If you’re looking for a great way to conserve water in the garden, then xeriscaping may be the answer you’ve been looking for. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, you don’t need a lot of space, and you don’t need a lot of money to achieve a xeriscape effect in your garden. All you need are a few basic guidelines and some containers to get you started. In fact, container gardens can be a great alternative for people with little space and limited budgets. Containers are naturally water thrifty and available in a wide assortment that will fit nearly style or budget.
Choosing Containers for Your Xeriscaped Container Garden
When you begin choosing suitable containers for your garden, you should consider size and material carefully. Since container gardens are essentially self-contained, the larger they are the less watering is needed. For example, a larger pot holds a larger volume of soil, which in turn can store more moisture than a pot half its size.
As for their material, plastic and glazed clay will retain water better than unglazed terra cotta or wood; however, as long as the container provides adequate drainage, nearly any type of container can be used.
Choosing Plants for Xeriscaping in Containers
When choosing plants for your xeriscape container garden, look for those that will provide seasonal interest. For instance, don’t limit the garden to just flowering plants; there are many plants that can be used strictly for their interesting foliage color or texture. By choosing plants carefully, you can create a container garden that will not only last year after year but will be water efficient as well.
There are a variety of plants that will accommodate containers, not to mention complement your xeriscape theme. Of course, not all plants are well suited to container gardens, but overall many plants not only thrive in containers but will tolerate hot, dry conditions as well. Some of these include annuals like:
A number of perennials can be used in a xeriscape container garden such as:
- Shasta daisy
There is even room for herbs and vegetables in the xeriscape container garden. Try growing oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme. Vegetables actually do quite well in containers, especially the dwarf or bush varieties. There are also numerous ornamental grasses and succulents that perform nicely in containers as well.
Tips for Planting in Xeriscaping Containers
Growing plants in containers rather than the ground helps to conserve water as container-grown plants result in less water waste. Containers can also be moved around easily so if the weather gets too hot, just move the garden to a lightly shaded area to prevent the containers from drying out as quickly.
Using the proper soil is also important. Don’t use soil from the ground unless it has been thoroughly amended with compost beforehand; otherwise, this soil will become compacted, resulting in unhealthy plants. For longer-lasting blooms and increased water-holding capacity, try using an amended potting mix that provides a loose, airy environment for the plants.
Once you’ve gotten all the basics covered, decide on where the garden will be placed. Generally, anywhere that receives at least 6 hours of full sun is enough, and many plants perform well with late afternoon shade too. Try to stay clear of placing the container garden close to brick or concrete, as these tend to soak up heat and will ultimately cause your containers to overheat and dry up, requiring more frequent watering. The point of xeriscape is to reduce watering needs.
Although the xeriscape container garden will use less water than similar plantings in the ground, depending on your particular climate, the size of the container, its placement and the plants selected, you may need to water them about once a day. However, if you stick with drought-tolerant plants in large containers receiving afternoon shade, this can be reduced to only every other day.
To reduce the amount of watering needed even more, you can go another step further by using mulch. Mulch slows evaporative water loss from the surface and insulates the soil, thus retaining more water. Containers can also be more efficiently watered by using collected water from rain barrels. This not only saves money on your water bill, but natural rainwater is much healthier for your plants as it is full of minerals.
What is Container Gardening?
Container gardening refers to growing plants of any kind in a container. This gardening style is ideal for those in a temporary living situation like rentals or season homes because you can take your garden with you when you leave!
Whether your restrictions are based on space, residence, age, or disability, you reap the benefits of gardening and cater your container to your unique situation. As with any garden, you will need to properly care for your garden , so a setup that works for your lifestyle is best.
Container Materials & Sizes
There are many different types of containers that you will encounter when choosing a container for your garden. Here is a quick look at the most common container materials you’ll see when you start shopping around.
- Clay and terracotta look pretty, but they’re breakable and are more prone to damage in freezing temperatures
- Concrete is sturdy but heavy, so it won’t be as mobile
- Plastic and fiberglass are lightweight and inexpensive, but they become brittle with age and can leach harmful chemicals into your edible plants
- Polyurethane foam weigh significantly less than terracotta or concrete, but they’re sturdy in most temperatures, so they’re ideal for plants that will be outside year-round
- Wood gives you a natural look, and it’s easy to build a wooden planter to fit whatever space you have available
- Metal is strong, but since it conducts heat, your plants will be prone to any external temperature fluctuations
For size, use a measuring tape to measure how much space you have available for your container garden and choose containers that will fit the space. Keep in mind that a larger pot will require more soil, which will make it heavier.
Proper Container Drainage & Preparation
Once you’ve selected your pots, you’ll need to prepare them for your chosen plants. If you have larger containers, it’s best to prepare them where they will live, so you don’t have to worry about the added weight. Choose a sight with the right amount of light for your selected plants, and set a reminder to water your plant when needed.
Before you add your soil, find your container’s drainage hole and add a piece of paper towel or newspaper to prevent your dirt from spilling through the hole. Then, add in your selected soil and water the soil, so it’s ready for your plants.
Selecting the Right Plants for Your Containers
When it comes to selecting the right plants for your container garden, first take some time to identify what purpose your garden will serve. Will you be growing edibles? Or are you interested in just growing beautiful plants with colorful flowers or leaves?
If you plan on container vegetable gardening, talk with gardening professionals to ensure you have adequate growth space and container depth to allow them to thrive. Most fruits and vegetables will require more space, but if you’re growing herbs they will thrive in relatively small areas.
Plant combination ideas for container gardening can be boiled down to three sections: a thriller, a spiller, and a filler.
- Thriller is the star of the show, usually a taller plant with intriguing shapes or dramatic flowers
- Spillers anchor the pot and sprawl over the sides of your container
- Fillers add mass to your containers and are generally have a textural contrast to the other plants
Hillier Container Gardening Tips
Decent Container Drainage
Always put a decent layer of ‘crocks’ in the bottom of your containers to aid drainage. This could be broken bits of old pots, stones from your garden or horticultural gravel. Where drainage is poor, roots can become waterlogged, which can stop the plant from taking up nutrients well and can lead to disease. Raise pots and containers using bricks or pot feet to help drainage and deter slugs and snails. In the winter, a waterlogged pot can freeze, damaging the roots of your plants and potentially your pot too.
Feeding & Watering
Containers need to be well watered and the plants well fed. Even on a rainy day, check pots as they may still need watering. You can reduce watering in winter when plants are dormant. Incorporating some WaterGel in your potting compost will help retain moisture it is great for hanging baskets. Use a liquid feed such as Miracle Gro once a week in the growing season and, for shrubs and perennials, refresh the top two or three inches of compost every year.
Spring bulbs using the lasagne planting technique
When planting bulbs, plant up in layers (sometimes called ‘lasagne planting’). Which layer a bulb belongs in depends on its planting depth – always check the instructions on the packet and don’t be afraid to plant more densely than suggested for a real hit of colour. Planting a few little autumn plants such as ivy, heuchera or ferns on top gives interest until the bulbs come up and they will push their way through no problem.
Find a wide range of pots and containers plus quality seasonal plants at all Hillier Garden Centres.