How to Make a Terracotta-Pot Flower Tower With Annuals
Take container gardening to the next level . . . go vertical! This easy-to-make flower tower can dramatically enhance vertical space with vibrant summer-long color.
- Five standard terracotta pots in the following sizes: 14”, 12”, 10”, 8”, and 6”
- A 12.5” terracotta saucer (not needed if tower will be placed in a garden)
- A 2-cubic-foot bag of potting soil
- One 36” half-inch dowel rod or 36” rebar rod
- Soil Moist granules (optional)
- 20–30 annual plants
First, begin by taking the saucer and placing the 14” pot on top of it in the location you will want your flower tower to stand. (Once it is done, the tower will be heavy and difficult to move.) Fill the 14” pot with potting soil to just about 3 inches below the rim. Add the required amount of Soil Moist to the soil and mix it in.
Note: I highly recommend using Soil Moist to help keep the plants hydrated. In the hot summer months, flowers planted in containers dry out rapidly. It can happen so quickly in July and August that container plants may need to be watered twice a day. Keep in mind that plants in terracotta pots dry out even faster than other containers because the clay wicks away a lot of the moisture. Soil Moist is great because it almost doubles the time needed between waterings.
Once the soil mixture is in the pot, pat it down and level it off.
Then put the dowel rod into the center of the pot through the soil. If the flower tower is in the garden, do not use the saucer. Instead, push the rod into the ground a couple of inches for added stability.
Next, take the 12” pot and thread it through the drain hole onto the rod. Add soil and Soil Moist to that pot. Continue with this process until all of the pots are threaded onto the rod and filled with soil.
The tower is now constructed. All that is left is to add the flowers. Since there is only one inch of planting space, it is imperative that small container annuals are used. These are the flowers that come in 4-packs or 6-packs, and they cost around one to two dollars each. The smaller the initial flower, the easier it will be to plant. I have used the larger 6-pack of Wave Petunias, and even they were a tight fit.
Choosing the Annual Flowers
When it comes to selecting the flowers for the flower tower, the possibilities are endless. There are, however, a few simple things to keep in mind:
- Flowing, cascading, and mounding annuals work best. Tall, upright flowers like zinnias and sunflowers will not work. Look below for my favorite varieties to use for this project.
- If it's in a hanging basket in the nursery or garden center, it is a good selection. Just look around for the 6 or 4-packs of the flowers or ask an employee for help finding the same varieties.
- Keep in mind the location of the tower when selecting the flowers. The basic rules of gardening still apply here. Sun plants need sun. Shade plants thrive in the shade.
- The best flowers should have a bloom of one to two inches.
Annuals for a Tower in a Sunny Location
Petunia: The workhorse of the sunny garden, Petunias will not disappoint. They also come in a variety of colors which makes them easy to mix and match to obtain the desired affect.
Calibrachoa: These flowers look like mini-Petunias and are perfect for this project. However, is it is next to impossible to find them in small enough containers to fit the cramped one-inch space between the pots.
Wave Petunia: These flowers are not sold in small containers, but if purchased in a 6-pack, they can be used. It takes much more manipulation of the plants' root systems to fit them into the tiny space, but the impact is dramatic as the flowers grow and flow along all of the pots.
Alyssum: These mounding annuals come in white, purple, and pink. Although they wouldn’t work for this project when used alone, they make a great accent when planted every three or four flowers.
Annuals for a Shady Location
Impatiens: These flowers are perfect for the tower that is located in the shade. The plants will grow until the pots are no longer visible, giving the illusion of a tree made of flowers. Impatiens also come in a large variety of colors.
Lobelia: Similar to Alyssum, this flower cannot be used by itself in the tower but makes an excellent accent. It's also one of the few plants that come in blue.
Planting the Flower Tower
Now that the tower is built and the flowers are selected, all that is left to do is plant them. Starting with the bottom pot, take each plant out of its container and tease the roots before placing it in the pot. Space each plant about two inches apart. Mix and match the colors along the way to achieve the desired affect. Then when a layer is complete, fill in the space between each plant with potting soil.
This can get messy. Again, it’s a tight fit with only one inch of planting space to work with.
Once all of the flowers are planted in each of the layers, water the tower thoroughly. This includes watering the pots. If you don’t water the pots too, the clay will absorb most of the water and leave very little water for the plants.
To keep your flower tower looking great all summer long, water it daily. It is also not a bad idea to use an all-purpose fertilizer regularly to increase blooming and growth of the annuals.
The pots can be reused every year, but the flowers will need to be planted again. By selecting different flowers or colors each year, you can drastically change the look of this unique container garden.
If you are looking to make a tower that is a bit more complex, try the crooked version of this terracotta tower.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Kathy Hull