Currently Cooking in my Pots

The calendar for the month of February is up and bursting with outdoorsy goodness.

As the big D continues to turn the screws on us reducing our landscape to 50 shades of brown I am striving to keep your minds on more colorful thoughts.  I recently overhauled the contents of many of my pots, and I thought you would be keenly interested in the new inhabitants.

Some general words of wisdom about planting natives in pots, acquired via numerous untimely plant deaths.

  • Make sure the pot is big enough.  Unless you are doing annuals most natives won’t be happy in a pot that can only hold a couple of gallons of soil.
  • Use half potting soil, half cactus mix, you don’t want your medium too heavy.
  • Fertilize quarterly.  Of course you never fertilize a native in the ground, they can find what they need themselves.  In a pot they need help, try something organic like a seaweed/kelp blend, at half recommended strength.
  • Find species that don’t mind the close quarters.  Many desert natives are used to having their roots constricted and somewhat abused.
  • Add a layer of inorganic mulch on top to slow evaporation and keep the soil temperature moderate in summer.  I use lava rocks, pea pebbles, small river rock.
  • Manzanitas, sages and ceanothus and bigger shrubs are fun for a year or two, but that transplant 2 years down the road will often kill the plant, stick to small/medium stuff.
  • Water deeply, as infrequently as possible.  Once a week (or less) in winter, twice a week in summer.

So let’s see what I’ve got…

IMG_0068

Britton's dudleya

Britton’s dudleya

Dudleyas do great in pots.  These have both been happy since day 1.  The chalk dudleya is on a covered porch and only gets a few hours of sun yet thrives.  Look how many flower stalks are growing on the Britton’s dudleya… insane.

Bladderpod with a rogue poppy companion

Bladderpod with a rogue poppy companion

I finally figured out how to get the bladderpod to look decent… water the everloving heck out of it.  It probably wants out of the pot but they do terribly in my soil.  A California poppy has taken up residence in the corner of the pot, a pleasant enough interloper.

Eriogonum crocatum

Eriogonum crocatum

This Conejo buckwheat is somewhat rare and is now in its 4th year.  It doesn’t mind the small pot and blooms every year.  I’ve had decent success with buckwheats in pots, at least for a while.

Fairy duster - Calliandra californiaca

Fairy duster – Calliandra californiaca

Fairy Duster Jr.

Fairy Duster Jr.

This is my champ.  One of my very first potted natives and it is still alive 5 years later.  It blooms literally all year long.  The hummers love it.  Requires no care whatsoever.  I’m trying to replicate the success with his little brother which I recently got at Flora Gardens.  I think they have a few left.

Sphaeralcea fulva

Sphaeralcea fulva

This desert mallow has done OK, nothing spectacular but it blooms most of the year.

'De la Mina' Verbena, yes the pot has leprosy

‘De la Mina’ Verbena, yes the pot has leprosy

The De La Mina verbena is a big pain as it requires lots of water, and if you miss a few days it will literally drop dead.  I’ve revived this poor thing half a dozen times.  Great-smelling and abundant flowers is the only reason I tolerate such thin-skinned behavior.

Young island snapdragon

Young island snapdragon

I just planted this island snapdragon, again for the hummers.  This will get too big in a year or two.

Trichostema lanatum with assorted wildflowers

Trichostema lanatum with assorted wildflowers

My first ever wooly blue curl that I propagated from seed.  Not doing much yet, but not dying, which is all I can ask from such a sensitive plant.  All around are seedlings from my wildflower mix we talked about last week with the Nordhoff kids.  Surprised how great they work with no protection at all.

Cornucopia of succulents

Cornucopia of succulents

Remember when I said not to use small pots?  Well if you have some, succulents are the answer.  Plus they won’t whine if you forget to water for a week or two.

Mmmmm smells like pancakes

Mmmmm smells like pancakes

California everlasting that I grew from seed.  I just want the smell of maple syrup to be constantly wafting into my bedroom.

Aster + Phacelia = Fun

Aster + Phacelia = Fun

San Bruno Mt. Aster is a very prolific bloomer especially if you deadhead frequently.  For those of you who know my musical tastes I’m a big fan of deadheading.  On the side is a phacelia which I didn’t plant which gets bigger and spreads every year.

'White Cloud' Manzanita

‘White Cloud’ Manzanita

This manzanita is in a wine barrel, I’m hoping as the bottom rots the roots find their way to the ground.  It has done OK, didn’t bloom much this year.

Silver bush lupine

Silver bush lupine

My precious silver bush lupine grown from local seed.  Every one I put in the ground dies.  I filled this pot with half cactus soil and half gravel/sand.

Would love to see if anyone has had any interesting successes with natives in pots.

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One Response to Currently Cooking in my Pots

  1. chuck says:

    Thanks for sharing your yard with us Ron, E, Luke and Felix! When my yard grows up someday, it want’s to be like your yard!

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