Garden Math for Container Fans

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Container Planting at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

While I’m generally more of a words person, I like math when it comes to the garden. Sometimes knowing proportions and formulas really helps to direct my enthusiasms. So, I was excited to find another math solution to a garden problem: How many plants should I put in containers?  If you look at photos in garden catalogs and magazines, it sometimes seems folks are planting an enormous number of plants in their pots. That’s not necessary or even healthy for the plants, according to Carrie Larson, a broker representative for McHutchison, Inc. and a frequent and very entertaining garden lecturer.

I heard Carrie speak on new plants for containers at Garden Visions this past weekend. Carrie is the person who helps local greenhouses and garden centers decide what to put on their shelves. Judging from the photos she showed, she also has a way with containers.

Now, here comes the math, and it’s pretty easy: Plant 1 plant for approximately every 3 inches of diameter in your container. So, if you have a little 8-inch pot, don’t try to stuff more than three plants in it. A big 20-inch pot could take 7 easily. If you are planting bigger plants or those that really spread, you might plant fewer. If the plants stay small or dainty in size, plant more.

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