If you’re going to grow containers, you might as well grow containers. You know, go all out – make a statement – create a living piece of art! I’m not talking about those little baskets from the garden center filled with the standard petunias, geraniums, impatiens and pansies. Not that there’s anything wrong with those—my kids get me a lovely hanging basket of petunias every Mother’s Day. But if you’re going to invest in good soil, cool pots and unique plants, then you might as well be distinctive, daring and dramatic. In short, it’s time to go big or go home. We’ve got tips to make all your container garden ideas amazing!
Find the Right Base. To anchor everything, you need the right container. You’ll certainly have plenty to choose from. Just go to the garden center, and chances are you’ll find rows and rows of them in every size, shape and color imaginable. Before you even start looking at plants, find a container that inspires you. A short, stocky container would be just the thing for a small conifer. A bold turquoise container would be the perfect backdrop for various shades of pink. A big, tall container is a nice option for trailing plants.
A good pot or other planter can be expensive, but go ahead and splurge a little if you find one you really like. Chances are you’ll have it for years. Oh, and remember that containers are like shoes—they’re better when you buy them in pairs!
Celebrate Height. One of the easiest ways to make an impact with a container is tall plants. Cannas, purple millet and ornamental corn all have big, interesting leaves—and you can’t beat the wow factor of a cultivar that’s 4 to 6 feet tall. Another easy way to get height is with ornamental grasses. They not only grow several feet tall in a single season, they also give containers nice texture. You can find some colorful annuals (purple fountaingrass, for instance, is an annual in most zones), but don’t overlook perennials like switchgrass and zebragrass. Just because you’re growing in a container doesn’t mean you have to dump the plants out each year. Offer the perennials good protection in a weatherproof pot over the winter, and you’ll have a jump on next year.
Include Trailing Plants. Trailing plants are a must-have for hanging baskets, but they’re also a showstopper for other containers. Garden centers often have a whole section of trailing plants. Use blooms like trailing begonias, petunias and geraniums, or try foliage plants like sweet potato vine and licorice vine. You’ll probably want to stick to a single type of trailing plant per container, but it can be fun to mix in a couple of varieties within a single family. Plant a couple of sweet potato vines, a standard one and a variegated one. They’ll complement one another while offering some extra variety.
Choose Bold Colors. You don’t necessarily want to pair bright red flowers with a bright red container. But with a little bit of planning, you can use color to your advantage. It starts with your pot of choice. How colorful is it? If you love bright orange, yellow or blue pots, what’ll work well as accents? Another option is to choose a more subdued, neutral pot that maybe has an interesting shape or lines. Then use plants to make an impact. One advantage to this is that you can change the plants from one year to the next. If you have a brown or terra-cotta pot, you could have a red, white and blue theme one year and a yellow theme the next.
The More the Merrier. If you read the label on most cultivars, it’s going to say you should space plants 12 to 24 inches apart. But container gardening doesn’t abide by those rules. It’s better to throw a few extras into the mix, which results in a fuller, bigger, bolder container. Of course, you can go overboard, so use your discretion when planting. If it feels too crowded, it probably is. But if you have lots of soil space, fill it up.
Don’t Forget About Presentation. So you have your height and your trailing plants. You’ve chosen an inspiring container. And you’ve used color to your advantage. Now you just need to make sure that everything works together. Where will your container live? What do you have planted around it? If it’s in a solitary location, is it big enough to fill up the space? The planning and placement of your container are the deciding factors in its success. Give it an outstanding display, and all your hard work will be worthwhile.
Now that you know the basics, use these container garden ideas as inspiration.
Orange Surprise, by Ball Horticultural
Container Size: 14 inches, Exposure: Sun
- New Day™ Clear Orange gazania (2)
- Emerald Falls dichondra (2)
- Silver Falls™ dichondra
- Pony Tails Mexican feather grass
Container size: 14 inches
Party of Five, by Proven Winners
Container Size: 24 inches, Exposure: Sun
- Superbells® Pink calibrachoa
- Northern Lights tufted hairgrass
- Gold Mound duranta
- Lemon Licorice licorice plant
- ColorBlaze® Kingswood Torch coleus
Bands of Gold, by Proven Winners
Container Size: 14 inches, Exposure: Sun
- Superbells® Red calibrachoa
- GoldDust™ mecardonia
- Amora coleus