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Flower Bowl Planting 101

I love planting flower bowls. Annual color adds happiness to the garden. This is a basic lesson on how to how to do it & the materials to use.

Oh my horticultural goodness, I was just about to have my green thumb certificate rebuked if I didn’t spring into action. When I can home from my trip to San Francisco the 2 flower bowls on either side of my gate were deader than doornails. There’s nothing that says “welcome to my home” like 2 pots of petrified petunias!  I was going to wait until early fall to switch them over but my mind quickly changed.

This post goes over the basics so you can think of it as flower bowl planting 101. I’ve planted 1000’s of annuals in my professional gardening days and worked on numerous large scale flower shows. I love to play with flowers, and shopping for and combining them is 1 of my favorite things to do. I’m looking at the color bowls right now as I sit at my desk and for me, they’re a happy sight.

Even though I’ve planted gazillions of annuals in the many moons that I’ve been gardening, I must admit I was pretty clueless about what to plant in Tucson in the summer time. I’m brand new in town and 105 degree July days with endless sunshine aren’t what I’m used to. I was hanging out with my neighbor in the pool 1 morning and he mentioned that Green Things was a great place to annual color because they grow most of their own which means it’s totally acclimated to this crazy summer climate. It just so happened that they were having a class on “cool annual color for hot desert gardens” that weekend so I was all over that in a New York minute.  I took the class and yippee – as it turns out that there are quite a few choices.

The bowls are pretty small so I didn’t get too carried away with planting.  No Hampton Court displays here!  I limited the palette to 2 kinds of plants and to 2 color shades.

The ingredients:

Annual Vinca, aka Madagascar Periwinkle

Penta, Egyptian Star Cluster

Planting Mix

Succulent & Cactus Mix (I would have used potting soil but I didn’t have any)

Worm Castings


The steps:

–> I wasn’t sure how long the soil had been in the bowls so I removed all of it. I wiped out the bowls & put a double layer of newspaper right over the drain holes.  This holds the fresh mix in so it doesn’t run out of the holes with the 1st few waterings.

–> I half filled the bowls with a blend of 4 parts planing mix, 1 part organic, local compost & 1 part succulent & cactus mix. I also sprinkled in a little bit of the worm compost. I went heavier on the planting mix & the compost because I’m in a very hot & dry climate.  A bit more on the mixes (& fertilizer) down below for you.

–> I thoroughly watered that in.

–> I gently but firmly pressed on the grow pots to get the plants out of the pots. The root balls were nice & mature so I massaged them a bit to loosen the roots up.

–> I put the flowering plants in the bowl slightly angling them out. I like to do this because annuals grow so fast & I prefer this look to them growing straight up & down.

–> I filled in with the same blend as above (including the sprinkling of worm compost) & watered again.

–> I’ll let the mix settle for a week or so & then add a layer of the compost on top for further water retention.


A bit about the mixes:

The 3 mixes I use the most are succulent & cactus mix, potting soil and planting mix.  Potting soil mixed with the composts will be fine to use for this kind of project if you in a part of the country or world which gets regular summer rainfall.  Succulent & cactus mix is the lightest and drains the fastest.  Potting soil has more added to it and is suitable for pots in the garden as well as for houseplants. It holds more moisture but still drains because it usually has something light like perlite in it.

Planting mix is an all purpose outdoor amendment which I why I combine it with other things. I find it holds the most moisture,  especially with the added compost, so that’s why I used it for my desert planting project.  The bowls are terra cotta which tend to be more porous and heat up – another reason to up the ante on the water retention.  Having lived on the East Coast as well as the West Coast, I’ve found that all these 3 mixes vary as to brand and to what they have in them.

A bit about fertilizing annuals:

You haven’t seen me use too many fertilizers.  That’s because ever since I started this blog and Youtube channel I’ve been gardening with plants which really don’t need it.  I’ve  been using local composts and worm compost to amend and nourish.  Annuals flower non stop all season and that takes a lot of energy.  I always use a fertilizer especially formulated for flowers and roses when planting them but I didn’t have any.  Here are some I like for flower planting: Dr. Earth, Happy Frog, American Pride and EB Stone.

By the way, be sure that your color bowl doesn’t dry out. These plants have really fine root system and generally do a lot of growing in 1 season so most need a fair amount of water. Right now I’m watering my bowls every day (until those summer monsoon rains come back again) but I’m hoping I can back it off to every other day.  I’m new to gardening here so time will tell on that one.

If you’re interested in preparing and planting your garden with beautiful blooms then check out this post here.  Flowers make me smile and I’m so glad I got this done.  Who doesn’t want to be greeted with cheery floral faces each time they come home?!

Hugs & happy flower gardening,

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