By Melinda Myers
Add a little red, white and blue to your 4th of July celebration with freshly planted or painted containers.
The good news is many garden centers are now carrying large and colorful annuals throughout the summer. Just look for a few upright flashy plants to create a focal point. Fireworks fountain grass lives up to its name with colorful white, green, burgundy and hot pink striped leaves. Red, white or blue annual salvia is always a favorite and will continue to shine throughout the summer. And you might just have a hummingbird drop by for a visit. Blue heliotrope adds some fragrance to the mix, while white or red Pentas help attract the butterflies.
Use trailing plants to connect the planting to the container and serve as a secondary focal point. The billowy heat tolerant Snow Princess alyssum can stand alone in a container or complement other plants as it spills over the edge of the pot. Calibrachoas come in a variety of colors and provide lots of blooms with little care. Blue and white fan flower (Scaevola) is heat and drought tolerant and works great in summer containers. White licorice vine is another heat and drought tolerant plant. The white hairs on the green leaves give the plants a silvery white hue.
Fill in the middle with plants like White Diamond Frost euphorbia. The small leaves and flowers weave throughout and unify the planting. Short red or white zinnias provide a pop of color now through fall. White or purple Angelonia makes a nice filler or focal point in smaller containers. The sun- and shade-tolerant Whopper begonia has bold leaves and loads of blooms. Use these or other plants to connect the focal point to the plants cascading over the side of the pot.
Keep your containers looking their best through the holidays and the remainder of the season with proper planting and care. Select a container with drainage holes. Pick a color that complements, but doesn’t overpower your red, white and blue arrangement. Or paint a pot red, white and blue. Add some stars and stripes or combine several to create a colorful display.
Then, fill it with a quality compost based potting mix like Hsu organic rice hull potting mix (HsuGrowingSupply.com). Compost based potting mixes hold more moisture naturally, while providing drainage to promote root growth. Plus, if allowed to dry they are much easier to rewet.
Reduce your workload later by adding some additional slow release fertilizer when you first pot up your celebratory containers to keep plants looking their best all season. These fertilizers release small amounts of nutrients over a long period of time. No weekly measuring and mixing needed.
So, take a trip to your local garden center and start planting a few red, white and blue centerpieces and party favors for your upcoming holiday celebrations.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Hsu Growing Supply for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site, melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.