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10 Tips for Terrific Containers

The sky’s the limit when it comes to container gardening. You can grow almost anything in pots and planters, mixing and matching flowers, edibles, and houseplants. Check out our ten tips for terrific results. By Doug Jimerson

Be Bold

The bigger the better, that’s a good rule to follow when you’re shopping for containers. Large tubs or pots make a bold statement along a drive or as a spectacular focal point in your landscape. When you work with oversized pots, you’ll also have more space for larger, more dramatic plants. Here, for example, a huge elephant’s ear trumpets its presence over a floral array of pink calibrachoa, pink angelonia, and chartreuse creeping Jenny. Jumbo pots also hold more soil, which means they don’t dry out as fast as smaller containers. Other good super-sized plants include banana, bird of Paradise, agave, canna, copperleaf, cordyline, ti plant, and Texas sage.

Create a Hanging Garden

Give your hanging plants a gorgeous makeover by growing them in large metal cans painted in bright colors. Here at our Costa Trial Garden we transformed a quartet of metal cans into a festive hanging garden. We simply punched holes in the bottom of each can for drainage and then painted them in bright colors. Then, we popped some petunias out of their traditional white plastic baskets and replanted them in the metal cans. Metal chains were then used to hang this creative floral display from the underside of our second story deck. See more containers from our Trial Gardens. 

 


Embrace the Dark Side

Celebrate the dark corners of your landscape with shade-loving annuals that thrive in low light. Two of our favorites are coleus and caladium. Both of these super easy plants have jewel-toned foliage that sparkles even when sunlight is scarce. When planted together they remind us of a living stained glass window. Coleus and caladium also make good roommates because they both prefer slightly moist soil and warm, humid conditions.

Raise Your Sights

Improve the view in your backyard by using deck rail planters filled with blooming annuals. Here, a series of deck rail planters brimming with petunia, calibrachoa, and sweet alyssum turned an ordinary white board fence into an eye-popping hanging garden. All of them thrive in full sun and slightly moist potting soil. Daily watering is easily done with an extra long hose wand.

Don't Be Shy

There are no rules when it comes to container gardening. Plants of all different types will look terrific together so don’t be shy when you visit your local garden center. Grab any plants that look good to you and mix and match to your heart’s content to make a creation that’s uniquely yours. Here, a large concrete planter was packed with coleus, lantana, scented geranium, and papyrus. Ornamental hot peppers around the base of the pot complete the scene. See more great container mixes. 

Keep Edibles in Mind

Having a container garden that tastes as good as it looks is easy when you add herbs and vegetables to your planting plan. Herbs such as sage, basil, thyme, chives, and oregano make great partners for annual and perennial flowers. And vegetables such as patio tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and Swiss chard, also lend themselves to mixed planters where their colorful foliage or fruit makes a tasty addition to any container. In this large pot, the broad, gray-green leaves of sage, contrast nicely with the bright yellow blooms of calibrachoa and two different types of coleus.

Get the Layered Look

Raise your gardening sights by stacking different styles of pots on top of one another. Here, for example, a low, Mexican terra-cotta bowl filled with petunias and calibrachoa was lifted above the surrounding garden by staging it on top of a large, multi-holed container overflowing with clumps of bright blue lobelia. When water trickles through the drainage hole in the bottom of the bowl, it drips into the lower container, watering the plants below.

Stick to a Palette

Mixing colors in the garden is a lot of fun, but sometimes you can go a bit overboard, ending up with a discordant jumble of different tones.  But, if you stick with just one or two shades, you’ll end up with a more pleasing and consistent presentation. In this garden, for example, shades of pink and rose flow together beautifully, creating a warm palette that’s easy on the eyes. Flowers include: calibrachoa, celosia, and sedum.

Mix Indoors and Out

When you’re searching for interesting plants to use in your container garden, don’t overlook houseplants. Many of the plants sitting in your living room will love a summer vacation outdoors, especially when potted in fresh soil with some new friends to help show them off. This pot is a great example. Some Neon pothos was paired up with Persian shield to create a striking display of purple and chartreuse. Other indoor plants that work well with annual flowers include philodendron, fern, sansevieria, crown of thorns, dracaena, and schefflera.

Enjoy the View

Window boxes are a great way to enjoy your flowers even on days when the weather keeps you indoors. This 6-foot-long window box, for example, is just as visible from the home’s dining room as it is from the outdoor deck. It’s also brim full of butterfly-attracting plants, such as lantana, verbena, angelonia, calibrachoa, and geranium, so it’s possible to watch these colorful insects without disturbing them. Lantana, croton, and Boston fern grow in pots nearby providing additional color and interest to the setting. See more container ideas. 

Dig into more with our Container Gardening Guide.