Living bouquets in containers

by Margie Lachman

Annuals are satisfying because they give color all summer and fall. It is fun to buy new plants each spring with different color and texture combinations. Every spring it seems there are some new choices of annuals. 

Because I have so many perennials and shrubs in my garden, I like to grow annuals in large containers—15-20 inches—because they don’t dry out so quickly, and slugs have a harder time accessing them. Also it is easier to groom them of faded flowers. 

Big containers need lots of potting mix, which can get expensive year after year. To cut down on cost, I remove the top eight inches of soil, saving it. Then I spread the rest into the garden. I put the saved potting soil into the bottom of the pot and add new soil to top it off. Annuals have relatively shallow roots so there is no need to replace all the potting mix. Water retaining potting soil works well or add Soil Moist to your soil. 

Before I plant them, I soak the starts in half-strength fish fertilizer. Containers four inches and larger can go in a bucket of diluted liquid fertilizer to cover the soil for 15 minutes. Flats of plants can be separated and soaked in small containers. This thorough wetting reduces transplant shock. I use Osmocote fertilizer for annuals, and then water as needed. Do not feed with an additional high-nitrogen fertilizer as this will promote attack from insects like geranium web worms. This has occurred in my plants! Use a 0-10-10 fertilizer to promote flowers. 

The past few years we have had temperatures up to 100° which is very stressful to the plants. This year I have shade cloth ready to cover the plants for protection until the heat wave is over. Keep the pots watered and remove spent flowers.

Each container can hold several different annuals. Be sure you choose plants with similar water and light requirements. Geraniums and Lantana are two flowering plants that work well on my west-facing driveway. 

If you choose a variety, your containers are like a big bouquet! They add visual impact to the summer garden. They are portable and can be placed wherever color is lacking. 

Questions? Email me at or call 503-645-2994 and leave a message.