Column: The Garden Girl – Colorful Container Combinations

May 25, 2014 14:00 pm · 4 comments


Colorful container combinations can liven up your outdoor living areas. Kaleidoscopes of pink, red, purple and yellow mixed with fabulous foliage and grassy texture casts much needed allure to patios and landings. Grouping many plants in the same container provides layers of appeal. Choose three to five plants per container to maximize the look of your creation.

Penstomen, salvia, and rudbeckia all make excellent installations to satisfy the taller plant in the combination. Penstomen is one of the easiest perennials to grow. It is available in many colors with an exceptionally long bloom season from May through October. Their trumpets shaped flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Salvia is a huge family of plants. Salvia Mystic Spires, Salvia Wendy’s Wish, Salvia Heatwave, and Salvia Hot Lips are all definite thrillers in a container. Rudbeckia are also fabulous as a taller member in an container. Single and double blossoms of yellow with dark eyes will keep your planters in color from June through October.

Foliage plants always add interest to container plantings. Coleus is one of the best, most user-friendly foliage plants. The new selections out these days can tolerate hours and hours of sun. Helichrysum is another excellent foliage plant with hazy textured leaves of gray, lime green and variegated. Ipomea plants can be used as foliage and a cascading selection. Spade shape leaves of dark bronze, lime green and tri-color tumble their way over a rim eventually hitting the floor.

Ornamental grasses and grass-like plants are very popular. Stipa grass provides tons of motion in a container. Tiny blades are grouped tight together, blonde fridge looking tips add motion with the slightest breeze. Cordyline Electric Pink and Electric Star both are sturdy, showy grass-like plants. Japanese forest grass can be installed into a container to be both foliage interest and texture.

Invest in good potting soil for productive container plantings. Fertilize regularly, depending on the plants you choose to install. Do you want better blooms, feed your plants with 2-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer.

Thick wall containers make better vessels for plants. Thin plastic containers dry out too quickly. If you can, plant in concrete, terracotta or glazed ceramic containers.

Have fun, try new plants and group contrasting perennials together. You’ll be creating thrilling plantings.

Happy gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

photo credit: Barry Hart

1 Original G May 26, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Tried something different this year, growing carrots in used nursery containers, about 22″ tall an 12″ around, with potting soil and it has worked out rather well. Planted up containers at 4 week intervals for continuous harvest. As carrots increase in diameter crowding is taken care of by picking out a few which gives the remaining the room they need. Did find out you need to use large reservoir under them for water, they use about a gallon or two a day. Is nice to grab a couple to munch on while walking around the garden. Carrot tops make a nice island of green.

Experiment of planting leggy tomato plants in 3 foot deep holes so far is working out well.

2 Garden Girl May 26, 2014 at 9:09 PM

Hello Original G,
The eight ball zucchini seedlings that you brought in to the shop for me are thriving. I planted the in FoxFarm Ocean Floor Potting Soil. Today I had some female blossoms… And lots more buds on the way. Thank you!

3 Hydrant Union May 26, 2014 at 9:21 PM

they need water…

4 Cat Smith May 27, 2014 at 9:23 AM

I find plants in containers require a lot of water. Not a great way to go during a drought. :(

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