Thinking Out of the Box
Tips for container gardening that will liven up your outdoors spaces with plants that pop
By Erika Guess
Spring/summer planting season is upon us. Container gardening is a fun way to liven up your outdoor spaces and make them pop, whether you’re decorating an entryway or accenting an entire yard. My mother is an avid gardener who taught me to let your perennials do the heavy lifting when it comes to background foliage, while annuals should be used to brighten things up. If you put your annuals in pots, you can move them around to suit the landscape and swap them out a few times a year. By sticking to a few simple rules of thumb, you can have seasonal color that’s easy to maintain and easy on the eyes.
Like Plants with Like Plants
If you’re combining plants in a pot, make sure that they require the same care. Shade plants do well with other shade plants; succulents can’t be planted with flowers that require lots of water, etc. Observe how the plants are grouped at the nursery. If they’re sold in the same section, they will probably do well together in a pot. So, plants like coleus and petunias thrive with creeping jenny.
Fillers, Spillers and Thrillers
Mike Westphal of McDonald Garden Center says, “Stick to the simple guidelines of using a ‘filler, spiller and thriller.’ The thriller is usually an upright plant that gives the container some height. The spiller usually trails over the edges of the pot. And last but not least is the filler, which fills in the middle part of the combination.” A topiary, for example, can provide a perennial backdrop for impatiens and trailing sweet potato vine.
The Heights of the Season
Container gardening isn’t earth-bound. Hang wire baskets from the porch (ferns do well with humidity but can’t get too much sun), and mount flower boxes to the fence or windowsill. Water hanging plants frequently and make sure they have drainage—they will dry out faster than plants in the ground. Trailing plants will hit their stride in the summer and create cascades of color.
Don’t be afraid to experiment! You can save money by planting beautiful arrangements yourself, or you can buy pre-potted arrangements at your local nursery.