Growing plants in containers is one of my favorite ways to garden. Come August, however, I’ve had it with deadheading and lugging watering cans. Last spring, when I was preparing to pot up my containers, the memory of spent, sticky nicotiana blossoms clinging to my fingertips came rushing back, and I wondered—is all this fuss and fluff worth it? Do containers really need that much care, or is it just a lot of hype? That’s when I decided to embark on an experiment. I planted several sets of identical containers and gave one pot in each set only water and the other the royal treatment: fertilizer, primping, and pruning.
By midsummer, it was clear that containers need more than just water. The water-only containers looked pathetic: The plants were puny, had few flowers, and their leaves were often an unhealthy yellow. The containers given more TLC thrived with abundant growth and flowers. The moral of the story is that a regular-maintenance checklist is the best way to get great-looking containers from beginning to end. Now that I know that all of the work really does pay off, it makes the rewards that much sweeter.