Posted on May 20th, 2012 at 3:09 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

Click on this link to see step-by-step how to make a hypertufa (an artificial stone pot).

Creating Hypertufa Containers

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 at 3:29 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

Factors In Choosing a Container

            Drainage holes are critical to the ultimate health of the plant.  Most commercial containers have adequate drainage.  If you have chosen one that does not, just drill several holes in it.  If you want to keep the container intact you can still use it, just double pot.  Place several stones or other solid objects in the bottom of the container.  Place your planted container in it on the stones.  Be sure to check that residual water in the base never rises above the blocks.

            The plants need room to grow.  If you know the growth rate of the plant(s) you can choose the size of the container based on how fast the plant(s) grow.  Giving at least one inch of space around the root ball will work for most annuals and perennials.  Trees, shrubs and large perennials will need more room for their larger root system.

            Understanding how large your plant(s) will be at maturity lets you choose a container that will be in proportion to your plant(s).  Planting small low growing plants in a large urn would be out of proportion.

            Consider where the container will be placed so that it will be in scale with the surroundings.  Will it be on a walkway, patio, front entrance or stairway?

            Choose your container to suit the location aesthetically.  An informal clay pot may not be suitable for a large formal front entrance.

Types of Containers

            Manufacturers today are filling the container gardening craze with an endless variety of styles.  It is a good idea to consider the material the container is made of when choosing one.  There are advantages and disadvantages to all.  Understanding the individual characteristics of the container will help determine what type best suits your needs and the needs of the plant(s).  Some of the best containers were never intended for that purpose.  Keep an open mind when choosing a container.

            Clay is fragile, porous and heavy if large.  It is good for stability in windy sites, but the large ones can be hard to move.  Its porosity lets the plants roots breathe, but it also absorbs moisture necessitating more frequent watering.  It is attractive but the better quality ones can be expensive.

            Plastic is lightweight, non-porous, durable and less expensive.  It needs less watering but the roots of the plants will not be able to breathe.  It can tip easily in windy sites but will not break easily.  Moving the container around will be easier.  Manufacturers are making better quality, more attractive plastic containers to choose from.

            Wood is porous if untreated.  It is naturally insulating, keeping the mix and therefore the plant(s) roots from overheating in the hot sun.  Choose redwood or cedar, as these woods are rot resistant.

            Metal is very durable and attractive.  It can heat up quickly in very hot weather requiring more frequent watering.  It can also be heavy to move and expensive.

Choosing Plant Material

            The environmental conditions the plant(s) will be exposed to must be considered when choosing your plant(s).  Will the plants be in the sun, shade or some combination of the two?  Will they be indoors or outdoors, sheltered or in a windy location?  The ideal growing conditions can often be found on the plant identifying tag.  If not, ask the garden retailer for that information.

What maintenance requirements do the plant(s) have?  How much water and fertilizer will the plant(s) need in order to thrive?   Most containers will need watering every day or every other day.  This will leach out the fertilizer faster so frequent fertilizing is usually necessary.  Most flowering plants will need deadheading to encourage bloom and look tidy.  You will need to watch for any insect or disease problems that may occur.

            The plant(s) characteristics also need to be considered.  A large upright plant should not be placed in a shallow container.  Do you want fragrant plant(s) for containers near an entrance or seating area?  Would you like a container of herbs within easy reach for cooking?  Does the color and texture look pleasing in the chosen container?  The same factors you would use when choosing material for a garden bed should be considered when container gardening.

Potting Mix 

            Good quality potting mixes are readily available commercially.  These mixes should be lightweight and sterile.  They are generally composted of peat, composted bark, perlite and/or vermiculite.  Some have added polymers for water retention and may contain slow release fertilizers.  There are even specialty mixes available for plants such as cactus and African violet.

Putting It All Together

            Once you have assembled all your materials the planting can begin.  For mixed containers make sure the plans chosen have similar cultural requirements.  For example, do not plant a cactus in the same pot with petunias because they have different watering requirements. The combination of shapes, textures and colors should be pleasing.  Consider the overall view of the container when placing the plants.  If you will be viewing the container from all sides place the tallest plants in the center and the shorter plants around the edges.

            A single plant container is easy to do.  Try making a statement.  One specimen plant in the proper container can be stunning.  If you have several small containers try grouping them together to give a mass effect.  This will also make caring for them easier.