I first kicked off my experiment with native plants in containers June 1st. Since then they have grown in and truly surprised me with how well they’re doing! Here is an update:
Within a matter of weeks the plants filled in beautifully! While I hadn’t seen much in the way of flowers I was loving the lush, full look they had. The varying shades of green and contrasting textures added a lot of interest. At this point the Winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) had started to spill out of the container like I had hoped and were just starting to bloom. I even stumbled across a small bee pollinating one of its first flowers.
The Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) had two strong stems, one flopping out the back of the container and the other standing tall adding a nice vertical element. The Aromatic Aster in the other container, however, had all spilled out the side. Not the vertical accent I’d planned for it to be, but the plant seems healthy and had been putting on flower buds ensuring a good show for the fall. I also found some volunteer Black-Eyed Susans (most likely hitchhikers from the nursery) and was happy to see them growing and doing well.
At this point in the season I’d been watering my containers about once a week by fully soaking them with the hose until I saw water dripping out the bottom drainage holes and the pot felt heavy. I definitely pushed these plants’ limits in between waterings (because although I am a gardener I can’t say I’m the most diligent at keeping things watered) and was pleasantly surprised to always see them bounce back after a good drink. Overall I was very happy with my containers at this point- they seemed to explode with new growth after a few good rains and I didn’t have to baby them at all. They did a good job of adding screening and it was nice to be able to look out at them from inside my apartment and see the cheerful greenery.
Although I look at these containers every day they still have found ways to surprise me! I wish I had been more diligent photographing the Winecups in between check-ins- there were easily 15 blooms in a cheerful shade of bluish-pink that dotted the foliage spilling out of the container- so stunning! They now seem to be wrapping up their bloom- in the landscape I would expect to see them keep blooming on and off until the first frost, but in a confined container I can understand them ending their bloom a little sooner than normal. I am bummed that they’re petering off for the season, but was pleasantly surprised to find a gift they’d left for me- seeds! Between the two containers I harvested a small handful of healthy, mature seed and there are still plenty more ripening. I plan on visiting these frequently over the next few weeks to be sure I can harvest it all.
The next surprise from my containers was truly something I didn’t expect- the cheerful, bright orange flowers of Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Since these are first year plants and I think of this plant as a slow grower, I really didn’t expect to see much from them other than the nice texture of the leaves. But they have proved me wrong and now I have another round of flowers to look forward to.
The plants have gotten even more full and lush- again something I wasn’t expecting! I figured that at some point they would start to get pretty tired as the roots fill in the container and exhaust the potting soil of nutrients and space. The containers look as healthy as ever though!
I have still only been watering about once a week, even in the hot July and August weather. Compared to tomatoes I’ve done in containers where I’m watering every day at this time of year, this has been a welcome development. I think at some point there will be a tipping point where the plants want out of their container, but it does not appear to be right now and I am really enjoying their wild look.
Stay tuned for an end of season wrap up on my containers where I talk about which plants I'd do again, which ones I'd skip, and my overall thoughts!