Earlier this month I introduced a new Miracle-Gro product, Expand ‘n Gro that I would be using on a project. It’s a unique planting soil mix that you can only order online at Amazon. Most soils can’t be ordered online due to their shipping weight. Expand ‘n Gro is light enough to be delivered to your front door, making your trip to the garden center easy and painless! I decided to use it to put together a beautiful planter at our front entrance.
But before I dive in and discuss how to create a beautiful planter, let’s take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous growth that Miracle-Gro has helped nurture in my flower beds. You may remember in my curb appeal reveal post that the front of our home received a major makeover. We had the stucco painted, and I designed a flowerbed makeover in Photoshop that included a mix of junipers and hollies–all plants that withstand sun and tolerate occasional drought.
The first growing season, I only used an acidic, organic fertilizer. I honestly didn’t see any improvement in one calender year. It was disappointing, especially since those fertilizers were expensive. I didn’t have money left in my budget for flowers so it was an evergreen bed until the next season.
It wasn’t until I started using Miracle-Gro for the red and white petunias that the hollies started loving the garden! Two years later, I’m happy to see them finally connecting as the hedge I envisioned. I am also loving how far my juniper topiaries have come in filling out.
This is now, a month after a late-winter pruning and an application of Miracle-Gro. Hard to believe that these are the same hollies and junipers, isn’t it? So when Miracle-Gro approached me about trying Expand ‘n Gro I happily agreed!
To recap, Expand ‘n Gro creates up to 90% more air space than other soils, giving plant roots much needed oxygen! It also holds up to 50% more water so your plants stay hydrated (YAS!) and it feeds them for up to six months, producing up to 3x bigger plants.
I had always wanted to have a gorgeous, cascading planter welcoming our guests at our front door, but I had a few challenges. One, I needed a planter. Sounds silly, but these gorgeous planters are not cheap. Fortunately I found one I liked for under $50 at my local home improvement store. Two, I needed to know which plants to pair together that would survive the Florida sun on our western front door. Thankfully, I came across this combo that did a lot of the homework for me!
How to Create a Beautiful Planter
Selecting a planter
First things first, you need a planter with a hole for drainage. Nothing kills plants faster than too much water (ask me how I know), so having one with drainage is crucial.
After that, finding a planter you like (in your budget) is the next step. Are you going for a formal look (Roman urns or tall rectangular planters), a whimsical look (boot planters or repurposed wheelbarrows), or a country cottage look (whiskey barrel)? There are many styles to choose from to match your personality. I love the formal, manicured look so I went with a reasonably priced urn planter.
Choosing the right plants
The world’s your oyster when it comes to plants. Sometimes the endless options are enough to paralyze me, so a combo planter like this one helps me in that department.
However, my vision was to have:
- heat tolerant plants
Now, there is lots of color in this combo, which is what first drew me to it. But let’s walk through what makes this particular combo work.
While the planter did not tell me what the middle, spiky grass-type plant was, it provided me with texture and some of the height I wanted. I could always replace it with the elegant Sansevieria ‘snake plant’ for more height and drama.
The petunias have a mounding and spreading habit, contributing to height in both directions: above and below the planter (and giving me that cascade that makes me swoon). There is a light pink petunia and a dark pink, allowed to spread and reach across the planter, that helps blend the petunias and creates harmony.
The dark purple calibrachoa, commonly known as million bells or trailing petunias, have small bell-shaped blooms. Calibrachoa has a trailing habit, as does the two-toned verbena. They each have small, dainty flowers providing a pleasing contrast to the larger, trumpet-shaped petunias.
All three floral selections require 6+ hours of direct sun, making them perfect neighbors for a planter on the southern or western exposure. My planter is going by our front door which faces west. Perfection!
Selecting the right potting mix
With Expand ‘n Gro you can rest assured all your bases are covered. With this potting mix, your plants are fed for up to six months in addition to having the ‘Goldilocks’ sweet spot between for having the right amount of water and air for the roots.
Following the instructions, I started by filling the bottom third of the planter with Expand ‘n Gro.
Then I added equal parts water and started mixing. See how much the soil expanded? Honestly I had my doubts about this stuff. But I soon experienced the soil expanding right before my eyes. To clarify, the soil expanded after 10 minutes, so it’s not like it is a Frankenstein monster (I don’t want you thinking it’s alive!).
Tip: Add more water than what you think you need. Enough so that the excess water empties through the drainage hole to ensure you’ve added enough water and that the soil expanded to its potential. I repeated the steps twice more.
At this point I let the soil sit a bit more, and I added a bit more water to ensure that the soil expanded completely.
Look at how much Expand ‘n Gro I had leftover!
At this point I was ready to begin transplanting the flowers, one by one. I found it easier to start with one of the largest flowers, the petunias, before I could reach the the spiky grass in the center. The original container was smaller in diameter than my urn planter, so I knew transplanting the combo would be a bit tricky to replicate the fullness.
One thing I did to help me space the plants out was to create a little trench in the soil. I also pushed the soil under the lip of the urn to prevent any air pockets. These can dry out the roots and wilt the flowers.
The next day my poor little calibrachoas appeared wilted despite plenty of watering (see below). I think the afternoon sun, coupled with the transplanting and the larger diameter of the urn, worked against me. Nothing a quick trip to the store couldn’t fix!
I picked up Wave petunias (this specimen really sprawls!). After I added in the petunias I didn’t end up needing the Mexican Heather (shown below) but they would have been an excellent addition had I not found the petunias.
I think I love the new arrangement even more! It has all of the drama I wanted in color, height and texture. What do you think?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Learning is part of what makes gardening fun!
What upcoming projects do you have that could benefit from Expand ‘n Gro?