By Susan Albert
Today it’s anything goes with container gardening. Whether filled with annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, or evergreens, containers can add splashes of color to a patio or deck and provide edibles just outside the back door.
Advantages to using containers include well-drained soil, and appropriate sun or shade. If it’s a tropical plant, you can overwinter the pot and all indoors. The disadvantages are containers require more frequent watering and fertilization.
Plants ideal for container gardening include:
- For sun: alyssum, angelonia, bacopa, blanket flower, sun coleus, calibrachoa, dusty miller, dwarf evergreens, fuchsia, geraniums, lantana, lavender, pansies (cool-season), pennywort, pentas, petunias, rose moss, salvia, succulents, tropicals, verbena, and zinnia.
- For shade: begonia, caladium, coleus, foamflower, impatiens, and torenia.
Evergreens, such as false holly or dwarf nandina, look great in containers, as do small trees, such as Japanese maple, if the container is large enough.
Containers can be clay, ceramic or plastic pots, wood barrels, wire baskets lined with sphagnum moss, repurposed household items, or flea-market finds. It’s important to have holes in the bottom for drainage, but if you desire a favorite pot without holes, place an insert or another pot with holes inside the container. Another option is filling the bottom of the pot with pebbles or clay shards.
Choosing plants of varying heights adds visual interest to the container. One guide is to use a tall plant (thriller), medium-size (filler), and low-growing (spiller). Plants that naturally cascade, such as coral plant (Russelia equisetiformis), impatiens, or petunias, look great alone in containers. Also try grouping containers, each with one or more plants.
I’ve noticed a lot of hot colors this year—reds, purples, oranges—and I’ve been buying them especially for containers. Lowe’s has a gallon-size pot “refill” in hot colors I used in a sunny combination. I included yellow bells (Esperanza ‘Gold Star’), a calla lily (Zantedeschia ‘Coastal Flame’) for height, and a Parrot’s beak groundcover (Lotus berthelotii), though it looks more like claws to me.
For a shade container I combined ‘Kong Red’ coleus with pink and salmon impatiens, and lime-green pennywort.
Choosing plants for their foliage color adds drama to the plant grouping and provides season-long color. Foliage can be silver, red, yellow-green, blue-green, or variegated.
For nutrition I add a slow-release fertilizer to the pots a couple of times a season. Watering can become a chore, especially when the temperature rises, making daily watering a necessity for most plants.
Have fun with the container gardening and, above all, choose the plants you like!
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