Growing cosmos in containers

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By Naomi Jones

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your patio for summer, turn a balcony or courtyard into a lush little oasis, or even just plant up a window box, there’s potential to create a beautiful, colourful display whether your outside space is big or small. Spring is the best time to plant summer-flowering bulbs and compact perennials in pots, giving them time to settle so that they establish into strong, healthy plants in summer.

Container planting in small spaces

If you have paved courtyard garden or live in a flat with a balcony, container gardening is the easiest way to create a green space of your own. Even if your garden tiny and the growing conditions are tricky, by no means does it have to be bland. You have to pick and choose the right plants to suit the conditions, but there are so many varieties that will thrive in containers and can bring light to a dull space.

Small gardens and courtyards look really quaint when they’re cleverly planted with varieties that mature and provide colour year after year. Often, there’s no open ground to plant in so a good collection of pots, hanging baskets and raised beds is what you need.

Pots positioned on the ground produce low-level colour, which is great, but you’ll get an even better effect by positioning pots at different heights, which will provide colour at eye-level or higher. Plant ladders and plant stands are perfect for this, you can swap pots around and display your best-looking containers as they come into their own.

Different plants provide interest at different times of the year. With a bit of planning, you can fill pots with varieties that will provide successional colour all year round. If you don’t have room for a lot of pots, group plants together in one pot to create a mixed display. It’s best to stick to summer plants in summer pots and winter plants in winter pots so you always have a fresh display. That way you can move the move the pots that looks good to the front of the display and tuck the ones that are over away into the background until the following year.

One of the great benefits of planting in containers is that doing so allows you to create a colourful, lush planting scheme that’s also portable. You can always move pots around and display the ones that are looking their best. Plus, if you live in a rented property and can’t make changes to the garden, containers allow you to create a lovely space which you can take with you if you move.

How to grow plants in containers

When you’re choosing an outdoor container, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn’t have holes it’ll become waterlogged and stagnant and can make your plants rot.

It’s traditional to put broken crockery, gravel, or hydro granules in the bottom of a container to aid drainage, and I think it’s a good idea to do this. If you’re planting a very large container, you can aid drainage and pad out a bit of space by positioning up-turned plastic pots in them (this also saves on compost!).

Multi-purpose compost is ideal for use in outdoor containers. If you’re planting perennials, it’s best to use a heavy soil-based compost or a mixture of multipurpose compost and garden soil because multipurpose compost on its own can be a bit too light and rich.

It’s a good idea to mix some slow-release fertiliser granules into the compost before planting. This will feed the plants and help them flourish throughout the growing season.

Always water your plants in after planting to help settle the roots and activate them into growth. As the weather warms up, keep watering them regularly as and when the soil becomes dry. Pots do dry out quickly, so it may be necessary to water them every day in the height of summer.

Plants suitable for containers

Many summer bulb varieties are ideal for growing in pots. Not only are they easy to look after, but many of them are fully hardy and will come back again each year with very little fuss. But it’s important to be selective and choose the right plant to suit the growing conditions. For example, if your garden is shady, choose shade-loving plants. If your garden is sun drenched all day long, choose varieties that love sun and tolerate drought. Whether a plant likes sun or shade is very important to know, and this is provided in the plant description.

Varieties with a compact or short growing habit are best for containers, and it’s best to avoid tall varieties that might flop. There’s limited space for roots in containers – generally speaking, the smaller the plant, the smaller the root system. Give your plants a big enough pot to suit their size and the less you will have to do to keep your plants healthy, nourished and watered.

Here are some of my favourite summer varieties for containers from Farmer Gracy:

Dahlia ‘Bluesette’

  • Height 50-60cm Spread 50-60cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Suitable for borders and containers
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Dahlia Bluesette →

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

  • Height 50-60cm Spread 50-60cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Suitable for borders and containers
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff →

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Dover’

  • Height 50-60cm Spread 50-60cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Suitable for borders and containers
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Dahlia Bishop of Dover →

Begonia odorata ‘Angelique’

  • Height 30-40cm Spread 40-50cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for pots and baskets
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Begonia Angelique →

Begonia ‘Samba Mixed’

  • Height 30-40cm Spread 40-50cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for pots and baskets
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Begonia Samba →

Lily ‘Night Rider’

  • Height 70-80cm Spread 40-50cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy

Buy Lily Night Rider →

Lily ‘Asiatic Mixed’

  • Height 70-80cm Spread 40-50cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy

Buy Lily Asiatic Mixed →

Calla Lily ‘Tiger Collection’

  • Height 30-40cm Spread 30-40cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in sun or shade
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Calla Lily Tiger Collection →

Calla Lily ‘Albomaculata’

  • Height 30-40cm Spread 30-40cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in sun or shade
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Frost tender, cover with fleece in winter or move indoors

Buy Calla Lily Albomaculata →

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’

  • Height 60-70cm Spread 60-70cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in sun or shade
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy

Buy Crocosmia Emily McKenzie →

Nerine ‘Bowdenii’

  • Height 50-60cm Spread 50-60cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during autumn
  • Grows in sun or shade
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy

Buy Nerine Bowdenii →

Agapanthus ‘Umbellatus’

  • Height 1m Spread 80cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during summer
  • Grows in full sun
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy in sheltered positions

Buy Agapanthus Umbellatus →

Astilbe ‘Cotton Candy’

  • Height 80-90cm Spread 50-60cm
  • Plant in spring, flowers during autumn
  • Grows in full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable for cutting
  • Suitable for pots and borders
  • Fully hardy

Buy Astilbe Cotton Candy →

5 Great planting combinations for containers

If space is limited, you can plant more than one variety in each pot to provide contrast. Here are five planting combination ideas…

1. Nerine, Crocosmia and Dahlia

This bright combination is ideal for growing in a large container or raised bed, positioned in full sun or partial shade. The dahlias and crocosmias provide simultaneous colour in summer, with the nerines taking over into autumn.

In this plant combination:

  • Nerine ‘Companion Mr John’
  • Mixed crocosmias
  • Dahlia ‘Bluesette’

2. Calla Lily and Agapanthus

The almost black and orange blooms of this calla lily mix perfectly complement the vivid blue flowers of agapanthus. This planting combination is best suited for growing in a large container in full sun. The calla lilies provide colour form early summer, then the agapanthus will tower over them from August onwards.

In this plant combination:

  • Calla Lily ‘Tiger Collection’
  • Agapanthus Umbellatus

3. Anemone and Ranunculus

Create a soft, pastel-coloured planting scheme from spring through to mid summer with this combination of ranunculus and anemones. Both produce lots of early-season blooms continuously and last well as cut flowers.

In this plant combination:

  • Anemone ‘The Bride’
  • Ranunculus ‘Pink’

4. Calla Lily and Lily

This striking black and white combination will look great throughout summer in a large container, positioned in sun or partial shade. Plant the low-growing calla lilies around the edges or at the front of the container, with the taller lily behind.

In this plant combination:

  • Calla Lily ‘Zebra Collection’
  • Lily ‘Night Rider’

5. Two Dahlias and Astilbe

This warming colour scheme will provide a long-lasting display of tropical-looking summer colour. The blooms last well as cut flowers too so you can enjoy this combination in a vase as well as in the garden. This is a selection of compact but robust plants that will require a large-sized pot.

In this plant combination:

  • Dahlia ‘Bishop of York’
  • Astilbe ‘Fanal’
  • Dahlia ‘Orange Nugget’

“Best Plants for Small Gardens and Pots”
is a guest blog written by:

Naomi Jones
Author of Garden Nomey blog

Top 10 plants for containers

Containers offer the gardener great versatility, and are a fantastic way to experiment with planting and design. From short-term bedding displays to permanent features of small trees and topiary, container planting adds another dimension to the garden, softening corners, brightening dull spots and providing instant, yet easily changeable, results.

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When choosing your pot, stick to just one or two different materials. Take your cue from the style of the house and garden – red brick buildings are enhanced by terracotta containers, while a modern plot is the best backdrop for galvanised metal pots.

Related content:
Choosing plants for pots (video)

Bigger pots have more impact and won’t dry out as quickly, but an eclectic group of small containers creates a quirky, ever-changing corner. Repetition can be effective, garden designers often use three or more identical containers planted with the same plants, for maximum impact.

1

Coreopsis tinctoria

Coreopsis looks great in a large pot combined with other annuals and perennials. Try combining with phormiums, euphorbia, nasturtiums and purple basil.

2

Cosmos

The cottage-garden feel of these daisy-like flowers adds a sense of informality and movement to containers. They work well with plants with silver foliage, but they’re also effective on their own.

3

Impatiens walleriana

Busy Lizzies are the perfect choice for shady gardens. Helped along by plenty of deadheading, they flower well into autumn.

4

Clematis

Some clematis are suitable for growing in containers. Evergreen clematis is often sold tied to an upright stake, but its trailing habit makes it perfect for the edge of a container. Partner with spring bulbs for a dash of colour.

5

Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’

Ivy is one of the most useful and attractive plants for pots. ‘Ivalace’ has dark-green, shiny leaves with curled edges.

6

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’

Variegated foliage is a real pick-me-up all year round. For a striking display, try it with creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, tulips, golden narcissi or primroses.

7

Pittosporum tenuifolium

This elegant evergreen shrub has rich mahogany leaves that emerge a pale creamy colour before darkening. Slightly tender, it will need a sheltered spot over winter.

8

Skimmia japonica

This male form is blessed with glossy evergreen leaves, and an abundance of tiny red buds through the winter, which open to pinky-white flowers in spring.

9

Hosta

Hostas make beautiful architectural plants, and work well in containers, either alone or with other plants. Try combining with bleeding heart, or other foliage plants, such as heucheras.

10

Pennisetum setaceum

Fountain grass is a real show-stopper. Grow in large pots with alliums for dramatic impact, or on its own to make a statement. ‘Rubrum’ has graceful stems and red-tinged, squirrel-tail flowers that fade to beige in autumn. Protect from frost in winter.

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Houseplants are a tried and true way to bring vibrant color to your home and to bring nature inside. Not to mention, plants are a great way to purify the air in your home.

Big and beautiful philodendrons and majesty palms are perfect for adding the finishing touch to any room and for filling in empty corners and walls. However, huge plants like that aren’t always the best for tiny apartments and less-than-spacious homes. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices for small indoor plants that can help provide the right touch of green without taking up a large chunk of your room!

Small plants, like succulents and air plants, are perfect for adding greenery to your desk or your nightstand. Slightly bigger plants like peace lilies can take up some floor space, but they won’t overwhelm any corner of the room with lush leaves or big roots.

The best part about most small potted plants is that they can fit almost anywhere in your home. You can even get creative! Think about adding some cute plants in unexpected places like near your bathroom window, in a hanging planter or even on your wall with a space-saving vertical wall garden!

21 Small Indoor Plants to Spruce Up Your Space

To help you get started, we rounded up our favorite small indoor plants and included a few tips for styling them in a small space. Take a look and see which ones you can apply to your own space.

1. Air Plant

Air plants are interesting plants since they don’t need soil to survive. These are great if you’re looking for a small plant and don’t want to deal with pots or soil. If you choose to house your air plant in a terrarium, make sure it has an opening so it gets plenty of circulation.

2. Aloe Vera

Did you know that aloe vera plants are a part of the succulent family? Just like their relatives, they enjoy the sun and prefer that their soil is completely dry between waterings. These small potted plants are handy to keep around if you have any minor burns, like a sunburn. Take a look at our list of medicinal plants to see what other plants you should keep around your home.

3. Anthurium

Smaller anthuriums are perfect for adding a bright pop of color to any room in the house without taking up too much space. They can tolerate all types of light, but will grow best with bright, indirect light.

4. Asparagus Fern

Contrary to its name, the asparagus fern is actually a part of the lily (liliaceae) family. If possible, give this plant some breathing room on either side so its leaves can fan out. It will add a beautiful splash of green on any shelf or table.

5. Baby Toes

These cute plants also hail from the succulent family. Their name derives from their small stature and resemblance to an infant’s toes. Baby toes are perfect conversation starters due to their unusual look.

6. Cast-Iron Plant

Cast-iron plants are hardy plants that can withstand a range of light and soil conditions. They’re the plant to choose if you’re willing to give up a little floor space in exchange for a nearly indestructible plant.

7. Chinese Money Plant

These cute plants are known for their beautiful round leaves and how for how difficult they are to obtain. Chinese money plants are also called missionary plants. This is because Norwegian Missionary Agnar Espergen took cuttings home with him in the 1940s and shared them with his loved ones. This is how the plant eventually spread throughout the world. These plants are easy to propagate, so the easiest way to acquire your own is to find a friend or online exchange willing to help y

8. Echeveria

The echeveria is one of the most common types of succulents. Little plants like these are more commonly found at office and home desks due to their easy care and small size. A common cause of death, however, is overwatering. Make sure to let your plants’ soil dry completely before giving them another drink.

9. Jade Plant

Jade plants are most known for their thick, oval-shaped leaves. Jade plants can live for years as long as they are given the proper care. To keep your plant’s leaves nice and shiny, wipe them down every once in a while to combat dust build up. This will keep the leaves glossy and increase its ability to absorb sunlight.

10. Kalanchoe

Kalanchoes are a variety of flowering plants that are known for their beautiful blooms. Place them near a window so that they have plenty of energy to flower. The kalanchoe is also from the succulent family, so it prefers to have dry, well-drained soil.

11. Lithops

Many refer to lithops as “living stones,” since these plants closely resemble pebbles and small stones. Like succulents, these small plants can survive in hot temperatures and little water. Lithops are great for showing off to guests due to their deceiving appearance!

12. Lucky Bamboo

These small plants can grow in both soil and in water. If you choose to grow your lucky bamboo in water, make sure you replace the water every 7 to 10 days and use filtered water if possible. If you plant it in soil, make sure to water it when the first inch of its soil starts to feel dry.

13. Oxalis

This specific oxalis variety is also referred to as “purple shamrocks” or “false shamrocks.” It earned its name because of its resemblance to the Irish shamrock that is more commonly known as the three-leafed clover. In addition to its name, its also known for its photophilic nature. This means that both its flowers and leaves open and close in response to light.

14. Peace Lily

Peace lilies are one of the best houseplants you can have in your home due to their variety of sizes, attractive appearance and ability to clean the air. Peace lilies can also thrive under fluorescent light, so they’re perfect for rooms that have little to no natural light. Take a look at our peace lily care guide to learn how to help them thrive.

15. Peperomia

Peperomia leaves grow in tight clusters, making them ideal choices for small shelves or desks. Their thick leaves can hold water and allow them to endure periods of time without hydration. They can also survive under fluorescent light, but grow best with bright, indirect sunlight.

16. Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants are colorful plants that provide an unexpected dash of color to any shelf or tabletop. These small plants are commonly known for their pink color, but they have more recently become available in other colors (like red and white). Although it prefers indirect sunlight, some direct sunlight during the day is okay for your plant if it isn’t very colorful yet. Just remember to bring it back out of the direct sunlight to avoid scorched leaves.

17. Pothos

Pothos plants are vine plants that can easily dress up a bookcase or a plain wall with their trailing leaves. They are another popular plant that purifies the air. Their classy appearance and air-purifying abilities make them a good choice for a home office or living room. Take a look at our pothos plant care guide to learn more in-depth information about their care guidelines.

18. Rubber Tree

Rubber trees are indoor plants that can pull any room together with their large leaves and vibrant color. Rubber trees can potentially grow up to ten feet tall. To keep them at a smaller height, prune the branches and leaves regularly. New branches can sprout from these prunings if you tend to them.

19. Snake Plant

Snake plants are easy to care for and are also useful for purifying the air. These plants grow vertically, so they’re ideal for tight corners that are in need of some greenery. Snake plants can grow in a variety of light conditions, but thrive best in indirect sunlight. Since they originate from the desert, they can also withstand long periods of time without water. You should let their soil dry between waterings. Take a look at our snake plant care guide to learn more in-depth information about snake plants.

20. Spider Plant

These plants have a lot of long, skinny leaves that poke out from their pots. Spider plants make interesting hanging plants thanks to their dangling leaves. The spider plant’s other nicknames include the “airplane plant” and the “ribbon plant” — thanks to its iconic foliage.

21. String of Pearls

The string of pearls plant is an increasingly popular plant with a unique appearance. Its pearl-like foliage hangs over its container and makes an eye-catching piece of decor for all of your guests. This cute plant is yet another member of the succulent family and thus requires lots of light and little water.

How to Style Small Indoor Plants in Tiny Spaces

A lack of space is an invitation to get innovative and see how you can add foliage to your home! You can keep it simple with a few small potted plants or get creative with a wall gardens to take advantage of your vertical space. Small DIY projects like modern plant terrariums and kokedama string gardens are other ways to incorporate small indoor plants into your tiny space. Look through our tips and tricks to see how you can take advantage of your small space.

Small indoor plants are some of the most versatile greenery you can find. Start by picking out a few of your favorites to see where they can fit. From there, you’ll get an idea about what works best in your space and what other plants you want to add! If you’re up for getting a little more creative, why not try your hand at making a DIY ladder plant stand or DIY succulent wall garden? These projects allow you to have a fun indoor garden without taking up too much space! Unique wall and hanging planters are the way to go if you’re tight on floor space.

Container Grown Cosmos: Tips For Growing Cosmos In Pots

If you’re looking for container plants loaded with pretty blossoms throughout summer and well into fall, cosmos is a great choice. Growing cosmos in pots is easy and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of flowers for cut or dried arrangements, or you can simply enjoy them in their pot. Keep reading to learn more about container grown cosmos.

Container Grown Cosmos

Cosmos flowers can be successfully grown in containers. Species plants can grow as much as 6 feet tall, so look for dwarf or compact cultivars for containers.

Of the 20 species of annual and perennial cosmos flowers, cultivars of C. sulphureus and C. bipinnatus are best suited to containers. C. sulphureus comes in shades of yellow, orange and red, while C. bipinnatus blooms in pink and rose tones.

Can Cosmos be Grown in Containers of Soil from the Garden?

Two things happen when you fill a container with regular garden soil. First, it compacts, making it hard for water to drain and for air to get to the roots. Second, it pulls away from the sides of the pot so that water runs down the side of the pot and out the drainage holes without moistening the soil.

A general-purpose potting medium manages water efficiently, and most commercial potting mixes include enough slow-release fertilizer to feed the plant for the first half of the season.

If you prefer, you can make your own potting medium. Mix equal parts of good garden soil, peat moss and either vermiculite or perlite. Add some slow-release fertilizer and fill the pot.

How to Grow Cosmos in a Pot

Choose a pot at least 12 inches in diameter with several drainage holes in the bottom. Heavy pots are stable and can help prevent the plant from toppling. If you use a lightweight plastic pot, place a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to add weight before filling it with potting mix.

Scatter the seeds thinly over the surface of the potting soil and cover them with one-third to one-half inch of additional soil. When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin the plants by clipping out the unwanted seedlings with scissors. Container-grown cosmos looks best when you thin the plants to about half the distance recommended on the seed packet. When your seedlings are off to a good start, set the pot in a sunny location.

Water container-grown cosmos when the soil is dry to a depth of two inches. Drench the soil and then allow the excess water to drain through. After about 20 minutes, empty the saucer under the pot. Cosmos doesn’t like excess moisture and the roots may rot if the pot is left sitting in a saucer of water. Pots that sit in sunny locations dry out quickly, so check the soil moisture daily.

Cosmos plants react to rich, fertile soil or an abundance of fertilizer by growing tall and leggy. When growing cosmos in pots, a light feeding with slow-release fertilizer lasts through the entire season. If you prefer, you can use a liquid fertilizer mixed at one-quarter strength once every week or two. If the plants start to look lanky, cut back on the amount of fertilizer.

Pinch off dried leaves and faded flowers to keep the pot looking neat. Regular deadheading encourages the plant to produce more blossoms. If the stems become leggy with few flowers in mid-summer, cut them down to about one-third of their height and let them regrow.

4 Steps to Growing Cosmos in Containers

Derived from the Greek word for “beautiful,” Cosmos are one of the prettiest and easiest annual flowers to grow in containers whether you grow them from seeds or seedlings. This article will give you a step by step analysis of how to grow Cosmos in a container from seeds.

Step 1: Purchase and Prepare the Container

Purchase a container from a reputable store; make sure that the container is equipped with drainage holes on the bottom. The container’s soil capacity should be at least one gallon of soil; this way your cosmos will have room to populate the entire pot.

Fill the bottom inch of the container with gravel; gravel is essential to maintaining healthy drainage and it helps prevent the soil in your container from becoming compacted.

Fill the rest of the pot with fresh potting soil; it is best to choose an organic soil that contains a time release fertilizer. Since cosmos can adapt to almost any soil condition, do not worry if you cannot locate an organic soil mix.

Step 2: Purchase Reliable Seeds and Sow

It is a good idea to purchase your Cosmo seeds from a local nursery; this way you will know you’re getting a local and reliable product. Also, many nurseries keep community experts on staff. Buying from a nursery will give you the chance to consult these experts on how to successfully grow Cosmos in your specific environment.

Once you have purchased your seeds, look on the back of the packet for sowing instructions. Most seed packets assert that Cosmos should be planted when there is no risk of a frost, about half an inch deep into the soil.

When planting time arrives, make sure that the soil in your container is thoroughly moistened, otherwise the seeds will not germinate. The easiest way to sow Cosmos is to sprinkle the entire seed packet around your container using your fingers. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil before considering the process complete. The seeds should sprout between five and ten days after planting.

Step 3: Thin the Crop When Appropriate

You will likely need to thin your Cosmos a couple weeks after they begin sprouting. Even though the sight of a container jam-packed with seedlings is exciting, it is necessary to thin them in order for the plants to thrive. Thin the seedling according to what the back of the seed packet prescribes. This process opens up space in the soil for the plants to spread their roots and become healthy adults.

Step 4: Basic Care and Maintenance

Expect your Cosmos to bloom all summer and part of fall, until the first frost arrives. While the plants are growing and blooming, it is important that you know how to care for them.

Create a care schedule for your Cosmos where you water them once a week, and fertilize them once every other watering. If your cosmos become too large to support themselves, use wooden stakes or a trellis to keep the plants from falling over.

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