6 Must-Follow Rules for Thriving Outdoor Planters

Build a collection of outdoor planters worth celebrating with these practical planting tips.

If container gardening were easy, everyone would have tons of blossoming outdoor planters and thriving front door plants, right? Don't fall for that—caring for potted flowers isn't as tricky as one might think, particularly with the right foundation. Everyone can groom some good-looking outdoor planters, especially with the help of these container gardening ideas and gardening tips.

The great thing about outdoor planters is that you don't have to be a landscape designer to set them up, place them, or even keep them thriving for seasons to come. It just takes a little commitment—and these six simple rules for caring for them every step of the way. As far as landscape design ideas go, this one is all-but guaranteed to flourish.

Choose cool, light containers.

When the sun is baking everything on the patio, that means it's heating the leaves, soil, and roots of your plants. If you choose, say, a dark metal pot, you run the risk of cooking your container and its contents. Light-colored, double-walled planters give your patio companions a fighting chance. As for materials, terra-cotta and glazed earthenware pots look great but can be astonishingly heavy. Unless marked "frost-resistant," they can also crack in very cold temperatures. Opt for resin, fiberglass, or polyethylene instead.

A pot that doesn’t drain is a pot that won’t thrive.

For containers labeled "indoor/outdoor," pop out the drainage hole before using them outside. Place a saucer under your pot to prevent staining your patio or porch.

Pick the right soil.

Though it's tempting—and free!—you can't use dirt from the backyard in a pot. It's too heavy, and your plants won't thrive in it. Choose a bagged mix labeled for outdoor pots. These mixes of finely chopped bark, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite are fluffy and light, and they allow air and water to move around your plants' roots.

Fertilize regularly.

Even if your potting soil has fertilizer mixed in, you should still give your baby flora a regular feeding. No need to overthink this one; an all-purpose fertilizer with directions for container-grown plants will do just fine. Typically, fertilize once every six weeks according to package directions.

Groom your plants.

Deadhead by trimming the stem below the flower or shearing off all dead blooms at once. This encourages bushy regrowth and will keep the plant from looking messy. If a plant starts to grow in a direction you don't want, prune it with a light hand to give it shape. Never cut off more than a third of the plant at a time.

Keep ’em watered.

In sunny weather, plan to water at least twice a week. During very hot, dry spells (or in very hot, dry climates), you may need to water every other day. Even succulents and other low-water selections won't be happy in a bone-dry pot. Check soil moisture daily. If the soil is damp a couple of inches down, wait to water.

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