Earlier this year I posted a piece about new containers for spring, and one of the exciting new pots was Verti-plants, a British design that won awards last year and has been hotly anticipated over here. I ordered 2 sets of Verti-plants for a problem area in my landscape: an ugly dog run at the side of the house, unfortunately overlooked by a window. Here is my experience, so you can judge for yourself whether you want to add Verti-plants to your own container garden.
The Verti-plants fastened easily onto my wooden fence, and have been durable and attractive ever since. They don’t seem to warp or sag, even after a heavy rainfall, and the green color is pleasing. (Soon the punishing west Texas sun will pound them for about 6 to 8 months, so we’ll see how they look in November!)
I had a bunch of geranium (Pelargonium) seedlings growing in the Bio Dome, so I popped them into the Verti-plants the minute they had two sets of true leaves. I planted one seedling per “cubby” — each Verti-plant has 3 vertical rows of 2. Using geraniums was risky, because they aren’t tiny plants, but I wondered how they would cope with the space restraints of the Verti-plants, and whether Verti-plants would be useful for growing anything other than small trailing succulents, herbs, or baby greens.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the cubbies in the Verti-plants. They hold a LOT of soil: I estimate that each pouch is about the size of a standard 6-inch pot. That said, once you plant out the middle row, it hangs out over the bottom, and you lose a lot of aboveground space. Everything leans outward, which is attractive enough, but presents watering challenges (more on that in a minute).
Here’s how the geraniums looked a few weeks later (images at left and below). They are bursting with health. No doubt a bit smaller than they might be if given a larger growing space, they are wonderfully full and well-branched. The first flush of blooms has come and is nearly gone.
Currently, the top row of my Verti-plants is empty. I planted trailing sedum cuttings in them shortly after filling the other layers with geraniums. Unfortunately, the squirrels discovered them immediately, neatly removed them, and buried pecans in their place. Every time I checked the Verti-plants, a new sedum stem would be lying on the ground. I want to put another trailing variety on top, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
So are Verti-plants a success? For me, they definitely are. They hold much more soil than I expected, and the plants accommodate to their cramped vertical quarters by growing outward. I would like to choose trailing and spreading types next time, just because the flowering stems would be so pretty, hanging down from the bottom row.
But there are challenges. The main one, at least when growing large-leafed geraniums, is getting the water to stay in the soil instead of running out the front of the cubby. The best method for me, when the plants were smaller, was to water the top row of cubbies and let it trickle down to the others. But as the plants grew, the bottom layer wasn’t getting anything, so I had to find a long, narrow-spouted watering can that can angle in among the foliage. Still, the cubbies tend to fill very quickly, with excess water spilling out the front (they lean outwards when full of soil). I haven’t decided if this problem is because I filled them too full of soil, or I haven’t pushed the soil back into the recesses of the cubbies well enough, or if it’s simply a design flaw.
Another recommendation for anyone growing in Verti-plants is to station them above another planting — containers, raised beds, or any other source of soil. That way, when water runs out the front of the cubbies or off the foliage, it doesn’t fall on the ground.
I’ll post another update on Verti-plants at summer’s end, and we’ll see what happened to all those early-blooming, ambitious geraniums! Also, will I find time to plant something else in the top row? (Hint: probably not!)