Gardening with Allen: Keep tubs, flower baskets with good soil, fertilizer

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Could you give me some suggestions for planting flowers in tubs and hanging baskets?

Make sure your containers all have drainage holes. If you’re reusing last year’s soil, loosen it with a hand trowel all the way to the bottom. Some people prefer to throw old soil into soil beds and start with new potting soil. The best potting mixes allow water to penetrate the soil quickly and contain peat moss or other materials that retain moisture. Some potting mixes contain slow-release fertilizers or water-absorbing crystals, which increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. If you are purchasing crystals to add to your soil, mix them thoroughly throughout the volume of soil.

Decide where you will place the containers, then choose flowers based on their sun and shade needs. Use shade-tolerant varieties for containers that are placed where they don’t receive direct sunlight or only receive a few hours of sunlight. Shade plants are best for containers that only get morning sun. Use plants in full sun where containers receive at least half a day of sun or receive mostly afternoon sun.

Most nurseries and garden stores have a special section of potted flowers specially selected for containers. Many have trailing or spreading growth. Non-flowering plants with colored leaves are often mixed. A single upright plant is often added to the center of tall tubs and pots to provide height.

Most plant labels indicate whether a plant prefers full sun, partial shade, or full shade. Some of the best plants for shady spots are pansy, viola, begonia, impatiens, lobelia, fuchsia, browalia, coleus, lamium, and nierembergia. Variegated ivy grows well in shade. For sunny areas, some of the most popular flowers include diascia, petunia, ivy geranium, lobelia, bacopa, calibrachoa (million bells), alyssum, lobelia, trailing snapdragon, trailing verbena , lotus and sweet potato vine. Some of the best plants for single-variety containers are ivy geraniums, impatiens, hanging begonias, fuchsias, bacopa, calibrachoa (million bells), and trailing petunias. Some good upright plants for the center of large containers are salvia, dracaena spikes, snapdragon and ornamental grasses.

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