There are a number of tough waterwise characters that thrive in containers and love being out in the midday sun.Summer can take its toll on container plants and having continually to replace ones that succumb to the heat every year is tiresome and expensive.
There are, however, some hardy perennials that grow easily and enjoy our summers. They all have good structure with most producing showy blooms at different times of the year. They require minimum care and are not plagued by pests and disease.
- Attractive containers holding one specimen plant, or a good combination of complementary plants, make strong focal points and should be displayed to their best advantage:
- Group more than one pot of the same design together.
- Pots in pairs or rows, planted up with the same plants, make a dramatic impact.
- Ordinary terracotta clay pots, 30cm x 27cm, look great if placed along steps or on the ledge of a wall, fountain or raised water feature. They are also big enough to allow lush growth for succulents like echeverias or small aloes.
- You can plant a small, compact plant with a shallow root system – like a dwarf aloe – in tall, narrow pots. To save on potting soil, place a few rocks in the bottom of the pot, add a layer of broken polystyrene pieces, other packaging material or empty plastic bottles and only fill the top half with potting soil.
- Make sure all containers have wide-open drainage holes or you can lose plants as a result of rotting in water-logged soil.
- Clean all used pots with a disinfectant to prevent the transfer of root diseases to new specimens.
- Never use ordinary garden soil. Buy good quality potting soil for non-succulent plants like bougainvilleas and a commercial succulent medium for aloes and other succulents. Add some bone meal to the potting soil to encourage strong root systems.
- Remember that the soil in containers will gradually be leached of minerals and nutrients and even the toughest plants need to be fed occasionally. Mulching all containers with a fresh layer of compost and feeding the plants regularly in summer with a water-soluble fertiliser can do no harm.
Source: Gardening with Succulents, by Prof. Gideon Smith, Struik Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1 77007 082 6.