By Julie Martens Forney
One of my favorite container garden combinations for the Mid-Atlantic features basic, easy-to-find annuals that bring nonstop color to a part- to full-sun setting. The players include two foliage plants: variegated Cuban oregano, sometimes sold as ‘Lemon Twist’ plectranthus (Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’), and burgundy coleus. For flowers, I use an orange calibrachoa and a variegated French marigold such as ‘Durango Bee’.
Secret for success. One of my tricks is to fill the bottom third of the pot with inverted pots or plastic containers from the recycling bin. I reuse plastic juice bottles (with lids in place to keep soil out) year to year. These filler items reduce the amount of soil needed, which saves money. They also create airflow to roots, which results in healthier plants.
How many plants? For this 14-inch-wide pot, I plant one 4-inch pot each of coleus, calibrachoa, and plectranthus, along with one 3-cell pack of marigolds. The two-tone marigold sparkles when paired with a variegated foliage plant. The fun combination sizzles when you add a dark-leaf plant such as coleus. For a different look, swap the marigold for ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia to provide a fine textural contrast to chunky plectranthus.
Watch the container garden age. At planting time the pot is lush and full. Each plant clearly has a place. Over time it’s clear I could have skipped the calibrachoa. It’s visible at the 4-week mark, pictured.
But 12 weeks after planting, pictured, there’s no sign of it. Plectranthus grows plentifully and in spurts, eventually engulfing smaller planting partners. Keep it in balance by pairing it with taller plants such as purple fountain grass, dark cannas, or ‘Purple Majesty’ ornamental millet.
Plectranthus, coleus, and marigold deliver a top-notch performance with little more than water and occasional fertilizer. When designing your container gardens, include these plants. You won’t be disappointed.