Containers are one of the simplest ways to enhance any space, indoor or out, with color and life. Whether in a formal or informal setting, containers should complement the overall feel of the space and allow people to enjoy their outdoor spaces even more. Pots can provide symmetry, define a space, or function as a focal point for your garden. They are an attractive addition to any balcony, deck, garden, or patio, and can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like.
Style & Composition
If you have multiple planters but are unsure how to achieve a balanced design, think of your pots as an arrangement. Smaller containers with height differences look better when grouped together, and tiered by height; tallest in back, smallest in front. If you have a single large container or only a few that you want to spread around, start with placing the largest first. Large pots by themselves are most effective when placed in a corner which will help anchor the space. If you have a window that looks out onto your patio or garden area, pots, either by themselves or grouped together, can be placed in a direct line of sight to add a bright focal point.
If you are uncertain what kind of pots would look great in your space, consider your home’s architecture and style. A more modern, contemporary home may match well with rectangular black containers or gray concrete pots while a craftsman style home could match with pots that have more of an urn shape. Some questions to ask yourself when choosing pots are: What is the best reflection of you and your design tastes? What colors do I see in my house (look at your paint, wood, and stone color) that I want to bring out or complement? How much space do I have for container gardens? How much planting space do I want for plants?
While the size of a pot is an important factor, so is the shape. Lines and contours of rounded containers create a softening effect near corners and edges while square or rectangular shapes can be used to create outdoor “rooms” and can help define the edges of a space. Containers come in a wide variety of materials (ceramic, metal, wood, plastic, etc.) and styles (modern, traditional, formal, eclectic, etc.) and are easily found in most garden stores, home improvement stores, nurseries, or online.
Container & Plant Care
When choosing plants for your container, consider which plants have similar water and light needs to each other and which grow well together. If you find that your plants aren’t doing well, adjusting the placement of your pot can make a world of difference. While many associate container gardens with annuals, you don’t have to. Annuals are great for pots but don’t feel stuck in that one section of the nursery! Compact shrubs, trees, and even berries work well as focal points and perennials and grasses can add wonderful texture and color. If you like the option to refresh your containers, annuals are great for this purpose. They’ll add that little extra pop while giving you the flexibility to add and take things out each season/year.
Once you’ve chosen your plants, you’ll want to stage them first before planting to see if the composition looks right to you (keep them in their pots to help with the mess). Be mindful how plants are positioned and rotate plants as needed to find the best side of each plant. If you have flowering plants, face the flowers towards your typical viewing point and the foliage will fill in naturally. A general rule for placing plants in a container is to layer them. Place the tallest, showiest plant in the backdrop to be the thriller or showstopper, a bushy medium-size plant to be your filler, and a trailer or spiller to cascade over the edge of your containers.
Make sure the soil is packed well around each root ball. Don’t bury plants too deeply or leave them sticking up too high as this can cause roots to rot or dry out too quickly. Leave approximately 1 inch of space at the top of the container so water and soil don’t overflow when watering.
As your plants grow, trim off spent flower heads, also known as deadheading. This will encourage new flower buds to bloom and give a longer display to your container flowers. Container plants can quickly become deficient in nutrients, so it is important to choose soil that is made specifically for container plants or add organic fertilizers throughout the growing season. These can be added directly to the soil and watered in. Pots will also dry out much quicker than a typical garden bed so it’s important to monitor them, especially in the heat of the summer and even throughout the winter. If you’ve placed any pots under covered areas or overhangs, remember that they won’t receive any water from rain or snowfall so they will need to be watered regularly through the entire year.
Any good planter needs to have drainage holes, so your plant roots don’t rot. When purchasing containers always make sure they have holes down at the bottom. Drill extra holes if necessary. To avoid drainage holes plugging, place pot feet or feet wedges under the container to allow water to flow freely. Pot feet are also important if you don’t want your containers to leave water staining behind on decks or patios.
Container Garden Benefits
How can a container garden benefit you and your space? Containers allow easier plant maintenance and are rarely plagued by large weeds. There is less bending over and they are easier to monitor for any insects or slugs eating the flowers or leaves. Containers are a fantastic way to accessorize your outdoor entertaining spaces. Colorful pots can offer a great display while a large container defines an edge of a bed or a path. Containers are perfect for people who may have limited living spaces such as apartment balconies, or who may not have the budget to grow a regular garden but would like to grow plants to enjoy or eat.
Container gardens are incredibly versatile and it’s amazing what they can do for a space. Whether enhancing a formal front entry area, adding color to a patio, or simply providing enjoyment in your personal oasis, always have fun with your pots!
What are your favorite plants to put in your container gardens? Do you like changing them out every year or planting them once and see how they grow?
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