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Posted on December 17, 2021 in Garden Gab

Who hasn’t wished they could plant beautiful container gardens like the pros?  You walk through your local garden center and see container after container of perfectly coordinated plants.  They seem almost magical. And you think to yourself, I could never do that.  Well, I’m here to tell you, you can do that.


Yes, we have been doing this for years but honestly coming up with new ideas every year can be quite challenging.  There seemed to be rules.  You need a tall eye-catching interest plant. You must have plants that fill in the holes in your design.  And of course, you need something to soften the edge of your container and flow out the front. And ugh, don’t get me started on color coordination.  The magic of the color wheel.  Do you remember that from art class?  The colors next to each other blend nicely. The colors across from each other compliment.  Each combination creates a different feeling.  The colors next to each other create a calm, harmonious feeling.  The colors across from each other  intensify the colors surrounding them creating a bold feeling with just the right amount of pop. All of this just seems overwhelming, doesn’t it?


But I say, throw away all the design rules.  Have you honestly ever seen an ugly flower container?  Sure, there are ones that need a fertilizer, or a haircut or maybe just a drink of water.  But putting all this aside, if you randomly combine a bunch of your favorite plants in a container, chances are YOU will think it is beautiful.  Why? Because you planted a container fill with plants that you love.


Some will say but we need rules. You can’t just combine any plant you want.  No way can you combine shade and sun plants.  They will never thrive.  I do it all the time, year after year.  They thrive anywhere that doesn’t get full sun all day whether that is your porch where the back side of your planter is shaded or the east side of your house that receives just enough sun to make everyone happy.  But you can’t combine annuals and perennials.  Why not? Aren’t some of the grasses grown in our area gorgeous. Heuchera or coral bells looks beautiful on the front edge of a shade planter.  Or maybe some coreopsis that blooms continually all summer long.  Herbs!  They don’t belong in a container with my flowers.  Really?  Why?  There are lots of beautiful herbs out there with great foliage or even flowers. Hummingbirds love pineapple sage.  I got you this time, tropicals!  Nope, they would make a great accent plant.  Many have amazing foliage.  Your containers are a place where you can experiment and have fun.  You will have failures. Just try something else. It’s ok, even the pros have failures or duds.  They are just hidden in the back until we figure out a better match for them.  Most importantly, you will have successes.  Remember what plants worked well together and change up the colors of the plants from year to year if you also love variety.


For those of you who need rules, here are some rules that I feel are more important.

  • Make sure you have drainage holes in any container you plant
  • Start with a good quality potting soil. Not all soils are created equal.
  • Check the soil in your planter daily to determine if you need to water it. If it needs water, water the soil not just the plant tops.
  • Fertilize your containers regularly.
  • Protect your containers from extreme wind or temperatures.
  • Don’t be afraid to give your plants a pinch or a haircut.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Plant what you love.
  • Have fun and enjoy your creations.


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