Upper pot Foxtail Fern - lower pot sun annuals

Since this weekend is the first weekend past the “official last frost day”,

 I’m guessing that many of you will head to the greenhouse to buy annuals this weekend.

So…I’m trying to get this off a bit early this weekend.

I’m writing on Friday night and it’s well….almost freezing. 

But…tomorrow will be in the 70’s so we’ll all be itching to get going. 

Let’s talk pots.

First a disclaimer. 

I have a lot of opinions on pots.  But they are just that – my opinions.

So take them as that and go forward into the world of pots and annuals.

My theory is bigger pots and fewer of them is the way to go. 

In all my yard I have 10 pots.

And they are big pots. 

The smallest is 18″ in diameter.

The largest is 30″.

Frankly 18″ is a bit small but it holds an asparagus fern.

They’ll grow practically without a pot so you don’t really have to worry about them.

The thing I dislike about lots of little small pots is that they just require so much time to water – all the time.

And things die when it gets really hot. 

So… think BIG!

I’m partial to clay pots – Italian clay which is sturdier than Mexican clay.

I’ve had 2 Italian clay rolled rim pots for over 25 years.  

They are pretty gnarly by now which is why I love them – personality!

Italian clay will have thicker walls than other clay and will survive the freeze thaw cycle that so many of us deal with. 

25 year old Italian clay pot with Madavilla vine and sun annuals.


There are great fiberglass pots on the market now. 

They can get a bit pricey but are worth the investment.

They are lighter weight which is good if you are need ing to move them in and out from season to season or if you are still in the moving around stage of live.

Then there is plastic. 

My least favorite but practical in many aspects.

If  you do go with plastic buy the best quality you can afford.

There are some commercial quality plastic pots that actually resemble clay.

The one on my landing is plastic kind of by default as I remember.

Now…on to potting soil.

Actually, lets talk filling really big pots with non-soil.

I often use old  plastic pots to fill the bottom of a big pot.

This saves money on potting soil since the roots often don’t go more than 8″ – 10″ at most.

The soil itself is tricky.

It needs to be light – and retain moisture.

You can buy commercial potting soil.

Which is where I start.  Then I add peat moss which will help to keep the moisture in.

I also like to add the commercial moisture retention granules.

Be sure and follow the directions on the package of how to use them. 

They will SWELL up like you don’t believe when you put them in water.

It’s great fun!

Mix this all together with your hands until it’s fluffy.

If I’m planting caladiums I mix a special non-soil mixture of equal parts sand, peat moss and pine bark nuggets.

This will provide good drainage and keep the caladium bulbs from rotting.

What to plant?

The options are endless. 

Historically, I have used pots of all annuals and still do for the most part.

I’m trying to broaden my horizons.

So look at perennials, grasses  and bulbs in addition to annuals.

Of course, the beauty of annuals is that they bloom and provide color all season long.

Greenhouses will have sample pots planted to give you ideas.

There are always magazines.

But remember gardeners reading garden magazines is like real women reading VOGUE!!!

I also take pictures during the season of pots I like and keep a file on my computer.

Some of those I’m sharing today, although I seem to only be able to find last years pots and a few dreamy ones from the Rocky Mountains.

Street planting Breckinridge, CO

The basic design principle is to have 3 elements in each pot.

Something tall in the center or back.

Mounding plants in the middle.

Trailing plants along the edge.

Tall plants I use – by no means a complete list – are:

Sun:   Mandavilla – on a big – 4″ metal frame, Agastache, sun Coleus, Asparagus fern, Foxtail fern, tall Snapdragons. Salvias & grasses.

Shade:  Kimberly Fern, Caladiums & Coleus are great.

Mounding plants are endless.  Here’s what works for me:

Sun: petunias, nierembergia, allysum all mound and trail.  Also Marigolds, sun Begonias, Snapdragons, Gomphrena, Heliatrope, Lantana, Pentas

Shade:  Impatiens, begonias, snapdragons will tolerate light shade, short caladiums.

Trailing plants:

Swedish ivy, English ivy, vinca minor & major, Helicrysum, Sweet Potato Vine Verbenas, Wave Petunias.

That should get you started.

And now a word about pace.

This past 2 weeks my cranky back has been well….cranky.

It has forced me to re-evaluate everything I do and how I do it.

Specifically, the pace at which I do it.

I think I’ve been treating gardening like a 1950’s family road trip.

You remember, pile into the car and drive like crazy – past some pretty fun looking stuff – to the destination.

Now I must remember that gardening is like the saying. 

“The journey is the destination.”

Slow down –  step back and take it all in – accept the pace of nature.

Enjoy this week’s journey.


New blooms this week…



purple Dutch Iris


Wisteria - only a few dozen blooms this year.


Filed under container gardening, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Pots

  1. Allison

    So excited to have this Gail! I’m going to print it off and save. Thank you!

  2. Linda Record

    You say, “I often use old plastic pots to fill the bottom of a big pot.”…. I have some big pots to fill, so I’m interested in what you mean by this. You mean turned upside down to take up space with air?

    • Hi Linda,
      Yes, you are right. I turn them upside down to create a false bottom. You can lodge all different sizes into the bottom and the water will still flow through, but the soil doesn’t and you save quite a bit on potting soil.
      You are one jump ahead of me….I was thinking of talking about drip systems in the next few week. I’m around most of the week so let me know when you’ll be in the old neighborhood and I’ll show you how I have rigged mine up.

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