Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Container Gardening with Specialty Plants

~ May 25, 2011

Weather conditions, or more accurately, the growing zone dictates what gardeners can and cannot grow. Canada covers a wide range of growing zones. Gardening in a colder zone does not mean you cannot enjoy the pleasure of tropical plants. This is where container gardening really becomes unique.

Consider the mature size of the plant. Most exotic plants can be kept to a manageable size (8 feet high, approximately 30 inches wide) with vigorous pruning and some tying with string. However, there are some tropicals that cannot be maintained at a manageable size. Do your research and verify the mature size listed on the plant tag.

Select a container that is large enough to support the plant you want to grow. Keep in mind that you will need to carry the plant indoors come fall. As the plant grows you will transplant into a larger pot in early spring.

Choose a container that is lightweight and durable. The plant will be moved around a lot and will get heavier. A ceramic pot would not be wise because it is simply too heavy and fragile. Plastic pots are perfect for this type of application and are relatively inexpensive. In addition, a pot with handles or wheels is very helpful when moving. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes to drain excess water.

Select or create a soil that drains quickly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots moist. Use a slow release fertilizer, like Smartcote, when planting and water according to the plant specifications.

The list of what you can grow in containers is virtually endless. Some examples are: figs, citrus, cactus and palm. I grow a Banaana tree which is 8 feet high and produces a small crop each year. Select a quick maturing variety if you want any chance of a harvest.

Winter Storage.

When the plant goes dormant in the fall, move it into a cold cellar. Storage temperatures should not dip below 0C or above 7C in the winter.

When spring arrives move the plant out of storage and gradually harden it off to the outdoor conditions, keeping it protected from spring frosts.