Two rules for success with mixed containers

Choose plants based on their sun and pH growing requirements for successful mixed containers

Greenhouse growers need to keep two concepts in mind when selecting plants for mixed containers or mixed hanging baskets. If you follow both guidelines, containers should perform well for the end-consumer and help bring repeat business for the retail or wholesale grower.

Concept number one

Make sure the plants you select are appropriate for the location in which the container or basket will be displayed. Are all of the plants in a full sun container able to tolerate full sun? Do fuchsia and impatiens fit with geranium, petunia, marigold or vinca? Conversely, do Marguerite daisy, bidens and calibrachoa fit in the same container with fuscia, heuchera and alternanthera in a shade combo container? As a grower, be sure to select plants that fit their sun or shade requirements. Don’t mix light requirements. If you are not sure, check with the supplier culture guides for details.

different light requirements
Photo 1. Light requirements are different.

Concept number two

Make sure you know the pH requirements of your plants. Lately I have noticed some growers have mixed containers or baskets with plants that have two completely different pH requirements. As an example, calibrachoa grow best in a media with a low pH of 5.5 to 5.8. Adding an “inter-specific” geranium or a zonal geranium in the container, which grows best when the media pH is 6.0 to 6.5, results in having one healthy plant and one unhealthy plant and little or no sell at retail.

Pick combo planter or basket plants by pH requirements. Check culture sheets from your suppliers when deciding which plants to combine in mixed containers. Don’t let your untrained staff put combos together because they combine plants based only on their aesthetics. What ends up happening is growers fertilizing with an acid-based fertilizer (like 20-5-20 or 20-10-20) to maintain healthy, low-pH plants will harm those that grow best at a higher pH. Conversely, containers that are fed with alkaline fertilizers can develop chlorosis in their acid-loving plants.

pH requirements are different
Photo 2. Plants with different pH requirements.

In summary, only combine shade with shade plants and sun with sun plants, and don’t mix plants with different pH requirements. Follow these two guidelines and you will be successful.

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