Best Container Garden Ideas – How To Style A Container Garden

Planters, planters, and hanging baskets provide pops of color on patios, around pools, or scattered across your landscape. No garden is complete without them! They are ideal if you have poor soil or when you need to protect plants from hungry garden visitors such as rabbits and deer. Strategically placed planters can also filter a view or provide a sense of delineation for different outdoor rooms. As summer winds down and annuals begin to fade, it’s also easy to pull wilted plants out of containers to tuck away a few seasonal favorites such as chrysanthemums or ornamental kale.

But there are a few tricks to designing containers to look lavish and eye-catching. Scattered is never pretty, so place the plants fairly close together. You should also remember that containers tend to dry out faster than landscaped beds, so you’ll need to check them frequently in hot weather. Pots made from porous materials, such as terra cotta, also dry faster because moisture evaporates faster than non-porous materials such as metal. Here’s how to create extraordinary planters by following these simple design tips:

Follow the design concept of spill, thriller and filler.

Your goal should be to combine different plant shapes to add dimension, depth and interest to the pots. There are three main categories of plants when styling your container: Spillers are plants that fall over the edges of the pots; Detective novels are plants that give height or dramatic effect; and fillers are plants that add mass and fullness. By combining plants from each group, you’ll create a pleasing look that works regardless of the season. You can also plant a single type of plant in a container if that works best for you aesthetically.

Combine plants with similar needs.

Keep plants with similar needs in a pot. In other words, you shouldn’t plant a sun lover like calibrachoa with a shade lover like lobelia. Perennials such as hosta and lavender can also be incorporated, although they won’t come back next year if you live in a cold climate because the pot doesn’t insulate the roots like the soil does. However, there is a slight exception to this rule: if you choose a perennial that is at least two USDA hardiness zones harder than yours, it may survive to come back next year. For example, if you live in zone 5, choose a hardy perennial in zone 3. (Find your zone here). The same rule applies to shrubs, which make excellent container plants.

Choose the colors you like.

Like interior design, color combinations are personal preferences, but complementary colors on the color pallet, like orange and blue, are quite striking together. Or go monochromatic with different shades of a similar shade in one pot. Don’t be afraid to mix in plants that are grown strictly for their colorful foliage, such as caladiums or heuchera.

Match the plants to the container style.

Consider the style of the container when choosing plants. A reclaimed copper boiler looks great with cottage garden flowers draped over the edges, while striking upright grasses are at home in metal containers with an industrial edge. You can also choose planters that match the style of your home.

Trust your instincts.

Remember that your planters are a reflection of your own creativity and personal style. There really are no hard and fast rules except one: choose what you love because your garden should always bring you joy!

Here are some of our favorite plants from each category to inspire you:

Spiller: Double Blue Double Calibrachoa

These annuals are long bloomers, showing off from spring to frost. They come in every color imaginable with single or double petunia-like flowers. Best of all, they don’t require deadheading (removing faded flowers) to keep blooming.

Thriller: Purple Fountain Grass

This elegant grass has bronze foliage and beautiful feathery plumes that sway in the breeze. It is considered an annual in most of the country, but is a perennial in warmer climates.

Filling: Lavender

This romantic favorite makes a lovely container planting with its silvery foliage and fragrant flowers and leaves. Plant it with other cottage garden favorites like roses.

Spiller: Fan Flower

The flowers of this cascading annual are fan-shaped. They are available in shades of pink, purple and white and provide long-lasting color to containers.

Thriller: Dwarf Butterfly Bush

This small shrub is the little brother to taller varieties that reach 10 feet or more. Their arching branches and incessant blooms attract pollinators all summer long. Be sure to buy a dwarf variety.

Filler: Angelonia

Beautiful upright flower spikes, reminiscent of snapdragons, cover this plant until frost. Angelonia comes in shades of white, pink, purple and also works well as a suspense plant.

Spiller: sweet potato vine

This vigorous annual vine has lime green or burgundy leaves, adding texture and color to any planter. Give them plenty of space, as they can overwhelm other flowers when planted in too small a container.

Thriller: Angelwing Begonia

Begonias come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, some of which are grown strictly for their showy foliage. However, this strain delivers non-stop blooms without stunning until a hard frost. They are available in dark red, pink or white varieties.

Filler: Euphorbia

Masses of snow-white flowers, reminiscent of mist, cover this annual from spring to frost. It tolerates heat and drought. There are several sizes, so read the label or description of the plant to know which one you are buying.

Spiller: Sweet Alyssum

This beautiful annual has abundant, fragrant white or pink flowers that cover the plant from spring to fall; they will even withstand a light frost. They come in a variety of sizes, so read the plant label to choose a larger size that will drape gracefully over the edges of the pots. Pollinators love sweet alyssum!

Thriller: Hydrangea

These beloved shrubs come in hundreds of varieties, sizes and colors. Their papery flowers start in mid-summer and often remain on the branches until spring, providing winter interest. Choose dwarf varieties that fit well in containers.

Spiller: creeping thyme seeds

This perennial herb adds texture by draping the edges of containers. The plants also flower in early summer, attracting pollinators such as bees. It is one of the few grasses that tolerates some shade.

Thriller: caladium bulbs, mix

Caladiums have stunning heart-shaped leaves with pops of red, hot pink or white. They look great on their own or as part of a mixed tropical container.

Filler: Pink

Roses are always a beautiful addition to planters, and they’re much tougher than you might think. Read the plant tag for its mature size to give it plenty of room to grow. Roses also work as thrillers.

Thriller: canna lily bulbs

Canna Lilies are not shrinking violets! Their bold foliage, which can be green, burgundy or variegated, is topped with stunning flowers with tropical accents. They are considered annuals in cold climates, but the rhizomes (bulbs) can be lifted and saved for replanting next spring. They are spectacular enough to work well on their own in containers.

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