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If your container doesn't have drainage holes, Tagawa Gardens' Deborah King suggests filling the bottom with a thick layer of pebbles to allow water to flow away from your plants' soil and roots. Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

How to Build Your Own Container Arrangement

Centennial's Tagawa Gardens offers five easy steps for a stunning, long-lasting porch planting.

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For big impact in a limited footprint, you can’t beat a container planting. Here, a step-by-step guide to building your own, courtesy of Centennial’s beloved Tagawa Gardens.

Step 1: Choose your location and pot

“Decide where you need that pop of color,” says Deborah King, Tagawa’s annuals supervisor. “The backyard? On a patio? By the front door?” Whatever you choose to plant in—a basket, a window box, a traditional ceramic pot—make sure it has drainage. If necessary, elevate the holes using planter feet or, to save your walkway or deck from stains, get a plastic or ceramic saucer to go underneath. King says neutral containers are increasingly trendy and keep the emphasis on the plants.

Step 2: Fill your container

Annuals only need about 18 inches of soil, so if you have a huge, heavy pot, save money—and your back—by filling the bottom with lightweight plastic milk jugs or Styrofoam. If you have a lightweight container in a windy area, however, consider using bricks or cinder blocks for stability. Add potting mix with perlite and vermiculite (King likes Fertilome Ultimate Potting Mix) and a time-release fertilizer (try Osmocote) until you’re about two inches from the top.

Step 3: Select your plants

“Knowing your sun conditions is key,” King says. Once you’ve narrowed down foliage options by light exposure, think about the structure you want to achieve. “Do you want the plant material to get tall, or is it in front of a window, so you need it to be more roundy-moundy?” King says. “Do you want it to cascade, or is your pot really cool so you don’t want to cover it up?” Lastly, consider color: Popular choices include shades of a single hue and blends of hot summer colors like bright orange and pink.

Step 4: Arrange your flora

You’ll likely want to plant your containers in one of two configurations: for 360-degree viewing (say, in the middle of a deck), with the tallest plants in the middle and everything else in pie slices around that, or for straight-on presentation (by your front door, perhaps), with the tallest plants in back. The quantity of plants you’ll need varies by the size of plants you choose, but King’s rules of (green) thumb are as follows: For 10- to 12-inch-diameter pots, use about four to six plants; for vessels 14 to 16 inches in diameter, use six to eight plants; and for a 20-inch-diameter container, use 10 to 12 plants.

Step 5: Care for your arrangement

Plants’ hydration needs depend on sun and wind exposure, but you’ll probably want to water daily. Try to soak your container at the same time every day, and don’t just aim the hose at one spot. “Circle the plant material from the edges and work your way in,” King says, making sure to get water to each plant. Don’t stop until water runs out the bottom. Once a week, after watering, give your plants a boost with Nature’s Source all-purpose plant food. Lastly, don’t be afraid to trim back anything that’s getting scraggly or taking over. “Haircuts are OK!” King says.

Grab ‘n’ Grow

Don’t want to get your hands dirty? Choose from one of Tagawa’s 175-some ready-made inserts and pots at its Centennial garden center, or have its planting and design team come to your home and craft containers custom-made for your space (schedule now for late-May or early-June deliveries). Plus, plan ahead to take advantage of the in-store planting program next year: Drop off your vessels from January through March, and Tagawa will fill them with your choice of plants, ready for pickup after Mother’s Day.

Arranged Marriages

King oversees the creation of some 175 unique container designs at Tagawa every spring—so you can trust her judgment on these sure-to-stun arrangements.

6 or More Hours of Full Sun
Orange Cuphea Vermillionaire + Brilliant Blue Scaevola + Skyscraper Pink Salvia + Headliner Electric Purple Petunia

About 6 Hours of Morning Sun
Light Green Sweet Georgia Ipomoea + Dalaya Purple And White Dahlia + Aloha Kona White Calibrachoa + Savannah Oh So Orange Geranium + Yellow Bidens Bidy Gonzales

3–4 Hours of Sun
Creeping Jenny Yellow Lysimachia + Marino Blue Heliotrope + Impower Violet New Guinea Impatiens + Mistral Yellow Begonia + Silver Stitch Helichrysum

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