pay attention to the foliage as well as the flowers - foliage is
actually more important since it is always there while plants go
in and out of flower.
Choose a mix of colored,
variegated, and green foliage for year-long interest.
Plant a balance of textures - broad
leaves, fine leaves, smooth and lacy ones.
Pay attention to heights, varying
them for interest from tall to trailing.
Experiment with containers using
different varieties and colors of a single plant. Geraniums,
for instance, can give you variety in both color and form if you
try several varieties.
Try new and unfamiliar plants.
Container gardening is a great way to learn about
Choose flowers with different forms
- daisy-like, trumpet shaped or plumed - for textural
Try this simple formula for
interesting container design - tall plant, medium rounded plants,
short, trailing plants.
Choose plants that like the same
lighting conditions - shade lovers with other shade lovers, sun
worshippers with their kin.
Group plants with the same soil and
watering requirements into the same container.
Make sure that your pots can drain
freely so the roots don't sit in soggy soil.
be afraid to use a base of perennials, changing your annual plants
Experiment - if you don't like it
you can always change it.
Don't mix too many variegated
plants - your container will look confused and chaotic.
Put a plant that requires lots of
nutrients in with plants that prefer a lean, poor soil.
Overlook the usefulness of mulch,
both in making your container look attractive and in helping
conserve moisture and keeping roots cool in the baking summer sun.
Cram the container so full that the
roots of your plants have no room to expand.
Plant tender perennials that will
need to come inside during cold weather in containers too heavy to
Don't forget that plants in
containers need more frequent watering than those in the ground.
Check small containers at least twice a day.
Don't mix plants that have
different soil and watering requirements in the same
container. One plant is bound to get too much or too little
of what it needs.
Don't forget that some plants are
heavier feeders than others.
Don't forget that the soil in your
container will lose all of its nutrients quickly. Feed your plants
lightly as needed.
container will work as long as it drains. The deeper the container, the
easier it will be to water and maintain over the growing season.
Combine plants that are
compatible in needs for light, water and their growth.
Choose textures that blend and
contrast well -- spiky against ferny, bold against fragile. That way each
individual plant will hold its own in the mix.
Shapes can make or break the
arrangement. You don't want all rounded blobs, or all spire-shaped flowers
but rather a pleasing mix of different shapes for variety.
Finally, watch proportion. A
grass will overwhelm a fragile forget-me-not
and a giant sunflower
surrounded by ground-hugging ivy
will just look silly. Plants need to be in scale with each other to create a
Combine plants that fit the
scale of the container and each other. Plants taller than one to
one-and-a-half times the height of the container may look out of scale with
For interest, a good container
will include various plant forms. Plant forms include erect, round and
prostrate, or weeping.
Use color to make a statement.
Harmonious colors are soothing (same hues and shades of a color).
Contrasting colors (opposite colors) are exciting. "Color echo" is
using color as a common thread to tie the container design together. Great
plant combinations use plants with strong flower power mixed with those used
for their foliage color.
Good plant combinations
incorporate a variety of textures. Combine plants with contrasting textures.
Foliage texture can be coarse, medium or fine.
plants and accent pieces such as butterfly or bird accents, or when placing
a container on a pedestal, so that the container is visually weighted or
A good rule of thumb is to
choose one plant with bold leaves, and mix it with one with finer complex
leaves - the two textures show each other off to perfection Add a
spiky-leafed plant and one with a medium rounded or heart-shaped simple leaf
form will give you a container that is interesting even without the flowers.
Flowers, can be big and bold,
or tiny and fine like candytuft.
Some flowers are fluffy, some stark. The mix makes each more exciting. Make
sure you also have a good mix of flower-textures - let a few bold ones act
as star players with some smaller, finer flowers as supporting players.
If the container is large
enough, repeat the use of plants, colors and textures. This gives visually
appealing rhythm to the design.
The container should have a
focal point, even if it's a plant. In the center you might use a tall plant,
metal art, birdhouses or pinwheels.
Plant the container in tiers. Determine the
viewing perspective of the containers and their center. From that point,
tier downward and outward to the edge.
In some plants, like coreopsis
the shape is most apparent in the leaves and the flowers fit right into the
shape. The pelargonium, (zonal
geranium) on the other hand, is rounded until it flowers, then it is
more like two tiers of rounded shapes.
Formal balance is when both
sides of a composition are equal. A container with classic formal balance
may have a tall shape in the center with the plants that surround it forming
mirror images of each other. For example, you might use a group of three Asiatic
lilies as your focal point, with six ferns - three on each side.
Informal balance is a bit
trickier. Rather than identical plants to surround your focal point, you use
different plants of a similar weight and texture so that all sides of the
composition seem anchored firmly. You don't want one side to be visually
lighter than the other. Here you might surround that same lily with ferns on
one side, and astilbe
of a similar size on the other.
Consider adding fragrant plants
to a container, especially to ones that will be located around decks and
patios where people will be able to enjoy the fragrances.
Dramatic container gardens
include a combination of three to five varied container types and sizes
Periodically prune dead blooms
or "out-of-control" foliage. Pruning generally rejuvenates older
plants as the growing season progresses.
The more established the
container, the more frequently you'll need to water.