Plant Care Information

Here at Altman Plants, we want the end customer to be as successful as possible with our products. That is why we have compiled this list of in-depth resources on plant care. Click on a Category below to get started.

General Planting Guide

gardening-round-1With few exceptions, the following instructions apply to nearly anything you might plant whether it is a marigold, lantana, ornamental grass or palm tree! Always read carefully the tag supplied with the plant at the time of purchase for any particulars that might apply.

Enhance the Soil
All soil can be enhanced by amending it with organic material to make it nutrient rich and enhance drainage so always prepare your soil before planting. This is also a good time to add a balanced, timed release fertilizer like a 14-14-14 to get the plants off to a good start.

Where to plant
Choose a site appropriate for the plant. This is information generally included on the tag such as sun or shade, and the size of the plant at maturity.

Prepare a hole
A rule of thumb for preparing a hole to plant in is to make the hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the size of the container the plant is in. You will then backfill in around the plant with the amended, loose soil.

Prepare the Roots
Gently remove the plant from the container and examine the roots. If they are extremely wrapped around and around the root ball, carefully tease them apart to loosen them up from the root ball. This will give them a better start in their new soil. There are exceptions, bougainvillea for example. It has a very tender root system and does not like it fussed with at all! So as always, do your homework, research your plants.

Settle the Plant
Always place the plant in the soil at the same level it was in the pot. This means when the plant is in the ground (or new container for that matter), what was the top of the soil in the pot should still be even with the top of the soil in the new location. Again, there are exceptions like tomatoes that prefer to have their stem buried. In most cases burying the stem or crown of most plants will harm or kill them.

Add more soil
Gently firm the soil in place around the plant to remove any large air pockets or spaces. Create a water basin by making a raised mound of soil a few inches tall all around the perimeter of the new hole. This will serve as a dam to hold a few inches of water around the plant when it is watered providing a good thorough soaking. Fill the basin making sure to soak the new soil as well as the existing root ball; if water soaks in fairly quick, re-fill basin again. Some plants may need temporary or permanent staking; this is the time to do it.

You’re Done! From here on follow the appropriate watering, feeding and pruning requirements and look forward to a rewarding plant experience!

Cacti & Succulents

about-round-2Cacti & Succulents inspire us all to garden with drought tolerant xeriscaping.  View our ever-growing catalog of Cacti & Succulents at our Online Store.  Explore the fascinating world of cacti and succulents by taking a tour of Altman Plants’ CactusCollection.com.

Cacti are succulent plants that are water-storing and are native to the New World: North America, South America, and Central America. Succulents include all plants that store water. They usually can be watered infrequently, the water will cause the skin to swell, and will gradually contract and shrivel as the water level inside the plant decreases over time.

Succulents look great with minimal care, will not wilt if you forget to water them, and are delightful to collect and use in gardens and containers. The more you know about these intriguing plants, the more you’ll enjoy growing them.

Annuals

pansy-round-1Annuals will brighten any landscape, hanging basket or container garden throughout the year.

Perennials have long been considered the backbone of any good garden, but some of the real fun begins with the wide color pallet of the bedding Annuals. Go on, just get crazy and fill in with big splashes of Pansies in the winter and spring or rows and bands of sun yellow, flame red, or powder puff pink Celosia in the summer.

While the perennials are always there, certain times of the year their color may not be. This is where annuals are great for the garden as they fill in those times during perennial resting. Even when the perennials are in bloom, the annuals become the belts, purses, shoes and earrings that accessorize the garden. Banks of Petunias and Marigolds offer great blocks of summer color for the sun with Impatiens of all types bringing a delicate wash of color into the shade gardens all summer long. They don’t need to be flowering annuals either. Annual foliage plants like Amaranthus, Coleus and Dusty Miller pack a big punch in any garden with their distinctive foliage; Dusty Miller even rewards with clusters of bright yellow button-like flowers as well.

Perennials

petunias-round-1Perennials are plants that live for many years, typically blooming at a specific time and often continuing sporadically after that throughout the year. Most remain through the winter while some will die back in fall and return in spring.

Perennials are primarily grown for their flowers although some like Artemisia and ferns are grown for the ornamental value of their foliage. Perennials can be grown in borders or beds, along walkways and under or in front of shrubs. They are ideal companions for spring blooming bulbs, providing a succession of bloom after the bulbs are finished and hiding the bulb foliage as it dies back. Perennials also make a fine background for groups of late spring and summer blooming bulbs like allium and lilies as well as for all of the spring, summer and fall annuals that become available.

There are many types of perennials and likewise many different cultural requirements. Become familiar with your specific ones to provide the proper care. One of the benefits of perennials is that once established they generally require little more than average care and an occasional pruning for peak performance and appearance.

Ornamental Grasses

grasses-round-1Ornamental grasses are now available with new varieties continuously appearing. Some of the reasons for this astonishing rise in popularity appear to center around the practical, as well as aesthetic merit of ornamental grasses as a whole. As we become increasingly aware of the environmental forces in the landscape around us, many of the ornamental grasses that have an inherent ability to handle both the drought years as well as the wet years are being sought. This is something particularly appealing to us here in California with our “El Niño” rains and “La Niña” droughts. Another valuable environmental characteristic of some of the ornamental grasses is the ability to endure the continuous freezing and thawing of soils typical of the colder parts of the country during winter. There are also grasses that will thrive in relationship to water such as around ponds, streams, and actually in the water!

During the growing season depending on variety, ornamental grasses range in height from 6 inches to 14 or more feet and can be used as incredible accent plants, ground covers, screens, border edgings, or as companions with a wide range of flowering annuals and especially perennials. Color of foliage includes shades of green, green/yellow, green/blue, blue, red, brown, and variegated. Dried foliage and flowers on many ornamental grasses are attractive and will gracefully sway with the wind in the cold months adding a new dimension to the winter garden as well as being excellent for use in floral arrangements.

Grasses can have different cultural requirements so be familiar with the types you are growing. A couple of general requirements is that most prefer full sun, and should be cut to the ground in late fall or early spring when the leaves have turned brown. Use our Search function to find out specific variety requirements.

Container Gardens

container-round-1Conduct your own horticultural symphony with your favorite container. Imagine Bacopa spilling over the edge fronting a fanfare of Nemesia, then climbing higher to a crescendo of hybrid Argyranthemums (Marguerites). Place it anywhere you want an audience! Sounds like music to me.

You don’t need to have acres of land to have all the benefits of these outrageous new plant varieties. Nowadays few people have much more space anyway than a porch, patio, set of stairs, or a small strip of dirt called a backyard. Containers of various sizes are perfect for any of these locales. Think of the endless possibilities of combinations.

Colorcentric
If you are one of those who just can’t get enough of your favorite color, use lots of similar shades of your favorite but different textures and habits! Say you are a pink person; try a container or series of containers with a single and a double pink Argyranthemum, trailing pink calibrachoa, and some delicate airy salmon pink Diascia. Place them down your stairs, along your walk, or anywhere you need to see “your pink”. Also great in the theme aspect for say a baby girl shower! If blue is your downfall, try Felicia, Heliotrope, Lobelia and Brachyscome – all blue shades, very different textures, and now you’ve also covered the baby boy shower as well! Whatever your favorite color, yellow, white, red, lavender – check out all the possibilities available in today’s new plant selections.

Theme Plantings
Certainly the pink or blue baby shower gardens just mentioned above, but also patriotic red white and blue gardens for Memorial Day and Fourth of July – these could be a simple combo of red, white and blue salvias all the same height, or a layered look with red Salvia, down to white Marguerites on to blue trailing Calibrachoa.

Traditional Cottage Gardens
Traditional English or Cottage gardens typically follow a standard structure of placement whether in the landscape or in a container. As this structure usually follows a graduating size format, the trowels marked Tall, Medium, and Low, have already done half of your thinking for you! Start either in the middle of the container or the back with plants of your choice labeled Tall, maybe a Foxglove or Delphinium.

If you are starting in the center of the container, make your next Medium planting all the way around the tall item; this is creating a container that can be viewed from any side – everyone sees the same planting wherever they are! For a medium plant try Angelonia, Nemesia, Diascia, or Brachyscome. Again, plant your Low items all the way around the medium ones letting them spill over the edge; try Bacopa, Trailing Helichrysum, Verbena or Lamium – Voila! If you started in the back of the container, follow the same graduations of size but successively planting just in front of the tallest items all the way to the front ending with the lowest. This creates a single sided planting with more of a panoramic appearance. Don’t forget to try some Altman Plants® grasses in your containers as well for that extra special look.

Specialty Gardens
These can be both “Funky” and fun. Use just Altman Plants Ornamental Grasses with all of their colors, sizes and textures to create a Prairie look, or a High Desert or Southwestern appearance. Go a step further and try using the Semi-Aquatic Grasses and set their container in a shallow dish always filled with water to get a Pond, Riparian or Everglades effect – No Gators Please!

“The Moon Garden” is definitely one of the “funkiest” specialty container gardens of all! Plant the container following whatever placement method you choose, such as the traditional cottage layout for example, and use only White Flowering and Variegated Foliage types of plants. White Argyranthemums, White Calla Lilies with white speckled leaves, White Nemesia, Silver Trailing Helichrysum, White Variegated Bacopa or White Calibrachoa. Place this container garden somewhere outside on a patio, deck, stairs or porch and see what happens under bright moonlit or Full Moon nights. The effect is eerily beautiful as all of the white flowers and white or variegated foliage glow with a ghostly surreal appearance!

Hanging Baskets

hanging-basketsHanging Baskets Gardening is often discussed at great length from a seated, eye level position to below, but what about above? Hanging baskets are the gardens of the sky and a tremendous accent in many situations and extremely versatile.

Not difficult to care for, and great pallets for creativity, hanging baskets comes in two basic forms: solid containers and mesh types. Solid containers with drainage holes in them can be plastic, terra cotta, clay, glazed ceramic and even wood or metal. Mesh types are typically a formed wire basket; either welded heavier gauge or possibly as simple as hand shaped hardware cloth or chicken wire.

While both can be similarly planted and relatively easy to care for there are a few differences to note. Solid containers need to be watered less as there is less surface area for evaporation. The exceptions to the rule are clay or terra cotta types. These porous materials will tend to wick the water away from the soil and need more frequent watering. The mesh types fall into the same category as the clay and terra cotta but even more so. Wire baskets are usually lined with live sphagnum moss or coconut fiber, also known as coir. These materials offer the advantage of allowing you to be able to actually plant into the sides and bottoms of wire baskets creating unusual effects, however the entire surface is very evaporative and these plantings will need more frequent watering. This is a small price to pay though for the stunning natural beauty of the basket linings and the unusual techniques that can be used when planting.

Know your plants first! This is the most important part of any container planting and hanging baskets are no exception. How you care for your basket depends on the type(s) of plants used. For example, a succulent, trailing Burro’s Tail is going to need a light, porous and easily draining soil mix while a Fuchsia needs a more dense, moisture retaining mix. They both require bright indirect light. Petunias on the other hand can use an all-purpose potting soil mix and need full sun. The lesson is: do your plant homework first! When you know the plant, you can put just about anything in a basket.

Hanging or trailing plants are truly impressive when hung in the air, but don’t be afraid to mix say upright Snapdragons or Marguerites in the middle of the basket surrounded by something that will cascade over the sides like Calibrachoa, Convolvulus or Trailing Silver Helichrysum.

And don’t be stuck to the conventional hanging containers that are available – be creative and as wacky as you like. With lengths of chain, wire or rope as your friends you can use just about anything that you can put drainage holes in; here are some suggestions out of the ordinary

Old kettle style barbecues – already has the vent holes in the bottom, and when hung at a lower level truly is a floating garden.

Cowboy Boots! – Either one or a pair. 3 tiered, graduated size vegetable storage baskets. Old kitchen colanders, metal or plastic. Have fun, be daring, but most of all know your plants and you can add hanging accents of beauty or whimsy to your outdoor gardening experience!

Additional Resources