Annual Color Pots: 5 Tips for Beginner Gardeners

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The weather might not be welcoming now, but warmer days are undoubtedly ahead! It might feel far off, but it’s about time to get ready for the Treasure Valley’s summery weather. What better way to brighten your landscape than with annual color?

Containerized color arrangements are the perfect way to create an inviting space, and as the seasons change it’s easy to give your hardscape a facelift by adding containerized plants. Here are five tips to help you get started with a colorful container combination.  

1. Container

Garden pots and containers consist of many different materials: glazed ceramic, glazed clay, terra cotta, fiber clay, fiber stone, cement, and metal. Make sure the pot you select is frost-hardy and made for the outdoors. Drainage at the bottom is also very important, if the roots sit in too much water they can drown.

If you have a large pot or if you don’t have a drainage hole, here’s a trick: use a plastic nursery pot that fits inside the container. The plants will disguise the plastic liner when it’s potted up.   

Containers are a form of hardscaping (nonliving, inanimate objects in the landscape). If you feel like you need more permanence in the landscape, or if you want vertical interest, containers are an excellent solution. Plus, the plants inside will help soften and tie the whole landscape together.

With a variety of sizes and colors to choose from, make sure the pot you select matches your style and taste. Just because something is trendy and stylish doesn’t mean it will fit in your landscape. Choose the container that has the aesthetic and personality you want.

Lauren at Franz Witte choosing a ceramic pot

2. Soil

Successful, healthy container arrangements start with the proper soil. If you’re planting annuals, pick up Franz Witte’s Blooming Sensation potting mix. This medium is specific for annuals because it contains a wetting agent that maintains soil moisture, and it contains a fertilization rate that encourages large, healthy blooms.

Bags of Franz Witte's Blooming Sensations soil mixture

If you’re combining annuals, perennials, and/or shrubs in your container use an all-purpose soil, raised garden bed soil, or a natural and organic soil. Franz Witte has several soil options to choose from, and we proudly carry E.B Stone. You can always mix a slow-release fertilizer into the medium before you plant it. Osmocote® is an excellent option, which you can purchase in the garden center.

Osmicote product displayed on a table

3. Location

When choosing a location for your container, the most important factor is sun. Will the plants be exposed to the hot sun all day? Or will they get a little morning sun with some afternoon shade? Be sure the plants you select all have the same light requirements.

Consider where the container is going in relation to the landscape. Is it going up against a wall or structure, or will it be visible from all sides? Factoring all the angles determines the plant arrangement in your container.

4. Plants

Selecting plants gives you so much creative freedom, and honestly, it can be a little overwhelming. There are many colors and textures to choose from, so where’s the best place to start? Determining the sun exposure will help you narrow down the plant palette. From there, you can follow this three-word method:

Thriller, filler, spiller.

Thriller: The vertical element, dramatic centerpiece, and bold focal point of your container. If your container can be viewed from all angles, place the thriller in the center. If your container is up against a structure, place the thriller in the back.

Filler: The mounded and rounded plants that fill in the container and complement the thriller. These should be planted midway between the thriller and edge of the container.

Spiller: The cascading trailers that tumble over the sides of the planter. These soften the edges of the container and tie the design together.

When you shop at Franz Witte, we group our annuals by sun requirements and generally try to categorize them by thrillers, fillers, and spillers. The tag will always give the plant’s size specifications, and if you ever have questions as you’re shopping, our friendly staff is around to help.

5. Expert insight

If you’ve been to the garden center and seen any potted or floral arrangements, chances are it’s the work of Lily or Char. Both Franz Witte employees have an eye for design and generously shared some insight.

Char is all about texture and foliage. When designing a pot, she first selects plants with interesting foliage. An evergreen as a thriller, like a ‘Trautman’ juniper, ensures year-long interest. Then, she fills in various colors and blooms. Char is notorious for using shrubs and perennials alongside annuals in her containers.

“Flowers are fleeting, foliage is forever,” she said. “If you still want your containers full in the winter or cold weather, you can also use branches as a cool thriller.”

When designing summer pots, Lily takes a unique approach by using climbing vines on a topiary as the centerpiece. Black-eyed Susan vine is a fun option. She’s all about the bloom longevity and bright colors that annuals have to offer. She also prefers neutral-colored containers, that way the plants can really make a statement.

“My advice is don’t overthink it. They’re flowers, they’re going to be beautiful no matter what. Pick what you like and enjoy what you create,” Lily said.

With all this in mind, colorful containers don’t have to be overly complex and dramatic to be beautiful. Check out these simple spring arrangements.

Pot 1:

Blue rush, Pink armeria, saxifrage, club miss, viola, and silene uniflora

Thriller: Blue Rush   
Filler: Pink Armeria, Saxifrage, Club Moss, Viola
Spiller: Silene uniflora

Pot 2:

Container with assortment of florals in it

Thriller: Heliotrope
Filler: Hebe, Euphorbia ‘Glitz’
Spiller: Cape Primrose Streptocarpus*

*Substitute with purple calibrachoa or petunia. Streptocarpus is a houseplant or used as a shade annual and typically doesn’t spill.

By Riley Rehberg

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