3 main reasons why your container plants fail. Sounds pretty basic so lets dig right in. There are not a lot of reasons why a potted planter may being to show signs of stress. Often it has to do with the plants and what is going on under the soil. Here are a few reasons to help eliminate guessing.
1. Vine Weevils - Grubs can come on sudden and destroy a potted plant arrangement in no time if you don't catch them early. Even though they don't fly they can grip to most plant surfaces and can easily crawl across walls and ceilings. Then they lay eggs in the soil. They can come in a nursery planter so check carefully before potting up the plants you bring home. Once the eggs hatch they burrow into the soil and feed on the roots. Obviously the plant can't take much of that and will stress out leading to death.
The best thing to do is egg shells to the soil mix. Their sharp edges discourage them greatly. Adults can be picked off the plants. You can then add parasite nematodes to the soil to control the larvae.
2. Poor Drainage - This is a obvious one. If your garden container doesn't have proper drain holes or if those holes get blocked with soil the planter becomes waterlogged and the wet soil will suffocate plant root system. Once the roots dye, top growth will collapse and your plant can die overnight. You want damp not wet soil that drains well.
Here it's best to start with broken pot shards covering the drain hole. This let's the water drain but keeps the soil from plugging up the planters drain hole. If using a saucer keep the saucer empty once the pot has fully drained. Don't let the planter sit in standing water.
3. Starvation - Nobody thinks about your plant starving especially if you use new potting mix. When you water your plants, the water will leech out the soil nutrients eventually leaving your healthy plants sitting in nutrient depleted soil. Because your plants are contained and can't search for nutrients they will eventually collapse and die.
Here is where fertilizer comes into play. No matter how good your potting soil is, your garden containers will need regular fertilizer treatments. Try to use a good organic fertilizer and follow instructions well. Over fertilizing can burn your plants roots and also cause stress.
Terracotta pottery is the uber material for healthy plants. They keep the soil moist, insulate plant roots and breathe because they are porous clay. Unfortunately that means that when you water for fertilize those containers, you will have the white lines that start to show up on the outside. It is the calcium, minerals & salts from fertilizers and water that become trapped.
When the moisture evaporates these salts are left behind. Many people like this look and even try to turn new clay flowerpots into aged pot by applying product to the outside of the pots to get this look. But, for those who don't here are a few tips to help get residues off.
The best way to start cleaning terracotta pottery is to scrub the outside and try to loosen as much dirt as possible. Use a dish scrubber, a textured sponge or nail brush.
Once the planter looks as clean as you can get it - it is time for a bath. Submerge the pot in a solution of water and vinegar. 1 Cup of white vinegar to 4 cups of clean water. Put it in a bucket. Let the vinegar dissolve any build up.
Go back to step on and after 20 mins or so take the brush to the pot again for one last try. If there is still build up soak for a bit longer and keep testing till you think you have the pot as clean as it's going to get.
End off with a really good rinse. Make sure that all the vinegar or any soap you have used comes off before filling with fresh potting mix and fetching plants.
If you are into pansies and geraniums, then here is your guide to creating your very own stunning hanging flowerpots.
Hanging flowerpots can be found in plastic, clay pots, wicker, or moss. Finding them is a bit harder than you would think. Many people will find themselves having to create their own. This is not hard to do.
Obviously, the plants you choose to grow will dictate the size of planter you will need. A larger planter leads to higher water retention and bigger more vibrant plants. We recommend you use a pot liner of moss, supamoss or burlap liner which helps to retail water so it doesn't run off. Fill with potting soil making sure you have 5 inches above the base of the planter. Then add your plants just below the soil line. Pansies are a favorite. They are slightly acidic and like well draining soil. Another favorite is trailing lobelia which will hang out the sides. They are less hardy but still durable.
Come winter time, it's time to clean out the planter and put them away till next Spring.
Some advice on plant selection, soil, fertilizing and maintenance.
You may find that some container-grown shrubs come thru winter just fine, especially if they are in large planters with plenty of soil around their roots. You don't want roots to sit against a cold frozen pot. Some areas of the country are just to cold, so no matter how large the pot is nothing is going to help protect the root systems. If you move your pots to a protected area away from winter wind exposure that really helps.
Of course the best thing to do is sink the plants into the ground in the fall. The other thing is to move them into a sheltered location out of the wind and cold. Be sure the roots are well watered before soil freezes and lay a layer of garden mulch around the planter to help protect it from the cold.
When it comes to fertilizer choices it is always best to read the manufacturers directions on the package. Water soluble fertilizers last the least amount of time and need to be applied every two weeks or so. Time released fertilizers feed up to a couple of months and some will even last the entire season. When it comes to houseplants they should be fed during their growing season. All plants should be fed while blooming.
If a plant has a short root system they really don't require large pots. However you want to remember that the smaller the container the faster the soil will dry out and the more attention the plant will require. If you can afford the space and price the best thing to do is go for the larger size of planter. By starting with a larger planter than needed you will not have to re-plant the plant, bush or shrub as much. Every time you re-pot a plant it is risky business.