Pansies bring strong cool-season color in containers that can last well into the New Year in regions with mild winters. Choose pot planting partners that also deliver a long show, like Blue Arrows juncus, a type of rush, and sweet alyssum. For longest lasting color, keep pots in a sheltered spot on a porch. When air temps fall below 25 F, pansies look wilted and leaves turn gray-green. This is a typical response to cold air. Plants rebound as air temperature rises.
Keep big container gardens light enough to move by filling the bottom third with lightweight plastics. Upside down flower pots and an empty lidded juice bottle neatly fill space in the bottom of the pot and won’t rot during the course of many growing seasons. Using plastics in the bottom of pots also saves on soil—saving you money. Plastics promote healthy plants by providing an air pocket for plant roots, which helps to prevent waterlogged soil, even during the wettest seasons. Where to find possible space fillers for large planters? Raid your recycling bin, choosing rigid plastics over softer, milk jug-types.
Count on clay pots to grow plants that often die from overwatering and overly moist soil, like rosemary, cacti or succulents. Unglazed terra-cotta breathes, permitting soil to dry out between waterings.
Fall’s classic bloomer is the garden mum. These colorful beauties paint the autumn landscape in nearly any shade imaginable, from pastel tints to bold hues. Garden mums grow best in full sun with well-drained soil and work well in containers or beds. To enjoy the longest show, choose mums with flower buds that are just beginning to crack open. To overwinter plants as perennials in colder zones, get mums into the ground as early as possible in fall. Mulch well after the ground freezes. Plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Dutch hyacinth is a fragrance powerhouse in the garden. Its stocky blooms open in midspring, around the time that daffodils strut their stuff. The blooms release a rich, full fragrance that can fill the spring garden. Indoors, pots of forced hyacinths bring spring scents to life in the heart of winter. Plant bulbs in fall for a spring show in the garden. Choose flower colors in many shades, including pink, purple, blue, salmon, white and red. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Camellia sinensis is the plant you want for growing traditional tea leaves. Dried mature leaves produce black tea; young leaves yield a less acidic brew known as white tea. Allow plants to reach 3 to 5 feet before picking leaves, which you can do twice a year. Prune plants when they’re young to cause branching, which gives you more stems to harvest. Plants are winter hardy in Zones 8-10. Grow them in pots in other zones. Feed tea plants lightly—only in spring.
Position microgardens on balconies where there is structural strength. Moist soil gets very heavy, so consider the total weight (soil + pot + plants + water) of each container, says Anne Gibson of TheMicroGardener.com. You may need to consult an engineer to find out if the structural capacity can handle the additional weight. It is wise to position heavy pots close to the strength of the structural wall or around the perimeter.
It’s easy to create indoor trees you can use year after year. Fill a medium-sized flowerpot with fast-setting concrete, then set a tree-like branch in the center. When the cement has hardened, hide the flower pot inside a pretty basket or other container, and decorate your “tree’ to your heart’s content.
Place the plant, still in its pot, on top of the foam. For this terrarium, Rose used a cyclamen, shown here (Hypoestes phyllostachya ‘Pink’) and Phyllitis scolopendrium (not shown). Janit Calvo, author of Gardening in Miniature and owner of Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center, says mosses, miniature African violets, Needlepoint English Ivy (Hedera helix ‘Needlepoint’) and dwarf or miniature ferns can grow well in open terrariums with bright, indirect light.
Dry winter air causes houseplants to dry out quickly. At the very least, check plants weekly to assess soil moisture. Sticking a finger onto—or even into—soil is an easy way to determine if plants need a drink. With small plants, lifting the pot is another good way to figure out how moist soil is. Dry soil is light; wet soil is heavier. Soil color also changes as moisture evaporates. Wet soil is dark; dry soil is lighter in color.
Problem: Lower leaves turn yellow and drop. Solution: Several issues can cause foliage to turn yellow and fall off. First, be sure you’re not overwatering or underwatering. To check for signs of overwatering, gently ease the plant out of its pot and look for rotting or blackened roots. Leaf drop can also result from insufficient light, so try moving your plant to a brighter spot. Finally, make sure you’re using the right fertilizer for your plant, and feed as directed on the label. This Zamioculcas, or ZZ plant, seldom has these kinds of problems. It's tough enough to tolerate low light and little water.
Look for pansy formula mixes with color blends to suit every season. Panola Autumn Blaze pansy opens blossoms in shades perfect for fall: burgundy and gold. Panola pansies are multiflora types, which open smaller flowers on shorter stems, giving plants a thick covering of blooms. Panola is an overwintering pansy, the kind that garden centers guarantee to survive winter and usher in spring with fluttering flowers. Pansies in pots won’t survive winter in colder zones, where soil can freeze solid. For best winter survival, tuck Panola pansies into planting beds.
Arrange perennials in a new garden prior to planting. If possible, keep pots like this for several days. This allows you to observe the design from several angles and adjust plant position as needed. Just be sure to water pots while they’re in the bed.