Contain the colors of the season

Don’t let drought stop you from sprucing up your landscape. Just think inside the box.

Just because Stage 2 watering rules remain in effect doesn’t mean you can’t add a bit of color to your landscape for the season.

Simply think inside the box — and fill your patio or front porch area with bright colors in a container!

The options are plentiful. Choose from terra cotta, glazed pots, or half whiskey barrels and fill ‘em up with colorful flowers that don’t require a lot of care and, most importantly, water. And this is important: Make sure all your containers have drainage holes in the base. The fastest way to kill plants is to drown their roots.

Then stroll about the nursery to select your plants. From previous articles, you may know I favor snapdragons, cascading petunias or alyssum, and a sprinkling of stocks for a lovely sensory bouquet. But there are other perfect cool season choices including viola, pansies, pinks, primula, and cyclamen.

Primula and cyclamen are best for spots that don’t get a lot of sunlight, even in winter. But watch out for snails and slugs. They find primula and cyclamen extremely tasty. Use copious amounts of slug baits.

Use a high-quality planting mix — not planting soil — that contains a variety of organic products. Quality products will have a mixture of components including but not limited to ground peat moss, pine bark, perlite, pumice, organic fertilizer, and maybe a little green sand or humectants. I favor adding a little sand or green sand to a mix as a binder (much like adding an egg or two to a Christmas cookie recipe).

When arranging your plants, keep in mind this simple rule: tall ones in the back, followed by medium in the middle and short in front (just like in your family photos.)

Though it seems outdated to some, I still split the root balls of plants when planting to encourage root spread. Then, lightly sprinkle no more than a tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer in between the plants.

Water thoroughly after all plants have been incorporated into the planting mix. Water by hand three to four times a week for the first two weeks, then cut back. Take notice of how much water the pot will accept before it begins to drain out. Water leaving the pot is wasted water.

A novel idea is to use ice cubes weekly, but keep in mind it may require one tray per pot. When it comes to watering, often less is more. But more often and less is better.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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