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Northwest Gardening: Instant Spring Gardens with Pop-Up Pots

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Repurpose a trunk, basket, even a pair of rubber boots to display your new plants while they harden off and create instant color.

Boots, trunk, and basket filled with flowers

By Marianne Binetti

Give your porch or patio instant color with pop-up pots that go to work right away. Spring-flowering perennials, like yellow leopard’s bane (Doronicum orientale), pink and white butterfly flower (Schizanthus spp.), and hot-pink dianthus, make a big splash when grouped together in cool spring weather.

This temporary display means there is no need to uproot and transplant the spring bloomers from their pots as soon as you get them home. Grouping them together in a repurposed suitcase, basket, or even boots hides the plastic nursery pots and makes a statement of color until you transfer them to their permanent home in the landscape.   

I display all my newly purchased plants on my front porch or covered patio for a few weeks to let them adjust to the harsher weather outside the nursery. I also check each pot daily to see whether it needs water. Some potted plants are robust and full of roots that need daily watering. Others sit dormant in cool spring weather and can go several days without water.

Empty suitcase lined with black plastic

Step 1 — Choose a container with sides high enough to hide the pots. Protect the inside surface with a plastic garbage can liner. I use an old trunk and baskets on my front porch every spring, but for pop-up gardens you can repurpose wooden crates, metal washtubs, and even wagons.

empty trunk and boots with hat

Step 2 — Decorate a bit to create a scene. This turns a collection of random containers into a spring display. I add my sun hat (this also keeps it handy for working in the garden), and love to include the colorful rubber boots my kids have outgrown. Garden ornaments placed nearby also add to the decorated look.

Trunk with just three potted plants inside

Step 3 — Arrange your tallest pots in the back of the trunk. Use upside down empty pots to create more levels, if necessary. The tall pink jasmine in the photo is a bit tender and really appreciates spending time close to the house under the protection of the porch roof. This vine grows fast in the summer months, so once the weather warms I move it into the landscape to cover an old stump. Meanwhile my guests get to enjoy the color and fragrance up close as they wait for me to answer the door.

Close-up of pink boots with flowers

Step 4 — Fill the boots with smaller pots so they fit snugly but don’t slide all the way to the bottom of the boot. The double-flowering ‘Belarina’ primroses come in round, 4-in pots at my local Lowe’s garden center, making them perfect for display in the pink boots. I transplant these primroses into my shade garden once the spring flush of flowers has passed.

Tip: Slipping the pots inside boots makes them top-heavy. Wedge the boots between other objects to keep them stable and upright. Here I’ve supported them with a trunk and container.

Close-up basket with pink and purple flowers

Step 5 — As I buy plants all spring long, I continue to add baskets and other containers to my porch display. Because the now hardened-off potted plants just sit inside the larger containers, they are easy to cycle out of the porch display and into the landscape.

Blue pots with blue primroses and green flowers next to boots and trunk

Pop-up pots filled with flowers not only make my porch pretty but also give me great places to display my latest nursery finds. I plant some of the spring bloomers into larger pots, and grow them as traditional container plants, such as I’ve done here with the purple primroses and lime-green euphorbias in the blue pots. Meanwhile I can ponder about the best location in the garden for my other finds. Grouping all my new plants makes caring for them easier, a covered area helps them harden off, and displaying them becomes a celebration of spring color.

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