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Giving your plant containers some TLC

Growing plants in containers is one of my favourite ways to garden. Come August, however, I’ve had it with deadheading and lugging watering cans. Last spring, when I was preparing to pot up my containers, the memory of spent, sticky nicotiana blossoms clinging to my fingertips came rushing back, and I wondered—is all this fuss and fluff worth it? Do containers really need that much care, or is it just a lot of hype? That’s when I decided to embark on an experiment. I planted several

sets of identical containers and gave one pot in each set only water and the other the royal treatment: fertiliser, primping, and pruning.

By midsummer, it was clear that containers need more than just water. The water-only containers looked pathetic: The plants were puny, had few flowers, and their leaves were often an unhealthy yellow. The containers given more TLC thrived with abundant growth and flowers. The moral of the story is that a regular-maintenance checklist is the best way to get great-looking containers from beginning to end. Now that I know that all of the work really does pay off, it makes the rewards that much sweeter.

1. Provide a steady supply of water and nutrients

- To provide plants with the food they need, I give my containers a regular dose of fertiliser;

- Add water to each pot until I see it draining from the bottom

- Avoid watering at the end of the day;

2. Snip off spent flowers and unsightly foliage

- Deadheading faded blossoms and removing damaged or diseased leaves;

- Deadheading redirects a plant’s energy from seed production back into flower production;

- It’s best to remove disfigured leaves and stems as soon as you notice them;

3. Prune plants back into shape

- Cut aggressive plants back to size to keep my plantings balanced;

- Remove a stem here or there to be sure the container gets enough air;

4. Don’t be a slave to watering

- Use saucers to save water for later;

- Choose the right pot;

- Mix in some magic crystals;

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