropical climate but what a great idea for a milder climate.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 3:45:00 PM

Cozy Little House said...

Hey, thanks for the great info! I live in the Piney Woods of Texas. So I tend to fill the bottom of my pots with pine cones.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 5:45:00 PM

trash talk said...

This is a good thing to quote Martha. I had never thought about watering with fertilizer at the get go. What a great tip!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 4:59:00 AM

siteseer said...

I have about a month before doing my containers. I'm about to put a clemaitis in a tire 'pot' and I'm planning on using a filler for the exact reason you stated.

When doing the other containers I usually don't put that many in a pot because they will fill up and ....I don't grow my own from seed. It would cost me a fortune and my hubby would 'freak' lol. But they would definitely look nicer sooner.

Thanks for the informative post. Your site is the BEST!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 1:39:00 PM

Dragonfly Treasure said...

Great advice ! Thanks so much for running thru that for us
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:45:00 PM

Andrea said...

hi Tootsie, i noticed you have another Andrea above. I am sure you are helping lots of first timers here. However, in this part of the world it looks like most of us know gardening from birth, in my case i pursued it in College, Masters and PhD. Unfortunately (that's the sad part), i am not hands on anymore because i stay in the city where space seems to be a problem.

I love your practical tutorials, i appreciate your using styrofoam, however i also am wary about its long effects to the environment. They are not biodegradable and when mixed with soil and later disposed of somewhere, they are very unkind to the next generation. Besides, when just left somewhere they just disintegrate to pieces which makes it difficult to gather and put for recycling. I suggest that biodegradable materials,of light weight be encorporated as your spacers to lessen the weight. Are there not coir fibers available in your area? Some porous lava rocks, available mostly from Hawaii, are also light and friendly to our plants, ourselves, our earth and our future. Thank you very much. More power!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:46:00 PM

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I learned a few things today...and boy oh boy am I grateful to you. The filler why didn't I think of that! :) Because I am not an expert like you are, that's why! When I think of all the styrofoam I have thrown out...shoot!!
Ok..I have garbage bags and coke I'm fine! :)
Thanks so much... I have work to do now.. :)
Hugs and love,
Thursday, April 29, 2010 3:59:00 PM

Tootsie said...

Thank you so much for the lesson in Styrofoam. using the Styrofoam for the pots was my way of not dumping it in the local has been the same bins of Styrofoam for the last 5 years...and it seems to be still going strong...thus re-enforcing your non biodegradable mention...But...if it should start to crumble, I do not leave it in the garden, I pick it out...and put it in a bag for the trash. Not sure what else to do with it...and figured using it was better than just letting it go to the landfill.
Thanks for the information and tips. I am sure many others read and learned a lot too.
Friday, April 30, 2010 8:09:00 AM