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Back to How To....    |   How To Plant A Color Bowl

I can hear the comments now about this picture to the right. The comments go something like, "So what's so great about this color bowl? It looks pretty plain to me!"

Yup I've heard it before. I used to do almost nothing but plant color bowls for a very high profile restaurant / hotel account that pulled in hunderds of people a day, and the customers would walk by and say that all the time. They would then continue with, "But all these other containers are truly outstanding... what's your secret?"

My reply always was, "You're right, it sure does look plain now, but give it a couple of weeks!"

One of the keys to planting great containers and color bowls is knowing your plant material really well. I know exactly how this container is going to look in three weeks, six weeks, and so on.

Planting good containers is just like planning and planting a good landscape. You must know how the plants will fill in so you have a pleasing outcome in the future, which means your containers just keep getting better and better looking at they get older.

So without further ado, let's get started.

1. Start With a Plan

Before you start your container or color bowl, you should have some kind of plan. Are you going to plant all of the same thing or are you going to add interest with different textures, colors, and plant heights, etc.? I almost always plant the latter because I think it makes a more interesting color bowl, but you can do it any way you want. That's what makes it so much fun!

So before you start, think about what your goal is.

Click on pictures for a larger image


2. Start Small

Before you get into the real complicated color bowls with tons of plant material, let's start small on this one. You will be able to clearly see what we are doing, and then you can add to it with your other containers.

The bowl we are going to create today is a fall container garden so to speak. Our plant material is going to be:
  • Iceland Poppies
  • Stock
  • Violas
  • Alyssum

I chose these plants for specific reasons.
  • The poppies will be the tallest plants. In a few weeks they will be around 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall. They come in bright yellow, pink, white, red and orange

  • The stock will be my second tallest at around 8-10 inches (20.3-25.5cm) tall. They come in pink, purple, and white

  • My third tallest will be the violas at around 4-6 inches (10.2-15.2 cm). I chose a purple-white faced variety

  • And finally my "border plant" will be the white alyssum

Always plant your tallest plants either in the middle or to the back of the container, and then work your way down in height to the shortest in front. By doing this we add interest with height, color and form.

Click on pictures for a larger image


3. Get The Soil Ready

OK enough talk, let's start planting.
  • Get the soil ready in your container

  • If you had something planted in your container before, tear it out and sift through the soil with your fingers to get rid of any old roots or dead material

  • Keep turning the soil over till you have it cleaned out, then if you need to, add some soil to get it within 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so of the rim

Click on pictures for a larger image


4. Mound The Soil & Add Tall Plants

We are going to mound the soil and put our tallest plants, the poppies, right in the middle of the mound. By doing this, we are giving a bit more height to our tallest plants. This trick can really add some drama to a pot depending upon what you are doing, so keep it mind for future color bowls.

Poppies grow to be around 8-12 inches (20.3-30.5 cm) in diameter. I could just put 1 poppy in the middle and be fine, but I really want a show of height and color, so I am going to put 3 poppies in the middle.

Poppies do just fine being a bit crowded, so going for more color, won't inhibit their growth or sacrifice plant health in any way.

For a full tutorial on how to properly plant bedding plants, including proper depth, please read How To Plant Bedding Plants & Annual Color For now I am going to assume you know this.

Click on pictures for a larger image


5. Add Medium Tall Plants On An Angle

Now we have our tallest plants in, we are going to add our second tallest plants, the stock. The trick when planting the side plants is to plant them on an angle. We do this for two reasons.
  1. We want to give a bit more growing room to our center plants

  2. By angling them, it allows them to grow over the side better and give a softer appearance faster because they don't have to grow up and then over. They just grow over, giving you the effect you want much quicker
Planting on a angle really helps plants like alyssum and lobelia that cascade over the side anyway. By starting them growing in the right direction to begin with, they cascade faster.

Continue planting your medium sized plants, in this case the stock, around the back and sides.

Click on pictures for a larger image


6. Fill In With Border Plants

Now we are going to fill in with our border plants, which in this case is our viola and alyssum. As you can see, we have done what we talked about earlier. We have our tallest plants in the middle and to the back, and we have worked our way forward down to our smallest plants.

This will give a great overall appearance and form to the pot. Think about how you can use this technique with other plants and containers.

Click on pictures for a larger image


7. Finish With Fertilizer and Snail Bait

To finish, what I like to do, is water in with liquid fertilizer. It gives the plant some much needed nutrients and gets it off to a good start.

Lastly, give your plants some protection from snails and slugs! Don't wait to do this. I have seen people plant one day, and have everything demolished by the next day, because overnight the slugs and snails wiped everything out.

Snail bait now. Put down fresh snail bait weekly to keep your plants safe.

If you have children or pets, and there is room, cover the bait with an upside down foil baking tin with holes cut out on the sides. Put a rock on the tin. That way the snails can get in, but it keeps your pets and kids out.

Click on pictures for a larger image


8. That's it!

You've now finished your color bowl, and it looks good now, but in about 2 weeks, it's going to look fantastic as the plants grow and fill in. As my color bowls fill in, I will post new pictures here. Happy Planting!

Click on pictures for a larger image

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