How to Plant a Mixed Container

How to Plant a Mixed Container - The finished product

If you are new to making container gardens, it’s easy to feel intimidated. So, specifically for beginners, we’ve simplified the plant selection part: Choose 3 different plants: one for “height” another for “spill” and the third for “fill”. It’s also a good idea to select plants that have similar light and water requirements. My suggestion is to come in (ideally on a weekday when the place is a little less busy) and have one of our staff help you select plants with similar growing habits. We have lots to choose from. To this simple example, we’ve selected one Dracena for height, one pot of Algerian Ivy for spill, and one pot of pink Impatiens for fill.

  1. Select Your Pot

    Take into consideration the size of your plants as they matures – it’s fine to plant close side to side, but allow plenty of room for the roots to grow down. The pot shown here is a plastic pot made in Italy by Marchioro. Marchioro have has a nice drainage feature (explained step 5) but ceramic, terra cotta, iron, fiberglass containers are all good choices.

  2. Drainage

    When roots are allowed to sit in water they form “root rot”. To avoid root rot, choose a container with drainage holes, or a container that allows you to add holes. 

  3. Gravel

    Another way to prevent roots from drowning is to add a few inches of loose gravel.  The gravel prevents the roots from sitting in excess water. Marchioro containers have a smart design: their drainage holes are elevated from the bottom of the container – excess water is held in reserve and made available to the plant later – basically a timed-release self watering container.

  4. Choose a Potting Mix

    Always start with a good quality potting soil – never garden soil. We’re partial to our Mahoney’s Professional Potting Mix which we formulated to have the right blend of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and starter nutrients.

  5. Potting Mix Depth

    Most likely you will be planting different size plants with different size root system. Start by adding enough mix so that when you place in the biggest plant, the top of the soil is about 1 inch below the rim.

  6. Preparing Roots

    Before planting, gently remove each plant from its plastic pot and “massage” the roots to loosen them from their compacted pot shape. The goal is to allow the roots freedom to grow wide and deep. Then place the plant in the container. We’re placing the Dracena (height) in the center because we will use “spill” and “fill” on all sides.

  7. More Mix

    Add more mix so that the top of the root ball of the spill plants also sits 1-inch below the container rim.

  8. Divide Spiller

    Remove the Algerian Ivy from its pot and gentle divide the root ball into two halves.

  9. Planting the Spill

    Place one half in one corner, and the other half in the opposite corner.

  10. The Fill

    Remove the Impatiens from its pot. We used a pretty big 8" container, so this time we're dividing the plant into four.

  11. Planting Fill

    Place each quarter root ball so that the Dracena is equally surrounded.

  12. Checking balance

    Look at the container from all sides to make sure there are no empty areas.

  13. One more time add mix

    Gently press in more mix to ensure the roots are firmly surrounded by mix. Make sure to leave about 1’ of space below the rim to prevent water from spilling over the edges.

  14. Add Slow release fertilizer

    For the best flowering performance, "top-dress" the plants with a handful of Osmocote slow-release fertilizer.

  15. Osmocote will get absorbed by the plant a little at a time whenever you water.

  16. Water thoroughly, so that the soil is evenly wet.


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