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Every year, my mom and I fill large pots and containers with flowers from our local garden shop. We do a special dedicated day on Mother’s Day (or the weekend before), as gardening is one of my Mom and my’s passions. We love to research new gardening tools, what plants are best for pots, etc, together!
We love to fill terra-cotta and ceramic pots and planters with flowers, as well as do some hanging baskets.
This blog post is all about how to plant large outdoor flower pots and containers.
(Heads up! This post was originally published on May 4, 2020! It was last updated on August 3, 2023! Be sure to check all product and plant information with the brand selling it! While I do my best to share the most accurate info that I have, I’m not perfect! I hope this post helps you create some beautiful outdoor container flower pots for your home or back patio!)
While we have a large front and backyard we fill with flowers (we’re a little obsessed), we love to arrange a container garden on our front and back porches! These container gardens are so fun to plant, and you can create little gardens for you and your family to enjoy in the spring and summer months!
How do you plant a large flower pot?
Last year, I shared updates on our potting party on my Instagram Story, and so many of you DM’d and messaged with loads of questions!
Gardening can be a great stress relief, but it can be VERY intimidating to learn! This year, I decided it would be fun to share a step-by-step guide on how to create beautiful large flower pots for your patio, backyard or next to your door!
Below, I’ve answered questions like:
- How do you pick flowers for a container garden?
- How far apart should you space flowers?
- What should you put in the bottom of containers or pots? What can you use to fill the bottom of a large planter or pot?
- How to beautifully arrange flowers by color and size in your container garden
What you’ll need
Cooks and bakers assemble all their ingredients before getting started. And, while I’m not a maestro in the kitchen – I am a garden whiz! Here’s what I make sure to have on hand!
- Large container flower pots
- Gardening Gloves
- Gardening Knee Cushion
- Gardening Apron
- Lightweight Wheelbarrow
- New soil in bags – to mix with old soil
- Old flower 6 pack containers – to put at bottom of large pots
- Watering Can (I recommend getting a medum sized one — the large ones can be difficult to use!)
- Fish Fertilizer Food for Flowers
- Slug Repellent
Getting Started: How to Choose a Pot for Your Flowers
Going to your local garden or home store, there are SO MANY pot options! It can be a little overwhelming.
So let’s talk pot sizes:
- 1 Feet Tall: We put smaller pots around our patio table, porch swing, etc.
- 2-3 Feet Tall: These are statement containers, and we put them near doors, at the corner of the patio, by the front door, etc.
Buying Pots – New & Used
We prioritize choosing pots that have a large top opening. The larger this opening is, the more flowers you can add!
Key Feature: Drainage Holes
When you water your pot, you don’t want the water getting stuck at the bottom! For this reason, make sure that there are holes drilled in the bottom of the pot before you buy it! If it’s a plastic pot, and there’s only one hole, you’re gonna have to drill in a few more.
It’s a pain in the rear to drill these holes, and some materials (terracotta, etc) will break if you try to drill a hole.
Without drainage holes, you get what I call the “Shrek Vacation Home Effect,” in your gorgeous pot! It gets swampy and gross, and mold can start to grow. It’s gross!
Step 2: Choosing Your Flowers!
For our pots that are 18″ in diameter, we fit about 5-7 plants in them. When arranging flowers in a pot, you want a variety of heights to make it visually interesting. We TOTALLY disregard the recommendations around how far apart to plant things, lol.
Also, we tend to buy our flowers from a local flower nursery. We’re tried a few in our area, and we really love Schmidt’s Nursery. I definitely encourage you to buy your flowers from a few places your first year, to better test the hardiness of them (put another way, you can see what place sells the best plants!)!
We plan the placement of flowers by assigning different heights to each section. To make it easy, we treat the pot like it’s a clockface, assigning different flowers to where various hours would go.
Tall Spikey Plants in Center of Gardening Pot:
We usually put a “Spike” plant in the center of our pots, where the hands of a clock would originate. Sometimes we put a tall geranium here, if we want to mix it up!
Geraniums do have to be “dead headed,” where you “fluff off” the dead petals – so if you don’t want extra work, go with our spikey friend here!
Medium Height: We then put 2-3 medium heigh plants at 6 and 12 o’clock, sometimes adding a third plant between them. These are usually Snapdragons, petunias, dahlias or zinnias.
Small//Vines: I love seeing a pot “overflowing” with flowers, and you usually get that effect with the use of Potato Vines or Waterfall Petunias. These should be towards where the viewer will see them, and you can place them in between your Medium Height plants.
Choosing Flowers for Your Climate (I’m in Northern Utah)
I’m in a dry and sunny part of Utah, which means that all my flowers for my front pots are meant for full sun. You can see what the sun requirements of a flower is by the tag in the flower at the garden shop!
For our back patio, we get a mix of flowers that are partial to full sun. We keep on eye on the flowers, switching pot placements if one pot is getting too much sun, and the flower leaves are browning or burning.
I recommend that you ask your local garden shop what flowers are the hardiest (AKA hardest to kill) for your first pots!
How Many Flowers Can Fit in the Pot?
For a pot that’s 18″ in diameter, we put 5-7 plants:
- 1 spike or tall plant for the center
- 3 medium plants
- 2 small plants or vines
That’s 6 plants per pot!
Step 3: Preparing Your Pots
You’re going to want to purchase gardening soil at your local garden shop. If you have nutritious soil (you can ask the folks at the shop), you may be able to mix in dirt you already have with potting soil.
Potting soil is full of yummy nutrients for your flowers that will help them grow large and flower multiple times!
Switching Out Soil
We switch out our potting soil every 2 years in our pots, taking the old soil to our local garden shop to be revitalized with nutrients mixed in.
Before we plant our flowers, we remove any leaves, weeds or debris from our pots. We also dump the soil into our wheelbarrow to break up the compressed dirt and aerate it. It’s difficult for roots to move through packed soil! My mom likes to do this part with sturdy gardening gloves, so she preserves her manicure!
Filling the Bottom of The Pot with Disposable Flower Containers
Many new gardeners think they should dump in their potting soil and get started! But wait! You don’t need gardening soil in the first 1/4 of your pot, because you need to make sure water can effectively drain out the bottom!
Remember those drainage holes? It will be hard for water to move towards them, if the pot is PACKED with soil! A pot with too much soil can remove the effectiveness of drainage hole – and we end up with that “Shrek’s Swamp Effect” I talked abou earlier!
If your pot is 100% full of soil, the weight of the soil will compress and tightly pack at the bottom – making it difficult for water to drain. Mold and not-so-fun critters can show up, and you can also *drown* your flowers if your pot doesn’t drain!
We fill the first 1/4 of our pots with the plastic pots and packs the flowers come in. Just throw them in the bottom, making a layer of 2 packs/pots. Voila! Drainage!
Filling in Soil
Now that you have that layer, you’re ready to pour in soil. Be sure that you stop filling your pot 2-3 inches from the top of the outer lip. You’re going to add in flowers and more dirt, which will cause the soil level to rise!
You want to be sure the pot doesn’t overflow, and so make sure that the soil isn’t level to the pot’s rim before adding yourplants!
Step 4: Placing Flowers & Designing Your Pot
The key thing to remember about planting flowers into a large pot is that it’s supposed to be fun! I shared my diagram above that we use, but you can chuck that right out the window!
We’ve planted pots with a geranium in the center that’s surrounded by potato vines! We’v dedicated entire pots to Zinnias of different heights.
Caution. Don’t Stuff Your Pot with Plants!
When planting, it’s tempting to plant a LOT of plants, so you get that “full” look. Remember that your plants are going to grow, so your initial pots may look a tad empty. This is okay!
Again, the plants will GROW – and there will be a good amount of space when they’re first planted. This is a good thing, I promise! In my experience, the space will fill in with correct watering and care!
Step 5: How to Plant Flowers in Your Large Pot
Many people think they don’t have a “green thumb,” because they actually don’t understand how to plant flowers!
Flowers are pretty resilient, but being planted can shock their little systems! Because of this, it’s important to plant them with care.
Tip 1: Not Too Dry and Not Too Wet
Before taking your flowers out of the little plastic packaging, water them the night before you plant them! If a flower is too wet, it will collapse when you take it out of its container, hurting the root system.
If it’s too dry, it will be hard to plant!
Tip 2: Remove Flowers by Pinching at the Bottom of the Roots
You don’t want to “yank” your flowers out of their temporary home! Pinch the bottom of the plastic pack, and continuously pinch out the flower, kind of like how you should start at the bottom of a toothpaste tube!
Tip 3: Gently Loosen Roots
Gently pinch and loosen the root systems of your flower, so it knows that it can spread its roots in its new home! Use the same amount of pressure you’d use on a toothpaste tube or icing tube!
Tip 4: Dig a Hole That Fully Covers The Top
When digging a hole for your flower, be sure that it’s deep enough so that you need to cover the top of it with more dirt. Leaving the op of the flower exposed hurts the root system.
Tip 5: Water with Miracle Gro after Planting
Careful if you have kids, as it does look like Blue Gatorade! Don’t leave out mixed Miracle-Gro, and keep out of reach of your kiddos and pets!
Caring for Your Container Garden
In addition to moving pots in and out of the sun depending on their reaction, there are a few other key gardening tips to share!
- Slug Repellent: We get a LOT of slugs in our garden, and we regularly sprinkle this, making sure to put it in new pots. Slugs will eat entire pots if left unchecked!
- Fish Food for Flowers: This stuff is MAGIC, even though it smells. This is nutritious food for your flowers, and I’ve shared a recipe from my Aunt Garla below!
- Damp Not Dusty: You want the soil in your pots to be damp throughout the day. If you check the soil and its dusty, it’s too dry!
Plant Food Recipe
Add a couple tablespoons of Bayer Bug Killer if you see bug damage on the leaves. I stir it up in the Miracle-Gro sprayer and spray the flowers within an hour of mixing, and be sure to water before fertilizing!
Keep Your Flower Tags
There are different types of Snapdragons, Zinnias, potato vines, etc. I recommend you snap photos of all of the tags you have each year, and upload them to your Google Drive. That way, you can find the favorite specific type of a flower. It can be a bummer to find a variety of a flower that you love the look of – but then can’t find because you don’t know its name!
Other Miscellaneous Large Outdoor Flower Pot Tips (That Didn’t Fit in Another Section, lol)
Ok, here are a few other tips I thought of when doing my most recent update:
- Rinse off and sanitize your filler material (if it’s plastic) each year! We used to not do this, but it’s important to guard against fungus (thanks to Leslie at PunkMed for the tip on how to do this!)
- Use Miracle Gro every week (ish)! I know I talked about this earlier, but I really want to emphasize this. Because flower pots have drainage holes, a lot of the soil nutrients can be washed away. Making sure to refertalize // use Miracle Gro is super duper important!
- You can add cute garden doodads and fun items like gnomes or other little fun decor! I love to look on Etsy for this kind of decor!
I hope you enjoy your new flower pots! If you found this post helpful, please share it! <3
This blog post was all about how to plant large outdoor flower pots and containers.
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