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Chic Container Garden Ideas

Design your own chic container gardens by getting ideas from this collection we displayed in the Costa Farms Trial Garden. By Justin Hancock

Connect the Container

I love the way the pot plays off the plants in this combo. The swirl pattern embossed on the pot echo the cheery pinwheel look of the blue-and-white petunia flowers. The petunia is pretty enough to carry the look of the planter on its own, but it’s made even better with a purple-leaf ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum). The pepper’s deep, dark foliage adds wonderful contrast (as do the bright orange and red pepper fruits, as they mature). Beautiful heat-loving angelonia tops it off with its vertical spires of lavender-blue blooms. 

Go Monochromatic

If you have trouble putting different colors together, make it easy by going monochromatic. We did that here by mixing different shades of purple. We started with a show-stopping purple-and-white petunia. It pairs perfectly with a lavender-and-white striped angelonia. In the smaller pot, we mixed a violet-lavender calibrachoa with the vertical blooms of veronica. The veronica spikes echo the angelonia, helping the two containers feel like they’re part of the same family.

Pot Up Perennials

We tend to focus on using annuals in container gardens, but perennials can be a fabulous choice, too. And depending on which perennials you grow (and how you store your pots), they may even return to offer more interest next year. (Or, take them out of the containers and plant them in the landscape at the end of the season to enjoy the perennials in your yard next year.) Here, we started with long-blooming, easy-care veronica. Its lavender-purple spires look good with just about everything. We paired it with drought-tolerant lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) to add lovely fragrance. The lavender also brings in violet-purple flowers. As an eye-catching accent, we incorporated blue fescue (Festuca glauca) for its texture. I love how it gracefully spills over the side of the container, softening it. 

Mix Things Up

Texas sage (Leucophyllum) is a fun, low-water tropical shrub that deserves a lot more attention. It offers silvery foliage and airy lavender flowers throughout the summer. Because Texas sage bears such a fine texture, we paired it with lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), a similarly drought-tolerant perennial. Lamb’s ear adds plenty of interest, too, with big, fuzzy, silvery-green leaves. The pairing is delightfully easy to care for needing only a sunny spot, and the neutral colors ensure it looks good on any deck, porch, or patio.

Enjoy Different Textures

We usually notice color first when looking at a container garden, but texture is important, too. In this pairing of daring pots, we mixed colors and textures for a delightful look. The first plants we chose were Megawatt begonias. They offer lovely pink flowers and thick, shiny leaves. As an accent, we tossed in pink geraniums (Pelargonium), annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and SunPatiens. These three plants bring medium texture to contrast with the begonias. We used bright golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) and fragrant dianthus to add fine texture to the mix. 

Keep It Simple

This pair of window boxes offers a simple solution: Bold yellow gerbera daisies (Gerbera) and trailing golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia). The colors provide a lovely accent to the house, creating a classic look and feel. You don’t need a ton of different varieties to put on a bold show -- using just a couple of different types of plants can create as much impact. 

Add Different Plant Shapes

There’s an old “rule” you often hear when talking about container garden design: You want a thriller, filler, and spiller. That means you first want an eye-catching focal point, something to fill in and provide lushness, and finally, a plant to spill over the edges of the pot. We’ve done that here. Lavender-pink angelonia is an elegant focal point that keeps going all season long. An adorable viola in a matching color plays the role of filler. And a pink petunia elegantly trails over the side. 

Have Fun with Contrasts

You can rarely go wrong with monochromatic designs, and the same goes with contrasting looks. Contrasts are colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Here, for example, it’s blue and yellow. A golden-yellow coreopsis offers lots of blooms and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. A lavender-blue viola brings a sweet scent and lovely contrast. The look is finished with golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) cascading over the side like a waterfall. 

Play Up Foliage

Flowers are beautiful, but leaves can be, too, as you can see in this bold container we put together. A showpiece on our Trial Garden deck, it features only two plants: kale and lavender (Lavandula multifida ‘Torch’). The dramatically ruffled kale leaves provide as much interest as flowers, as does the finely divided lavender. Happily, the lavender is topped by wiry stems of lavender-blue blooms that bees and butterflies adore. It also brings its sweet scent into your yard.

Go Tropical

Here’s another example of how foliage adds dramatic flair to container plantings. The focal point is elephant’s ear (Alocasia), a plant that thrives in summer heat and humidity. Lavender-pink angelonia, pink calibrachoa, and purple ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum) act as fillers. They’re a delightful contrast to golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), which plays off the sunflowers planted behind it. 

Repurpose Planters

This old fountain sprung a leak, but we were more than happy to give it new life as a planter. It hosts Pop Stars blue annual phlox on the top tier and lush blue lobelia on the bottom. We think the effect is reminiscent of water -- and is a delightful way to give an old object new life.
Note: If you use birdbath or fountain as a planter, ensure there’s drainage so that excess water can escape. Otherwise, your favorite plants may drown after a heavy rain.

Plant with Everyone in Mind

This stone planter makes a lovely vessel for pincushion flower (Scabiosa). This long-blooming perennial is delightful for its profuse display of lavender-blue flowers on wiry stems that dance in the breeze. But you’re not the only one who’s going to love it: Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators flock to this easy-care perennial. Want to enjoy it next year? No problem! Just pop it out of the pot and into a sunny spot in your landscape to attract more butterflies for years to come. 

Be Bold

The white cushions on the patio furniture on our deck create a crisp, clean look that we accented with a white ceramic planter. But we decided to be bold and infuse in-your-face color with petchoa Supercal Red Crimson and deep red dianthus. The combination of red flowers in a white pot creates a rich look you can’t help but notice and is sure to impress your guests. 

Learn More!
10 Tips for Container Design
Cool Container Gardens from the Costa Farms Team
Creative Container Gardening Ideas
11 Easy, Colorful Container Garden Design Ideas
Easy-Care Container Gardens with Cacti and Succulents
More Container Combo Ideas from the Costa Farms Trial Garden
Container Gardening Guide