Sure, perennials are great in the garden. They come back faithfully every year (hopefully) and they grow more lush as time flies by. But not everyone has a garden. And even if you have many beds overflowing with plants, sometimes you just want some perennials close by. Sitting in the rocker on the front porch is more fun with a little hint of the garden by your side. Want to experience the heady essence of summer? Have an herb on the front stoop—we’re thinking purple sage but it could be about thyme—tickling your toes and sending its fragrance wafting around as you sit around with an ice cream cone in hand. Or maybe you want a little hint of the garden eavesdropping on luncheon al fresco on the back porch. When you pot up perennials, you have a mini garden where you want it, when you want company. Think of the concept as Perennials on Demand.
Sounds like a plan? There are a few ground rules you need to know to make this work. Not all perennials love living in a pot over the long haul. Sure, they grow fine in a container for a few quick weeks at the garden center. But don’t ask a thirsty mint to curtail its drinking habit while waiting for you to get around to watering. Avoid high maintenance perennials that wilt every other minute. And by all means, buy into beautiful. For maximum performance, choose a plant with handsome foliage. In fact, flowers might be a temporary bonus because most perennials do not continue producing buds throughout the entire growing season. And get ready for a heightened experience. One major advantage to growing perennials on your porch is the intimacy factor. You’ll start discovering traits you might not notice in the garden.
Next, make a match with the right container. Think of it as a wedding between the plant’s root system and its new home. If the combo is too snug, that plant will be continually drying out. On the other hand, if the plant is swimming in a container way too large, the soil will be continually soggy which will rot the roots. You want a happy medium between those two extremes. A good working ratio is to go a couple of inches wider and deeper than the original nursery container. A graduation halfway through summer might be necessary, but that’s part of the fun. And choose the container with practicality in mind. Making sure your container has sufficient drainage is equally critical to success.
Your soil choice is really important. You want a soil mixture specifically engineered to host potted plants. Going with plain old garden soil just is not going to work. Plants in pots need a soil mixture that holds just the right amount of moisture while conveying water to the roots and moving excess out the drainage hole. At Coast of Maine, the right configuration is formulated by professionals. Two good options are Coast of Maine Stonington Blend Organic Grower’s Mix and Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend Organic Potting Soil. Working with a succulent like hens & chicks? Pair succulent plants with Mount Desert Island Blend Organic Cactus & Succulent Mix for best results and be extra careful not to overpot in too large of a container. Succulent roots will prefer a snug pot.
On the other hand, if you are growing an ornamental grass with a network of roots, give that plant a more generous container and leave plenty of room between the soil line and the rim for watering. Going 3 inches wider than the original store container on all sides is not a bad idea.
Not Just a Summer Fling
This idea has legs long after the lazy days of summer have come and gone. After spending a blissful summer together, you could plant those potted perennials in the garden and enjoy many happy returns. Or, give that summer romance more play indoors by whisking your perennial inside before frost and housing it on a sunny window. When the rest of the garden is deep in slumber, you will still have your silvery ornamental herbs shimmering by your side.
Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin. Photos also taken by Tovah Martin. Find her books and more information on her website: tovahmartin.com.