Finesse With Containers
Updated April, 2016
I create containers for clients all the time and am always looking for inspiration to move away from the “geraniums with spike and trailer” school of thought. With a little more planning and shopping, you can come up with a showplace masterpiece with WOW impact. For pollinator containers, go to Nectar in a Pot- Movable Feast
The best piece of advice that I picked up over the years was the secret to coordinating your colors in a container. Choose a piece of fabric or piece of art that you really like and take it with you when you plant shop. Of course, you can’t take a painting with you so grab refrigerator magnets with famous paintings on them from museums, or cut out paintings from magazines. My most successful container was inspired from a Van Gogh magnet obtained from my many museum visits. Van Gogh’s iris painting has that intense blue which is hard to get with flowers – also orange, greens, a touch of white and yellow. If you like it in a painting, you will like it in a container!
I have plenty of room to plant in my beds but I really enjoy planting in containers because they become a piece of art in miniature. This is my opportunity to try new annuals that look good in the nursery and go wild with the color combos. I also do it professionally for clients who don’t have the time or ability to put it all together.
Musical Plants-Rearrange for the Season!
I rarely keep my flowers in the pot all season. They just fizzle by the end of the summer and I get tired of them. Sometimes I have three seasons of containers – a winter one with an evergreen and some pansies, then I move on to petunias, supertunias, cannas, lantanas -everything that likes heat, and finally to fall plants – mums, asters, grasses, cabbages, and ferns. I mix and match perennials, shrubs and annuals to get the most versatility and longevity out of my pots. For All Season Containers, go to my post on adding and subtracting plants for all season interest.
Large Containers Are Best
Choose a large enough container to avoid constantly watering it during long hot summers. A pot with a circumference of at least 15 to 18 inches is enough to get you going with a selection of different types of plants, plus enough room for them to grow throughout the summer. I like the light faux pots that look like real pottery, but will not crack and will retain water better than terra-cotta ones. These faux pots will last for years and you can leave them out all winter, plus they are inexpensive and portable. There are even self-watering ones available which have a water reservoir built into the container. Regardless of the type of container that you have, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. If there aren’t any, drill some using a large bit on a portable drill.
Good Soil – Good Plants
Soil or potting medium can make or break your container. Use a more expensive potting medium that has an organic mix of compost, sphagnum moss, and perlite. There are a lot of commercial potting mixes on the market so be sure to choose one that has added fertilizer to it as container plants need a good boost of fertilizer to bloom all season long, plus regular applications. Make sure that you add a good dollop of compost in the bottom of the pot – a couple of inches at least. This is where the roots are going to reach down and use up all those nutrients to produce flowers all season long.
Plants – Dress It Up
Placement of the container is key to what plants you select. Notice if the site will get all day or part-day sunlight, or will be in mostly shade. Shady container plants are just as colorful as sunny ones with careful selection of vibrant foliage. Go to the nursery and ask a knowledgeable employee for suggestions on varieties. For any situation, you want something tall for the back- a thriller, like a grass or Canna or Caladium, a filler-something shorter for the middle area, and a spiller to cascade down the sides – thrillers, fillers, and spillers! – I am sure everyone has heard this phrase. It is an overused phrase, but it really describes the process well. For a pot 18 inches in diameter, you would need approximately 5 to 9 plants. Of your chosen 5 plants, use a tall architectural one, a couple of fillers, and a couple of spillers. Aim for a variety of foliage sizes and textures so that each plant stands out.
Planting window boxes uses the same principles as containers. To create depth you really make use of those spillers. Silver Falls, Dichondra, is a great asset for trailing down walls and window boxes.
When selecting your plants, consider your textures. I see too many containers planted with flowers and foliage that are similar in texture and look too busy. Try mixing it up with some broad sculptural leaves, variegated foliage, and deeply lobed leaf shapes. Using varying forms will help your plants stand out instead of blending together in an indistinguishable mass.
Cannas and Caladiums
Cannas are good selections for containers – just make sure your pot is large enough. I have seen cannas get 8 feet tall or higher! For shade, try Caladiums. There are beautiful Caladiums on the market with very colorful unusual markings and they will shine in the shade. The foliage of Cannas is their best attribute but some varieties have beautiful flowers also.
27 Replies to “Containers With Pizazz ! Not Your Ordinary Container!”
The look for the web site is a bit off in Epiphany. Even So I like your blog. I may need to install a normal web browser just to enjoy it.
Reblogged this on Potted Plant Society.
Love your ideas on container planting.
Always looking for a different take on it. I get bored with the same old.
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Thank you! Beautiful inspirations and helpful info.
I have fun with containers, Thanks!
I just found your site and love all the inspiration. Would it be possible to name the plants in at least some of these containers. I would like to replicate the shade planter with the caladium but don’t know the green leafy plant in the background.
I have updated this post http://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/containers-with-pizazz-not-your-ordinary-container-3 and have named most of the plants. The large leaved green plant in the shade container unfortunately, I have forgotten the name! It is a house plant of some kind and I did this container about 6 years ago and I can’t remember!! I am going to guess some kind of philodendron.
Enjoyed you sight, I have some ideas now. thank you for sharing.
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You are such an inspiration! Thank you for the great photos and sharing all your gardening
ideas with the world. We want to be your neighbor!!
Wow, I am flattered! Thanks for reading and commenting
Enjoyed your sight. i’m inspired by watching beautiful photos of lovely plants with your expert comments. Thanks a lot for sharing lovely pics and sharing about gardening. It is really nice to visit your sight and the garden. Enjoyed a lot. Thank you!!!
Thanks so much!
Love the flowers
I see you haven’t had replies for a year but am trying anyway love your designs but would like directions on how to get everything in the pot and with as much height as you have are you stacking pots and do you leave the big ones in pots?
Even though I haven’t had replies for a year, this is my most read post of all time with over 200,000 hits a year! So, to get everything in the pot, I remove the plant from the pot and remove as much soil as possible. Then I stuff them in as close as I can get them. I do not stack and do not leave them in pots. The trick is to remove the potting soil around the root ball to fit them all in. As some plants fail and get taken over by the more vigorous ones, then I remove the failing ones. thanks for reading and commenting! I will do an updated version this spring.
For your shade container spiller, is it creeping jenny you used or licorice plant.
Look forward to hearing from you.
If your free this weekend……..? All the containers look stunning. I had no idea there were so many different coleus out there. Thanks for all the tips. Like I said…….if you’re free this weekend…..? x