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Southern California Gardening: Dramatic Container Gardens

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Container gardens have the potential to make a dramatic statement. See what Lowe’s Southern California gardening contributor recommends.

container garden

By Evelyn Alemanni

Nothing shouts “It’s summer!” like a bold container garden. Container gardens not only make dramatic statements as focal points but they also can be remarkably waterwise compared to a typical planting bed. That’s because all the moisture stays in the pot rather than dispersing into the soil.

Mosaic planters>

There are a few tricks to creating container drama. The first is to use a large, colorful pot — or a container that offers visual interest. I made these mosaic planters by gluing pieces of tile onto sewer pipes before positioning a pot inside.

Mosaic pot>

The next step is to fill your container with soil. Don’t dig up soil from your garden for this purpose. I like to make a mix of 70 percent quality potting soil with 30 percent perlite, then add some polymer crystals to help retain moisture. The final touch is mixing in a handful of time-release fertilizer to feed my plants for at least 90 days. 

Good to Know: To conserve moisture, place saucers under pots and empty excess water back into the container a day later. Also consider soil toppers — decorative mulch such as moss, marbles, pebbles, or pine bark chips — to reduce evaporation from the soil surface.

Tropical foliage>

When deciding on plants, consider their full-grown size. Don’t jam in too many, or you’ll have to take some out in a few weeks. For success, it’s essential to choose plants that have the same light and water needs.

As you design your container garden, think about the relationship of the flower and foliage colors to one another. A good rule of thumb for container gardens is to use three kinds of plants: thrillers (the tall ones), fillers (the intermediate ones), and spillers (those that hang over the edge of the pot).

Thrillers include tall-growing or tropical plants with interesting foliage: Cannas, dahlias, elephant’s ear (Alocasia spp.), and taro (Colocasia spp.).

Fillers and spillers>

Fillers can include just about anything, such as dragon wing begonias (Begonia x hybrida) and zinnias.

Popular spillers include ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), coleus, and petunias.


Conversely, you can make a mass planting of just one species, like these amazing Senettis (Pericallis x hybrida).

You can assemble a container garden anytime — maybe for a special event such as a birthday celebration or wedding — and it can last for many months. Even though the soil has time-release fertilizer, it’s always a good idea to apply a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.

So go big, go bold, and make a statement with a huge, colorful container garden.

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