Outdoor Planters and Window Boxes A Far Cry from the Old Days

Today’s planter boxes are a far cry from its predecessor. The earlier day contemporary of our modern “planters” was an unwieldy affair and usually in place only because it was in vogue at the time. These “planters” were made of many materials with wood being preferred.

Design wise they all looked very much alike long “trough” or bins usually painted some contrasting color from the house or porch, but more than likely a dark green, which blended with absolutely nothing. Through the years the planter has changed a great deal in design, while serving basically the same purpose.

Planters are usually, or should be, influenced by the design of the building where they are being used. No longer is it a separate entity that has its period of use in the garden plan and then is put away for the winter.

Color planted window box

Frequently the design of the box will repeat certain architectural lines of the building for accent purposes or the planter may be designed that as the focal point of the building; or it may be an integral part of the building blending the various elements; one into the other; and creating a feeling of space.

Design wise the most important requirement is that there be a definite relationship between planter and building. There should be a need for it – otherwise; why have one?

Physical requirements are simple. The planter should be large enough in width and depth to accommodate the plants and allow for proper growth. There should be adequate drainage especially outdoors this is very easily taken care of by the use of “weep” holes designed during the building process. Indoors many planters may include sub-irrigation systems.

The modern planter is usually a part of the overall design and; as such; is provided for in the plans and does not become an after thought. The best planters of this type have no bottom; but are open to the soil beyond.

When drains must be provided, a two-inch hole every four feet will usually be sufficient. A “weep” hole is a simple opening in the brick-work or foundation actually, about a two-inch space laterally between two bricks, or the placing of short pieces of pipe through the walls of the box.

These holes allow enough drainage to prevent waterlogging by the accumulation of “free water” in the soil. Drainage is even required with low volume drip emitters are used for irrigation.

Its Own Climate

As the location of the planter is usually influenced by the design of the house, the layout of the building will decide the position of the planter. This means that today’s becomes a specialized area of the garden so far as climatic limitations are concerned. Each such area has a modified or semi-controlled climate around it. The environment thus created has a marked influence on the selection of plants to be used. Different exposures call for plants tolerating all conditions from full sun to full shade.

As in any other gardening or landscaping the type and physical condition of soil will dictate the success of the venture. Usually a mixture is made especially for the purpose. In the bottom of the planter, a layer of coarse gravel or crushed rock should be placed to a depth of six to eight inches. Over this place a layer of porous material like a landscape fabric to prevent the soil particles from washing down into the layer of gravel.

outdoor planter ready for the soil to be improved

On top of this, the soil should be placed that will support the plants. Normally, a good quality potting soil is sufficient. However, you can “mix your own” soil, but a bagged mix, easy to move and transport should be more makes a very satisfactory for most plants. The addition of a balanced fertilizer to each bushel of soil will improve the overall mixture and promote heavier growth of the plants, if the soil does ot have fertilizer incorporated. Follow labeled directions for fertilizer incorporation.

The use of peat moss in any soil improves the texture and water-holding capacity of the soil. The most important thing to remember regarding soil in planters is that it is easily depleted of its food value, as it is in a confined area. The plants soon use up all of the food elements available. Feedings of liquid food regulary will keep plants growing and in a lush state of flower production.

It may be necessary to change the soil completely every few years in order to support the best growth. Usually the removal of the top 12-18 inches of soil and the addition of new fresh media will be enough to replenish the planter.

The only accurate way to decide whether or not the soil needs changing is to watch the plants each year. When their growth and vigor slow, it is time to check and replace the soil.

Selecting Plants

Plants for planting must be considered very carefully. For the bold color that is a part of present day homes, the annual flowers provide an almost unlimited source. If proper care is given, annuals will be in bloom both early and late throughout the year. Although they give good results even while neglected, they give best returns to those who work with them and understand their culture.

In selecting annuals for planters pay attention to the plants’ requirements, especially the light requirements. While none blooms prolifically in full shade, there are some that have more shade tolerance than others. Ageratum, torenia or wish bone flower sometimes known as summer pansy, lobelia, forget—me-not, petunia, pansy, some of the coleus, many ferns and easy to care of spider plants are in the group of shade tolerant plants.

For partial shade use calendula, sweet alyssum, verbena, petunia, celosia, anchusa and the trailing geraniums.

The list of sun-loving plants is more extensive, as a large part of the plant world prefers full sun. Among this group are petunia, poppy, portulaca, zinnia, periwinkle (vinca), nasturtium, marigold, godetia, bells of Ireland and ageratum.

Of all the annuals available for planters, the petunia is perhaps the most universally used. It has good growth habits, nice plants form and heavy flower production. Add “easy to grow” to the above qualities, and you have a winner every time.

outdoor planter stand alone

The best effect using petunias is in masses than by mixing colors. Mass plantings of all white give a cooling effect on hot summer days. A dark purple as well as doubles make for interesting displays.

Another plant that gives good return is the snapdragon. These plants adjust well to growing in planters and are a source of cut flowers as well. Tetraploid hybrid snapdragons make a gorgeous display in a raised bed. The plants are larger and the flowers more than double the garden varieties.

Verbena is a natural for most planters as it carpets the ground and tends to trail over the sides in a pleasing cascade.

Permanent Plantings

Your home may also enjoy a basic planting of shrubs or semi-permanent plants in the planter with pockets left for putting in the seasonal plants for color. The old favorite English ivy, and the ice plants (Mesembryanthernum) are two hardy plants that give pleasing color and textural qualities to a planter.

For sheer pleasure and enjoyment, nothing can replace spring-flowering bulbs. Daffodils and tulips fit well into a planter box design. For winter season color, plant dwarf evergreens or put in trimming of evergreens to keep the planter full of sparkle during the winter season.

For a succession of bloom, plant pansies in late fall for bloom during the winter and early spring. If the bulbs are planted during October, these will push their way through the pansies and flaunt their blossoms early also.

Follow the pansies with petunias, marigolds or vinca by interplanting among the pansies in early May. They will give late summer bloom after the pansies have been pulled out. ]oseph’s Coat (Alternanthera) is a wonderful foliage plant for summer and early fall color in these boxes.

In combination with coleus, the effect is particularly striking. Maintenance of planters is fairly easy – the chief consideration is watering. The most difficult part of the job is maintaining an even moisture content. Plants are harmed by a fluctuating supply of water, too much or not enough. Practice regular feeding and an occasional mulching of the soil. One other way to keep annuals at peak performance is to cut back long stems to stimulate new and vigorous growth on which more flowers will form.

Tips To Improve Your Plant Care
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