Creative Container Gardening Ideas

Rethink what you plant this year with these creative container gardening ideas.

Containers filled with flowering annuals, perennials or succulents are a great way to add beauty to your spring garden.  Every year, you can completely change what you put in your pots, creating an entirely new look wherever you place your pots.

Last Friday, we talked about new ways to think about containers including ways to dress up inexpensive, plastic pots, which you can read about here.  Today, let’s explore some new ideas of what we will plant inside our pots this year.

Container Gardening Ideas

1. Try new, unusual plant combinations.  Here are a few examples of container gardening ideas that I have seen through my travels that may inspire you. A pairing of blue lobelia planted with ornamental grass, which gave the illusion of blue flowers growing on the ends of the grass.  A collection of flowering, hanging baskets were offered for sale at a county fair in upstate New York.

A ‘living sculpture’ made up from perennials such as bird-of-paradise, foxtail fern, sea lavender and trailing ivy added beauty to a bare corner at a golf course in Arizona.  In a vastly different location, I saw urns filled with different varieties of violas paired together at the Art Institute of Chicago – while you would think that this concentration of differing colors would look ‘busy’, it didn’t – the effect was lovely.


‘Black Velvet’ Petunias and White Lobelia planted with Impatiens.

2. Look for new varieties that offer unexpected color choices for your favorite flowering annuals.  If you are used to seeing the same color flowers every year, you may be surprised to find that there are often new colors introduced each year for many types of container plants.

An excellent example is petunias, which are known for their beauty and ease of growing.  While visiting a nursery in Sedona, Arizona, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of black petunias.  Can you imagine the attention your pots would get if you planted these?  Another unexpected color encounter happened in New York when I saw a ‘white’ lobelia, which is most often found in deep or light blue colors.


3. Plant succulents for a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, unique container garden.  Succulents are available in many different sizes, shapes and colors, which makes them a great way to change up what you plant in your pots.  On a recent visit to Santa Barbara, California, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful variety of potted succulents everywhere.  I have three large pots in my own garden filled with a variety of succulents, which add a unique beauty to my container garden.


4. Create color contrast between plants and their containers.  Gardeners have long paired plants with contrasting colors together in the garden such as orange with purple.  Well, the same principle applies with pots.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, colorful pots are a great way to add interest to the garden.  By adding plants with a contrasting color, you double the colorful impact.  Try pairing red or orange with blue or yellow with purple.  These colorful pots were offered for sale at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix while the patriotic plantings were seen at the arts & crafts village of Tlaquepaque in Sedona, Arizona.


‘Raspberry Ice’ Bougainvillea and Gardenia with blue Lobelia.

5. For year-round containers, plant shrubs in pots.  It may surprise you that many shrubs do well in pots.  Adding containers filled with shrubs is an easy way to introduce shrubs to areas of the landscape where there may not be an area to plant them in the ground.  You can add an additional spot of color by adding flowering annuals around the base of shrubs.  It’s important to note that when grown in pots, shrubs will stay somewhat smaller then their full, mature size.

I came upon each of these planted shrubs in two very different locations – the potted bougainvillea was located at the Desert Botanical Garden while I encountered the gardenia on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina last spring.

What new ideas will you come up with for your container garden this year?

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