Spill, fill and thrill. We’ve all heard these “rules” for successful container gardening. And, after planting dozens of pots over the past few weeks, I agree. Our most successful containers each include a trailing plant (ivy, vinca) a showy and lush fill plant (impatiens, marigolds), and a thrilling tall plant (clematis on a tiny obelisk).
But, that’s where the rules end!
Traditional clay pots are all very nice, but occasionally, I prefer a teapot, wheelbarrow, vintage tin, or even my children’s old red wagon! I think that some of the best choices for container gardens are the ones that add an unexpected element of whimsy and lightheartedness to the garden.
No matter which container you choose, a few simple tips will ensure stunning success (even for the amateur).
Container Gardening Tips
- Choose large enough containers, as plants continue to grow. I have occasionally underestimated the amount that flowers will grow and have had to repot. Resist the urge for “instant fill gratification” when potting.
- Use large containers with tall plants to camouflage less than desirable elements (such as the air conditioner unit or the electric meter).
- Don’t forget to water frequently. According to About.com guide Kerry Michaels, “It still surprises me how much water is needed to get to the roots of a plant in a good-sized container. Don’t just wet the top of the soil. Rather, continue until you see water dripping out from the holes at the bottom of the pot.”
- Use proper soil for potting. I swear by Miracle Grow Potting Soil with Moisture Control.
- Containers look best when grouped. And, pots or containers need not all be the same. Vary the height and flowers for the best look.
- Too many whimsical choices end up looking chaotic, not charming. Several simple pots grouped together with just one unusual piece, is most effective.
If you haven’t tried container gardening yet, now is the perfect time. But, the flower aisles of your local garden center may feel a bit overwhelming. Here are my go-to favorites, guaranteed to make you look like a gardening pro in no time.
Best Plants for Container Gardens
Coleus. Available in multiple hues in both solid and variegated leaves. These shade-lovers add dimension to a container. I am partial to the variety with shocking lime green leaves, combined with pink flowers (petunias for example).
Impatiens. A must-have for instant color. These come in every shade from white to coral, pink to purple, red to lavender.No deadheading required. they just bloom and bloom all sunmer long. And, since they tolerate shade, but also do well in sun, these are my favorite, easy filler.
Zinnias. I personally prefer lush flowers (such as peonies or roses). And, zinnias, with their densey petalled, sunny faces, never disappoint. They also can get quite tall, so they work well as the showpiece of a larger container.
Ivy. Another go-to. You practically can’t kill this plant! In fact, ivy can be invasive, so take care that it doesn’t take over. Ivy (solid or variegated) looks particularly lovely on a trellis or obelisk, and can be trained into fantastical topiaries with some time and effort.
Container Garden Ideas
Try a group of pots overflowing with colorful annuals to add pizazz to a front entrance. Or, add a cluster of containers to accent a deck or patio for al fresco dining in style.
No patio or deck space for pots? No problem! Hanging baskets provide a wonderful opportunity to add color to a space, without eating up precious real estate. Use riots of color, accenting with trailing vines for charm.
Remember, pots aren’t only for showy summer flowers! We have successfully grown tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of herbs using giant pots (they seem to deter the deer, unlike our vegetable garden). According to Martha Stewart, “Container vegetables are a good idea even if you have the land for a growing – you run a lower risk of problems like pests, poor drainage, and soil-born diseases.”
And, after summer ends, fill those same containers with fall flowers such as mums, paired with sculptural elements including potted cabbages, tall grasses, and even some pumpkins or gourds as accents.
Around the holidays, use cut greens, holly berries, or mini evergreens for a festive look with minimal effort.
There are many reasons to love easy container gardening. But, my favorite part? No weeds to pull! For more gardening inspiration, please visit Susan’s Garden on Pinterest.
Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to real style for the way you live. From fabulous fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors, plus the latest products and tips for throwing parties, weddings, and events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author and entrepreneur. Susan is also the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait! Read more about her in Family Circle Magazine.