We get more compliments on the planters and landscaping on Cicero than anything else. (and we get a LOT of compliments on things around here). Here's how we make them look so good.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANT
We usually plant spreading-type petunias in the planters. They grow more aggressively than regular ones. They spread out horizontally in a wave over the edge of the pot. When planted in the ground, one plant eventually cover an area 2 feet around by the end of the season. Wave petunias are also self cleaning. That means we don't have to pick off the dead flowers to stimulate the plant to make new ones.
We have also had good success with sweet potato vine for a contrasting color.
Million bells are also really great. They don't grow quite as aggressively as the waves, but they come in different colors and are really pretty.
USE A GOOD SOIL
We use a soil-less potting mix in all our containers (and you should too). It holds more water and stays light and fluffy for a great root system with less watering. Our favorite is Baccto Lite. It has the perfect blend of pre-moistened sphagnum peat, perlite, vermiculite, and a starter fertilizer to start things off right.
USE A GOOD POT
Get a pot big enough to do the job. The bigger, the better. Pots too small for your plants dry out quickly (requiring more work on your part to water) and restrict root growth. Make sure your pots all have drainage holes in the bottom. Unless you're growing rice, those roots need to breathe.
USE A GOOD FERTILIZER
We use a slow release fertilizer called Osmocote. It has a proprietary resin coating on it that only allows a specific amount of fertilizer out as you water. So, our plants get fed every time we water without any extra work from us. Sometimes we do give our plants an extra boost with a meal of water soluble fertilizer to make them extra awesome. Just be careful not to overdo it.
BE GOOD AT WATERING
Make it a part of your daily routine to check the plants for water. Don't just water every day out of habit. Water plants when they need it. That's how we keep all of our plants looking so healthy.
Push your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If your fingertip comes out damp like a wrung out sponge the plant is fine. If your fingertip is dry, it's time to give a thorough watering. Soak the entire soil volume until you see water coming out the holes in the bottom of the pot.
Now You Know!
Just follow these simple steps and you're on you way to having plants that ROCK! Just like us :)