Many of you may receive a beautiful hanging basket or planter for Mother’s Day. I must ask. What will this gift look like by the middle of the summer?
I teach a lot of programs on annuals around the state. I ask this question during the presentation, and I usually end up with a groan; they don’t usually look very good by the middle of the summer.
These are treated with kindness when growing in the greenhouse or garden center. They are watered and fertilized on a regular basis. They look fantastic when purchased.
They also look pretty good for a while in your garden. Until about mid-July, when they tend to look a little weary. With just a few easy tips, you can keep your container plants looking great all season.
I mentioned that these containers are watered on a regular basis. In the greenhouse, they all have the same environment. They usually go into a very different environment when you get them home.
They are typically exposed to harsh conditions such as full sun, heat, and wind. They dry out quicker than when in the greenhouse. Watering on a regular basis is important.
However, it doesn’t mean you water daily on a schedule. You water when they need water. They may need more water if they are on a porch and not exposed to rain. However, if they are in the shade, they may need less.
As roots continue to fill out the container, they may need water more often. Just pay close attention to the soil and use your fingers to determine when watering is necessary.
Fertilizing is also critical. Plants purchased from a garden center are most likely to be planted in a soilless mix. This mix is perfect for root growth. It provides good air space while at the same time, holding moisture without getting soggy.
However, this soilless mix doesn’t hold nutrients and these plants, since growing in a container, need additional fertilizer through the growing season to thrive.
Fertilizer can be in the form of a slow-release pelletized product that delivers a slow dose over the entire season. Or it can be a liquid fertilizer that you use more often.
Either way, follow the label directions. I typically use the slow release at the beginning of the season and once or twice a month, give them a boost with a liquid.
In addition, when the plants get to a point where they are a good size for the container and they look good, I cut back on the liquid fertilizer and apply less to maintain the plants, not push growth.
Finally, keep an eye on the plants in the containers. When you are watering, check the foliage and flowers closely for any indication of a pest problem. Catching something early is easier to control and manage.
Happy Mother’s Day to all and if you get flowers, enjoy!
Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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