Container Design & Maintenance

Select plants with similar cultural requirements for your container.  Create the design by planting all together in one pot, or plant them in individual pots, to be arranged as a group.   If they are planted in individual pots, you can use both plants requiring moist in some containers and plants for dry conditions in other containers. An added plus is that you can rearrange your design to create differing “potscapes”, or grouping of plants.

Other Considerations
Add Foliage accent plants. Never underestimate the “wow factor” of a foliage plant!  A good rule of thumb is to include 1 foliage accent for every 3 flowering plants. Foliage plants should have variegated, colored or unique leaf patterns that contrast with the flowering plants.  Colorful foliage will add interest, and if all your flowers decide to take a rest, or need to be trimmed, the foliage will help to carry the design through until the flowers re-bloom.


Add inexpensive pack annuals. Tuck some small flowering annuals into empty spaces, or add plants with an open, loose growth habit that will weave through the empty spaces and pull the composition together.  
Consider Rhythm. The human eye is naturally drawn to repetition, so repeat some element of color or shape if the container is large enough to do so. Use several different flowers or types of foliage in the same color group, or just repeat the same plant (odd numbers work best). Simply use a row of spikes in a window box, or pair a large white variegated foliage with a smaller white variegated foliage plant, then add the flowers.

Maintaining Your Container Garden

Water and Fertilizer
In general, water when the surface of the potting mix starts to feel dry. As plants grow, and temperatures rise, watering needs to be much more frequent. Water thoroughly, it’s best to see water draining from the base of the pot, but don’t allow the pot to stand in a saucer of water.  Use Bumper Crop All Purpose Food or Espoma Flower Tone.  Fertilize as directed on the fertilizer label. 

Automatic Watering
Consider an olla or other slow-release watering methods, especially if you spend periods of time away from home. 

Dead-Heading and Trimming
Remove dead flowers and seed heads. Most annuals respond to a pinch, or a trim with increased foliage and flowers. Cut tired –looking plants back by 1/3 and allow 3-5 weeks for new blooms to appear.

Seasonal Maintenance
Remove and replace dead or unhealthy plants with fresh flowering plants or foliage. Visit any one of our three Esbenshades Garden Centers to see seasonal displays providing creative ideas and inspiration for year-round container gardening. 

Basic Supplies, Containers, Soil and Plants 

Terra cotta, plastic, ceramic, stone, concrete, wood, and fiber glass or styrofoam. Plastic pots are the least porous and will help retain moisture in hot weather, while terracotta is the most porous.  Fiber glass or styrofoam pots are the latest trend and many have been designed to look like ceramic or concrete but without the weight. 

Drainage Tip
Without proper drainage the potting mix stays too wet and leads to poor air circulation and root rot.  Drainage is not accomplished by putting a layer of rock at the bottom of the container.  There is still nowhere for the accumulating water to escape.  If your container has no drainage holes, drill holes, or in some cases punch them out at the perforated areas on the base of the container, or remove a plug.

Potting Soil
Use Esbenshades Professional Potting Soil which is a soiless lightweight mix that contains a high grade peat moss and perlite that allows plant roots to thrive and grow throughout the season.  Avoid garden soil which tends to compact and strangle the roots of rapidly growing annuals. 

Add some fertilizer as you are planting.  Our professional staff recommends using the Esbenshades Root Transplant Stimulator. This promotes vibrant blooms and stimulates rapid root growth and prevents plant stress and reduced watering requirements. A slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Plant Food feeds plants up to four months and is an excellent choice for your containers. These methods will probably not last all summer so you will want to supplement with liquid feed.


You can get as crazy or as simple as you want when selecting plants for your container garden.  The most important decision is selecting compatible plants.  If you plan to keep your container in a sunny location do not include shade loving plants.  These out of place plants will eventually become unhappy and will most likely need to be replaced.

Creative Container Garden Design 101
An effective container design can be created using 1 or more plants from each of these groups:

Tall Plants
“The Thriller” is often a foliage plant. These plants grow taller than wider, or they grow large in one season. – They are used in the back on a one-sided design, or in the center of an all-around design.

Mounding Plants
“The Filler” is a Medium sized foliage or flowering plant that grows upright, with a ball-shaped growth habit. 

Cascading Plants
“The Spiller” is a foliage or flowering plant that has a trailing growth habit.

Create a Unique Design

Begin with an Accent plant – Choose one special, unique, or favorite plant from group A, B or C –it’s your choice! The accent plant may be tall, mounding or cascading. Use only one plant, or place several close together in the design for visual impact.

Determine the Cultural Needs of this Plant
Will it perform best in Sun, Part Sun or Shade? Does it prefer moist or dry soil? If it’s a perennial will it survive the winter in an exposed container, or is it important to you if it does? How large will it grow?, etc.

Examples of Possible Accent Plants 
Dwarf trees or shrubs, perennials with an extended bloom period, specialty grasses, tropical foliage, and usually the most eye-catching, the specialty annuals such as New Guinea Impatiens, Mandevilla, Bi-colored Geraniums, Coleus, Petunias, large flowered Zinnias, etc. Use your imagination and Happy Gardening.