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Creative Container Gardening

Unleash your artistic spirit with container gardening. You can mix and match your favorite plants in a million different ways to suit your mood or surroundings. Use these great examples to help get your creative juices flowing. By Doug Jimerson

Bigger is Better

When it comes to containers, bigger is better. Large containers hold more soil and don't dry out as quickly as smaller pots and planters. Plus, the bigger the pot you have the larger variety of flowers you can grow. Here, for example, a jumbo terra-cotta bowl holds a striking assortment of vinca, caladium, and impatiens.

Decorate Your Windows

A window box is an easy way to make any home feel more welcoming. It's also perfect for showcasing some of your favorite low-growing plants. Here, this window box features dwarf varieties of fragrant garden phlox (the house smells heavenly when the windows are open), heat-tolerant scaevola and groundcover sedums, as well as opulent chartreuse sweet potato vine.

Go Bold

Make a big impact on a shady porch or patio with a large Macho fern planted in an oversized tub or container. Macho ferns are prized for their bold, broad leaves that can stretch 3 to 4 feet long. In the fall, Macho ferns can be brought inside and grown as a houseplant during the winter.

Plant a Tabletop Forest

When designing a pot or planter take a cue from Mother Nature and add a layer of selaginella moss underneath a taller plant such as this pink-flowering anthurium. The moss acts as a living mulch that will slowly trail over the sides of the container.

Take Advantage of the Sun

Hot, dry conditions are no match for succulents and cacti. These sun-worshippers thrive in the heat and will be just fine if you forget to water them occasionally. In this large urn, aloe, kalanchoe, and echeveria hold court in the center of a formal garden. Plus, their gray-blue foliage looks terrific all summer long.

Pick a Palette

Want an eye-popping container garden? If so, stick with plants that bloom in complementary colors in your favorite palette. Here, for example, pots of pink New Guinea impatiens blend beautifully with the foliage of cream and pink caladiums. A bright green Boston fern provides back-up color.

Try Perennials

When you think about container gardens, houseplants and annual flowers are probably the first things that come to mind. But more and more gardeners are discovering the joy of growing perennials in containers. Plus, once they finish blooming, just transplant them into your yard and enjoy them again next spring. Here, coneflower and verbena look terrific in terra-cotta pots where they'll bloom in spring and summer.

Cluster Pots

Turn a boring corner of your deck or patio into a full-fledged garden by mixing pots of different sizes together. Here, a varied selection of clay pots filled with annuals, perennials, and succulents are tucked alongside an exterior staircase. A small decorative trellis draws the eye and adds a touch of whimsy.

Move Indoor Plants Out

Give your houseplants a summer vacation by moving them to a protected outdoor location on your porch or patio. Most indoor plants will thrive outdoors where they will gain strength and put on lots of new growth. Here, a black iron urn hosts a mix of snake plant, kalanchoe, echeveria, and sedum. Come fall, the plants can be repotted and brought inside for the winter.

Show Your Colors

Celebrate summer by packing a window box with red, white, and blue annuals that will be in full bloom for the 4th of July. Here, a patriotic mix of white verbena, red geranium, blue angelonia and blue calibrachoa look great all summer long. To keep them in top form, apply a little liquid fertilizer every 10 days or so.

Keep Foliage Plants in Mind

When planning your container garden, always include a generous helping of foliage plants. They'll keep the color show going while other species come in and out of bloom. In this window box, the fuzzy gray leaves of dusty miller look terrific when planted alongside tall iris and trailing pink diascia.

Add a Tropical Punch

Pack a window box with the jewel-like foliage of caladiums and enjoy a taste of the tropics all summer long. These shade-loving, tender bulbs are a snap to grow and they'll brighten up all the dark corners of your landscape. In cold climates, you can dig and store the bulbs to use again the following spring.

Plan For Sun or Shade

Most annual flowers are designed to grow best in either sun or shade. But what do you do if your home gets a little of both? The answer is to plan varieties that can thrive almost anywhere you plant them. For example, this window box is located near, but not under, some large trees, so the light conditions vary through the day. However, a combination of Big Red begonia and petite gray licorice plant keeps things colorful because both species thrive in sun or shade.

Raise Them Up

For a better view, lift your pots up on a wall, pedestal, or shelf. This way, vining plants can trail over the edge creating a curtain of color all summer long. Perched on a high brick wall, this ornate clay pot hosts an explosion of tropical color provided by caladiums and mandevilla. 

Looking for more? Get more container-garden ideas.