Container gardens are living landscapes in miniature. They deserve as much thoughtful planning as any of your larger landscape areas. Some plants just work better together in the small space of a container than others. With a few guidelines you can successfully bring together combinations that add color and interest to any small space.
Focus on Form
In the design world, the term “form” refers to the use of space. A rose or vine trained to a trellis leaves plenty of room beneath it for shorter plants or groundcover. Ceramic pots look great with foliage cascading over the side combined with plants that grow upright.
Match the strong vertical and horizontal lines of wooden box planters with distinctly upright plants, such as sunflowers, horsetails, or canna lilies.
Color Theory 101
The primary colors—red, blue and yellow—each have a corresponding complimentary color that our eyes are programmed to enjoy. The complimentary color for red is green, for blue it is orange, and for yellow it is purple. If you’ve never designed using complimentary colors, give it a try! You are sure to enjoy the vibrant contrast you’ll achieve and have a lot of fun with the wide range of flower types that you may not have thought of growing together before.
Kwik Kombos™ – Fire & Ice
Photo Credit: Syngenta
You can achieve wonderful results by sticking with a single color scheme as well. This approach is called a “monochromatic” design and can be used to create a specific mood. For example, a container filled with flowers in lavender to purple tones mixed with silvery-leaved foliage plants creates a cool, calm mood. Fill a pot with red and orange flower tones and red-leaved foliage plants to create a “hot”, bold display that really stands out when contrasted by a light background such as a white fence or stucco wall. Create a warm, cheerful display with shades of white to bright yellow. You get the idea!
For a really unique approach, forget about flowering plants and design your container with plants that have colorful foliage. Many plants have foliage that is just as beautiful, and sometimes just as colorful, as any garden flower. There are plants available with leaves in solid colors, or variegated combinations of purple, chartreuse green, white, pink, gold, gray and red. Planters filled with foliage plants are usually low maintenance and tidy-looking.
Talking in Textures
Plants come in an array of foliage textures; from lacy, ferny types to rigid, spiky lines. Some have narrow, grass-like leaves and some are bold and tropical-looking. Some plants grow upright, some bushy, and some stay so low that they trail right over the sides of the planter. Try to mix several foliage textures and growth habits to create the most interesting combination for your container. Don’t be afraid to mix annual and perennial plants to expand your range of choices. Many perennial plants grow very well in containers and they can be removed from the container in the fall and planted in the ground to enjoy for years to come.
Succulent plants and cacti are the perfect solution for creating a low-maintenance, low-water-needs planting. They are available in a range of beautiful colors and offer some of the most unique foliage forms in the plant world.
Visit your local garden center for a great selection of annual and perennial plants to help you create your most imaginative container combinations ever! Take a look at of our breakdown of annuals vs. perennials for a more in depth look at what might suit your needs best.