You finally decided to have plant babies and have a container gardener. You bought a lot of pots and plants. A few days have passed but your babies are not looking as good as they were in the nursery.
Don’t panic! You are probably just doing one of the common container gardening mistakes. It is very usual, even for the most experienced gardeners, to make these common gardening mistakes. Check them out and save your green family!
What is container gardening?
Container gardening is the most famous gardening technique nowadays. It consists in growing different kinds of plants in containers: ornamental plants, vegetables, fruit plants, flowering plants, herbal plants, medicinal plants, etc. There is a whole world of greenery you can grow in a pot!
The good thing about container gardening is that you can grow your plants even if you do not have too much space, as you do not need to plant them on the ground. You can place your container garden indoors, outdoors, on a balcony, on a porch, on a deck, in a house or in an apartment. Any place is perfect for this amazing and adaptable gardening technique.
The most common container gardening mistakes
It does not matter if you are a new plant parent or if you already consider yourself an expert in container gardening. We all make mistakes! (it is part of the process, so do not be afraid). Typically, we are more likely to make them when we do not have the correct information needed to avoid them.
Below you will find a list of the most common container gardening mistakes and how to avoid them. You will receive all the information needed to fully understand why these common gardening mistakes are making your plants look a little different from the day you brought them home. Let’s start!
1. Common gardening mistakes: Plant selection
You can be so excited about getting your first load of plants, and so overwhelmed by the wide variety you see in the plant nursery, that you end up buying them all. You could be tempted to select your plant babies by their bright colours, their exotic shapes, or just “because you like them”.
But there is a truth… You can not choose all the plants you want before thinking about whether you can provide them with a nice environment and the correct care they need. Also, you need to make sure that the variety of plants you are bringing home can go well together.
To avoid the first of the common container gardening mistakes you can make, take a look at the following recommendations.
Mixing plants with different needs
As you get more into plant caring, you understand that different plants have different needs. Some need more water than others and some need less light than others. Putting them in the same container can be a complete washout, as they are going to share the soil conditions, and one of them will end up unhappy after time.
Matching different seasonal plants
Something similar occurs when you mix different season plants. If you match spring and summer plants just because they create an eye-catching combination, without thinking in which season you actually are, one of them is going to be in a colder or warmer temperature than it can bear, and eventually die off.
Selecting plants with different growth rates
When you mix two plants with completely different growth rates in the same container, the one that grows faster can overtake the who container area. This means less space, less soil and fewer nutrients for your plants that grow slower. Ultimately, this slow-growth plant is not going to resist and the bigger plant is going to win. It is part of nature after all!
How to avoid these common container gardening mistakes?
If you want to have healthy plants and an imposing and colourful container garden all year long, always look for complementary plants. Complementary plants are plants that have the same requirements and that can grow comfortable together.
A nice trick for achieving this is to get different colours of the same species, so your plants are not going to compete with each other, and would look fantastic, instead.
2. Common gardening mistakes: Pots
Some pots might look really good, and you can imagine how well they are going to fit the plants you selected with so much love. But do you know if they are the correct containers for your plants?
Different materials have different pros and cons, and these characteristics can affect the plants' growth and the amount of water and light they receive.
Plastic, for example, is a very versatile and lasting material. It tends to retain water as is non-breathable, and this feature is good for some kinds of plants.
This strong material survives well in cold temperatures without freezing or cracking, and if it is coloured in a dark colour, it can get hotter more easily by the sun.
Ceramic or terracotta pots are the most traditional choice when it comes to planting containers, but they are the easiest to crack as well, and they do not resist cold weather. The unglazed ceramic pots are breathable and allow the water to drain more easily than the plastic containers, so the soil dries out quicker. However, the glazed terracotta pots can retain moisture for more time.
Think about whether your plants are water-loving or prefer drier soils when choosing a pot, as choosing the wrong one can be a very common mistake to make!
Always make sure that the container you choose, no matter the material, has enough holes in the bottom so the water can be drained. If the water is retained in the pots, the soil will remain wet and the roots of the plants can absorb too much moisture. This can make them rot and eventually die when left untreated.
You may think that a plant that is going to grow really big needs an extra-large pot from the beginning. And you are right in some ways, but you should consider as well the water needs of that plant. Maybe it is a variety that can get overwatered easily, and if the pot is too big when that plant is a baby, the excess soil and moisture can contain can be harmful. When your pot is too large. the plant can’t absorb all the water and it is more prone to developing root rot.
As you can see, there are a lot of common container gardening mistakes related to the containers. Knowing the requirements of the plants that you have already selected will help you decide which ones are the best for them.
3. Common gardening mistakes: Plant population
When we are proud of the plants and pots we have selected, we can forget that plants need their space, too. You might want to start overcrowding the containers you carefully selected because you know the variety of plants you have chosen are going to do well together.
However, this is one of the most common container gardening mistakes! Even if you are sure about the container and plant selection by now, make sure every plant has its own space to grow and thrive healthily first. Giving them their space and waiting until they are adult plants might help you control diseases and pests too.
Once they are fully grown and you already know your plants' requirements, you can combine them more easily by colour, texture, shape or height to create a bright and beautiful container garden. Be patient and your plants are going to reward you.
4. Common gardening mistakes: Watering
Watering can be one of the most challenging parts and is certainly the source of a few common container gardening mistakes, but there is nothing to be afraid of. With the right information and practice, you will avoid the watering common gardening mistakes and master this skill!
How to avoid underwatering?
Every plant has its own water requirements, and there are certain factors that require you to adjust the amount of water you are giving them. This depends on the weather, ie, if it becomes hotter, most varieties of plants need to get watered more frequently to avoid underwatering. Having a schedule to stick to is also a great idea if you’re a forgetful plant parent. For example, every Monday or every other Monday for less thirsty plants.
How to avoid overwatering?
Reading the plants' tags at the store and doing some research is always important for you to know exactly the amount of water that your plants need. Checking the water drainage of your containers is very important to prevent your plants from receiving more water than needed. Make sure to stick your finger deep into the soil to check whether it needs watering, instead of just guestimating. A soily finger never hurt anyone!
Watering just foliage
The entire plant receives the water it needs from the soil, and through the roots. Watering the leaves might be helpful to make them look better, but the plant can not get fed by its foliage, so always remember to point at the soil when you are watering. Also, this can be damaging for some plants, particularly succulents, as this can cause illness and rot.
Are these all the common gardening mistakes I can make?
Unfortunately, no. There are more common container gardening mistakes you may find you are making while you are walking on the exciting path of this gardening technique.
There are more factors to consider besides looking for the best varieties of plants and choosing the best pots for them, giving the plants the space they need, and knowing all the watering tricks. It is important that you look at the fertilizer, soil, filler material, pest eradication, plant growth and light and wind exposure needs of your plants.
But be patient. You can know all about these other common container gardening mistakes another time. From here on now, you have a lot of information to review and so many recommendations to practice with the common gardening mistakes you already have learnt!
You can be sure your plants are already thanking you for giving them the best of you. Every day you are one step closer to being a better container gardener!