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Midwest Gardening: Stunning Plant Combinations

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Simple, common plants can create stunning arrangements when paired. Learn the tricks designers use.

Hot lime displays a cool contrast.

By Rebecca Kolls

A good plant combination is like that stylish outfit that just goes together and looks great. Like a coordinated outfit, plant combos need a little consideration to create a well-dressed “suit” or appearance.

Tropical Punch
Get a taste of the tropics, above, with three easy-to-find plants: chartreuse creeping Jenny, also known as moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’); yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’); and sedum ‘Purple Emperor’, which sports blushing pink/purple heads of blooms in the fall. These hardy plants grow extremely well in the Upper Midwest. All three are perennials.

While most people restrict perennials to the garden, I really love adding them to my containers. At the end of the season I can leave them in the pot (with protection) or transplant them into the garden. (Grower beware: Creeping Jenny is a tenacious groundcover and will definitely make its mark.)

It didn’t take a lot of work to get these red-hot greenies to “play” together.

Variegated and Loving It
I just love the mood of this combo. Here the coleus known as flame nettle, or Joseph’s coat, sets the stage of color. The plants selected as partners had to coordinate. The lime-green potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) not only complements the colors in the coleus, but also the vine will cascade over the container, anchoring the combination. The bright-red petunia pops with an explosion of color. It’s simple and clean.

This combination mixes punchy purples and reds, as well as contrasting textures.

Gaudy Gaillardia
Plant with caution—or so I was told. Gaillardia certainly has a personality of its own, so I knew that pairing it with solid-color partners would work. And it did. The scarlet calibrachoa not only delivers color, but also its loose habit creates a red cascade of blooms spilling over the side of the container. The purple verbena with white eyes was a nice contrast to the calibrachoa yet threads together the wine-colored gaillardia.

Purple preview

Pastel Purple
This colorful combo below was a happy accident. It features ‘Winky Purple and White’ columbine and forget-me-not. Both are easy to grow, and they show off their blooms in late spring. Forget-me-not will spread, creating a river of color. These plants are perfect together when planted in dappled shade.

Tips for coordinating combinations

  • Select plants that have the same needs for light, water, bloom time and soil.
  • Blend colors wisely.
  • Consider the pot—try coordinating it with the plants.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Consider one plant for foliage only.
  • Step out of the box and take a risk—some of the best combos are unplanned.
  • Combine plants that have contrasting textures, forms, heights, bloom shapes and colors.
  • Place bold, big blooms next to smaller blooms.
  • For continuous blooms, deadhead annuals.
  • Remember to fertilize containers with water-soluble fertilizer (diluted to 50 percent) once a week.