Pot up the Red, white and blue!

Gary Jones

Fri June 26, 2015 10:51am

Throwing a Fourth of July party? This year, go beyond the stars and stripes napkins and kick it up a notch with planters in patriotic colors placed around the pool and patio — and even on tabletops.
Throughout the summer, Armstrong Garden Centers will have party-ready, four-inch annuals and perennials in full bloom just waiting to be used for holiday gatherings and casual dinner parties. It takes no longer than 20 minutes to plant up a pot once a few supplies are gathered.
Start with a colorful glazed pot. Pass over the neutral brown, beige and terracotta colors and head straight for those in oxblood red and cobalt blue. If you’re not that confident, a rich dark green glaze will work. These three colors are the perfect backdrop for flowers that Betsy Ross would be proud of.
Now choose your plants. You’ll want to follow the “rule of three” by selecting some of each of three types: thrillers, fillers and spillers. This means a tall, upright plant (one is usually enough), plants that are rounded in their habit (fillers) and plants that will trail out over the edges of the pot. Here are top choices for each type of plant in red, white and blue:
Plants that can be used as thrillers are annual blue salvia, shrubby blue perennial salvias, red-leaved hibiscus, silver-white leaved Astelia, blue or white upright Angelonias, “Sun Parasol” mandevillas (in red or white) trained on tripods, red coneflowers, red-flowering milkweed, white Sonata cosmos, and tall red-flowered and red-leaved dahlias.
Mid-range filler plants are red or white bedding dahlias, blue or white petunias, red-leaved coleus, white or red “baby wing” begonias, red and white Salvia greggii varieties, spreading Angelonias, red or white bedding begonias, blue geranium “Rozanne,” red or white geraniums, deep red dianthus, ageratum and Felicia.
Trailing plants (spillers) in patriotic colors are white bacopa, white trailing lantana, red or white calibrachoa, lobelia, alyssum, star jasmine, small varieties of red or blue “Sun Parasol” mandevillas, Santa Barbara daisy and plumbago (best for larger containers).
Before you fill your beautiful glazed pot with organic potting soil, cover the hole with a round pot screen designed to keep soil in and bugs out. Keeper Stoppers is a well-stocked brand. Fill the pot to the top and press it down firmly with your hands. That usually puts the soil line about five or six inches from the top.
Next arrange your red-white-and-blue troop of flowers in an artful way. You can cluster colors together or just let them be a cacophony like the end of a Fourth of July fireworks display. But remember the “rule of three:” tall, upright plants (thrillers) at the center or back, fillers around them and spillers at the pot’s edges. The tops of the plants’ root balls should be an inch below the top of the pot rim.
Once you’ve placed plants, fill in all the soil gaps and firm the soil. Be sure the top of the soil line is at least an inch below the top of the rim. Water thoroughly then later water as needed, usually two or three times a week.
Here’s a garden designer’s secret for months of colorful blooms: feed your pots two ways. Once you’re finished planting, apply a time-release food such as Osmocote according to the directions. This will ensure a continuous light feeding. Additionally, feed monthly with a high-bloom liquid plant food. Your patriotic pots will put on a floral fireworks display all summer long.
Gary Jones is the chief horticulturist at Armstrong Garden Centers. Email him your gardening questions to growingdialogue@armstronggarden.com. Or contact your local Armstrong Garden Center.