Homeshareus

125 Container Gardening Ideas – Southern Living

You may not have the space or patience to become a master gardener, but anyone can master container gardening. It’s a cinch—all you need is a container (a planter in true gardener speak), potting soil, some plants and you’re ready to go. Thinking of container gardening like this, it’s easy to see why container gardening ideas can be endless—so endless that you may need a few container garden ideas to point you and your pots in the right direction. From fall container gardening to hanging container gardening and even indoor container gardening—we’ve got tons of container garden ideas for you. With our ideas, you’ll be inspired to dirty your hands and spruce up your porch or patio with some pretty container gardens in no time. 

Herb Appeal

Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mark Thompson

Rethink your porch planting with a container that proves there’s elegance and purpose in simplicity. Fragrant rosemary, basil, and lemon grass accent soft blue plumbago in this tabletop setup. The best part? While the scent appeals to garden party guests, it could also help keep pests at arm’s length. Start with a young lemon grass plant positioned in the center of the pot. Then add the flowering plumbago around that. On the outermost edges, fill in the gaps with basil and rosemary, alternating the two if you wish or placing them on opposite sides of the container.

Clip (and use!) the basil frequently. This will help it grow and also keep it from overtaking the rest of the display.

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Orange Crush

For a late-summer container that steals the show, make bold foliage the focal point. This easy-care, end-of-season planter uses vibrant ‘Rustic Orange’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), identified by its rusty-hued leaves that will last until the first frost. The filler in this space-saving pot is ‘Compact Hot Coral’ SunPatiens (Impatiens sp.), which has tiny tangerine blooms and dark, shiny leaves that contrast nicely with the bronze-toned coleus. Finally, ‘Yellow Moon’ wishbone flower (Torenia sp.) adds even more lush greenery to the arrangement and offers petite yellow petals with purple throats. This is a thirsty container, so you’ll need to make sure it stays well watered. Place it in full sun or partial shade.

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Made for Shade

A simple-to-follow formula is all you need to create drama in a container. Here, it takes only four plants to convey the sweeping illusion of a floor-length gown. The key to pulling this off is starting with an elevated planter so the vibrant ‘Celebration’ and ‘Florida Sweetheart’ caladiums pop at eye level. Clusters of white wishbone flower fill the empty spaces between the caladium stems and also conceal the actual container, which means you can use just about any freestanding vessel. The final attention grabber is the graceful creeping Jenny spilling over the sides. Position this planter in the shade and water regularly for a gorgeous, easy-to-maintain display.

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Traditional Freestanding Container

These porch-step containers begin with bright pink and yellow zinnias—think ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’ or ‘Magellan Salmon’—which are one of our favorite flowers for their beautiful, round shape. Cooler ‘filler’ flowers, such as purple verbenas and blue calibrachoas are added to create contrast with texture and color. To make this container garden even simpler, opt for inexpensive plastic planters that are weatherproof and easy to move around. Grouping your containers in a tight space can help to create a homey, mini-garden vibe. Plus, when placed side by side, all of these incredible colors intensify. You’ll love to walk up to these bright wonders.

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Traditional Hanging Container

This woven wicker basket is a natural way to decorate a bare wall in an outdoor space, and it will look just as beautiful whether you set it against brick, timber, or concrete. Pink zinnias and yellow tuberous begonias are the focal points or ‘thrillers’. You’ll love the variation between the tighter, round zinnias and the softer, open petals of the begonias. Blue Cape plumbago and golden lantana add an extra hint of drama—think of these as the ‘fillers’. Finally, English ivy, with its delicate, well-known shape, cascades over the side—that is the ‘spiller’, which gives this beautiful hanging container a sense of movement.

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Traditional Tabletop Container

If you need proof that a plain and simple planter has the power to brighten up what could be a dull backyard side table then look right here. This container’s copper sheen complements, rather than competes with, the fuchsia zinnias. Yellow calibrachoas—which look like little petunias—spill over the container’s edge. Then, subtle splashes from purple verbenas create another unexpected yet robust focal point in this outdoor garden conversation space. If you would like your planter to have this beautiful feeling of flow, be sure to select a ‘trailing’ calibrachoa for this container because it grows lower than the mounding version.

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Modern Freestanding Container

A planter in a faux-lead finish is a timeless choice, but the cylindrical shape of these tall fiberclay urns gives them a distinctly modern and clean, geometric feel. This type of styling can work well in any décor because it focuses on familiar forms. Choosing a neutral tone or texture for your container helps bring out the unique natural beauty from the color of the flowers and foliage pop. Here, string of pearls creates plenty of architectural drama through their unique shape, while purple calibrachoa and blue ageratum add just the right dose of brightness to add depth to this subtle arrangement.

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Modern Hanging Container

Hanging containers are a simple way to bring gardens to limited spaces, or to add beauty to your space in simple yet unexpected ways. For this unique design, a mix of structural succulents gives the arrangement a bold internal architecture, and takes center stage in a simple hanging fiberclay planter. Purple fan flower punctuates the lush greenery. Fan flower is unique because all its blossoms have their segments on one side. In the Tropical South, these plants can also be evergreen. Given their bold, bright color, they offer a refreshing contrast to the deep, dark container suspended in the air.

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Modern Tabletop Container

This ingenious organic look comes from contrasting the strong, stark lines of a modern container with the soft, ripple-in-the breeze movement of natural plants. A carefully curated selection of beautiful containers embody the warm, rich metal tones in this well-designed outdoor oasis. The handsome planter on the mantel has a slate-like finish and blends various succulents with the pink plumes of ‘Joey’ ptilotus, a bottlebrush plant that is native to Australia. Large-leaved kalanchoes and dwarf golden arborvitaes form the base of this masterpiece, which can grace this mantel just as easily as it could highlight the center of a backyard dining table.

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Rustic Freestanding Container

This sturdy galvanized-metal washtub—a flea market gem—is filled to an overflowing beauty with a hearty mix of lantanas and impatiens. Arranged with maroon Joseph’s coat, green coleus, and yellow creeping Jenny, this dense container was designed to highlight a back porch, or greet guests with its sense of joy and happiness on the front porch just as easily. Coleus varieties were first introduced into Europe in the 1700s, and their popularity remains high today. Given their tropical history, they are not particularly cold hardy, so don’t plan to make them a part of this container too early in the spring.

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Rustic Hanging Container

The most important key to this rustic aesthetic is being sure not to overplant the container. You are sure to love the look of this arrangement when you give the flowers space to breathe. This weathered, rusty metal bucket—another incredible flea market find—is studded with periwinkles, the profusely blooming Rieger begonias, coleus, and other annuals. But what it is not is overcrowded, which could keep the plants from getting adequate light. For even more rustic, Southern-inspired charm, try suspending this arrangement on a branch. This will add to the casual, easy-does-it feeling.

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Rustic Tabletop Container

A simple galvanized-metal toolbox is an unexpected container-gardening vessel that fits into an all-natural springtime setup. Here, it showcases a classic arrangement of bright green spearmint, red geraniums, and white sweet alyssums, for a container that feels both light and fresh. You’ll also love how easy it is to move this around the garden thanks to the built-in handle. What you’ll love the most, though, is the rustic charm of the weathered metal contrasting with the soft and subtle colors of the flowers. This is a beautiful study in hard and soft elements in container garden design.

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Romantic Freestanding Container

Sit back and imagine this classic cast-metal urn in a dreamy garden or on a light-filled screened porch. The urn itself is styled with classic Victorian lines, giving it a romantic element, but it is the arrangement that truly makes it magical. The key to designing this look is combining contrasting textures. Here, grassy cordyline, puffy pink dianthus, sweeping ‘Ace of Spades’ sweet potato vine, dainty blue lobelia, and spires of pink angelonia all come together in a cascade and crescendo of bright color and loud celebration. Set against the beautiful shape, but simple monochrome tone, of the vase, this creates a show-stopping container for your home garden.

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Romantic Hanging Container

This romantic container garden captures the feelings of magic and mystery through its bright colors and beautiful sense of movement. To achieve these effects, you’ll want to try varying the scale of flowers and greenery to produce the wildly untamed, ‘growing in a garden’ feel that keeps this basket relaxed. Beginning by selecting this sphagnum moss-lined metal hanging basket, larger dianthus then blend with smaller petunias, while variegated English ivy and tiny baby’s tears dangle over the sides. The effect is the sense of beauty in bloom, bursting forth in wonder from this colorful basket.

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Romantic Tabletop Container

Planting in layers is an integral part of putting together this stunning container. Though the handmade bowl that makes up the centerpiece of this gorgeous arrangement may look delicate, it’s made of concrete and recycled materials. Its wide shape accommodates many of the same flowers and plants used in the other two ‘Romantic Containers,’ just in a more whimsical container display that looks like a flourishing flower arrangement. If you select flowers like dianthus, you will certainly be starting this Romantic Tabletop Container with the right colors, tones, and shapes. Its impact will be elegant, and entirely beautiful. Settle in at the table for an evening drink, or a casual conversation, and let the romance blossom.

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Romantic Wall Swag Container

This abundantly rich and vibrant design puts the flowers in the spotlight. These will literally and figuratively be a beautiful sight. Perched atop a painted brick wall, the sleek container is covered by the overflowing blooms, which include sweeping pink petunias, super-delicate baby’s tears, and rounded clusters of rose-pink dianthus. For this arrangement, the focus is entirely on the flowers. In fact, the hidden pot is merely here to offer grounding support. Depending on your design, you may even wish to consider a series of these containers as a way to highlight a garden wall and bring color and emphasis to something you might have always wished to ignore. You won’t have to imagine the beauty—it will be right in front of you.

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Geraniums Built for the South

Southerners used to have to choose between geraniums that could handle high temperatures and humidity and those that produced lots of flowers. But this sad state of either-or is no more since Calliope-series geraniums were developed to offer the best of both worlds. This one’s called ‘Dark Red,’ and it forms the centerpiece of a container filled to bursting with bright color and subtle greenery. Here, the filler forms a backdrop to the bold geraniums, and bring height, while the weathered container gives a sense of contrast against the masonry-and-mortar design elements of the courtyard. Let these geraniums burst forth with color in your Southern garden—temperature and humidity are no problem at all!

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Bring On the Sun

Here it comes—a beautiful container in the sun, that is. This high-drama, low-maintenance container spotlights ‘Variegated Spreading Salmon’ SunPatiens, but leaves room for a foxtail asparagus fern and a 6-inch pot of ‘Neon’ pothos. Everything is set in a glazed-ceramic container, its bright green finish complementing the natural colors of the plantings. This is a beautiful example of the keeping it simple container-garden aesthetic. Let the SunPatiens—a strain that resulted from a cross between a New Guinea hybrids and a wild species—be the bright, central focus of this arrangement. Then, let everything else simply help them shine.  

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Show Your True Colors

Everyone in the South understands that college sports are a fun-filled family pastime, and what better way to show and share your team spirit than to bring your favorite colors into your container garden? This beautiful design brings the Bengal Tigers—the plants in this LSU-themed container all thrive in part sun and moist potting mix. You’ll find a range of shades of purple from bright and bold, to subtle and sublime, all set in a celebratory container. You can take this idea and substitute the colors of your favorite team for a seasonal celebration that brings together nature and culture—and what could be better?

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Summertime Flair!

Let’s hear it for elephant’s ear! Its oversize leaves—the secret to this stately combination—create drama through scale. And they allow you to fill in the blanks with tiny, colorful flowers. This arrangement is set in a concrete urn with an aggregate texture to give it a weathered, antiqued finish.  You’ll love how the delicate flowers soften the feel of the urn itself. One of the beautiful wonders of elephant’s ear is that it flowers first, and then fruits. The fruit has been described as making the stem look like corn on the cob. Whatever you think, it looks gorgeous in your summertime container.

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Meet Miss Lantana

Tougher than Clint Eastwood, lantana parties in heat, chortles at drought, and blooms in a slew of sunny colors from spring to fall. Plus, its nectar-laden flowers attract pretty butterflies like moths to a flame. This beautiful plant is native to America, so if you want to focus on plants that will attract or entice wildlife, this can be a good choice. Lantana is also generally resistant to deer—they don’t find it particularly attractive, even though you will. So plant a container or two of this wonderful, durable plant, then sit back and wait for your fluttering-winged visitors to arrive.

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A Quick Container Combo

This deck-top container garden is a study in variation in similarity, proving just how beautiful the simple repetition of a shape or color can be in creating a relaxing outdoor space. Here, three ceramic containers in a subtle shade of turquoise hold a variety of beautiful plants. In the largest pot, working from back to front and tallest to shortest, densely plant ‘Liberty Classic Yellow’ snapdragon, ‘Bouquet Rose Magic’ dianthus, and ‘Tickled Pink’ veronica. Place ‘New Look’ dusty miller and ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum in the front to trail over the edge. Pack a powerful, single-note punch in the two smaller pots by planting ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ petunia in the midsize container and more sedum in the smallest.

Similar pots: wayfair.com

Watch: No-Fail Formula for Container Gardens

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Tulips, Pansies, Acorus, Heuchera, Ivy and Fern

Your garden will seem wild, and it will certainly be full of life, when you have some ‘Tiger’ fern (a selection of Boston fern) in your container garden. Pair it with your tulips, Lavender Blue’ and ‘Purple Wing’ Plentifall pansies, acorus, heuchera, and variegated ivy. These simply shaped concrete pots enhance any outdoor environment. Their angled geometry pairs well with the color and movement sprouting out of their tops. Let the plants grow and flow—the containers keep them just where you want them, creating a great harmony of color, and, as they drape over the edges, you’ll see where Plentifall pansies got their name.

Check Etsy for similar pots.

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Warm and Cheerful Trio

Heat-tolerant geraniums, calibrachoas, and mecardonias in bright red, yellow, and purple shout a welcome in a cheerful way. For the most part, we’ve filled these whitewashed pots to bursting with a single color of each, showing how to create harmony from the variations between each element. This approach works well, creating a single environment for each container, making the task of watering and fertilizing, and sun simple. Whatever plants you choose, make sure they thrive in similar conditions. All three of these plants are heat-tolerant, making them perfect for grouping together.

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Bargain Blooms

One of the best ways to keep your garden looking fresh is to take advantage of seasonal sales at your local nursery, and to stock up on popular plants. And, since you want them to look beautiful until it is time to make them permanent additions to the landscape, keep them in their nursery pots. Then, display them in galvanized buckets on the porch until you are ready to plant them in your garden. You can easily recreate this look with gerbera daisies, salvias, shasta daisies, daylilies, and sweet potato vines. Look for similar pots at gardening or home-supply stores.
Similar galvanized pots here.

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Grow Daffodils in Containers

This is a great way to get lots of punch from just a few dozen bulbs. You can move containers to wherever you need color on a particular day, be it your front door, porch, steps, or patio. As soon as the bulbs finish blooming, plant them in the garden. No bulbs are easier for container growing in the South than daffodils, and few bulbs signal the arrival of spring more readily than these. These are in classic terra cotta pots, but daffodils look fantastic in any container, from traditional to modern, so choose whatever works best in your garden.

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Add a Tropical Punch

Are you dreaming of a summer vacation, but the only thing on the horizon is more heat and humidity? This may not be a balmy getaway, but bringing the Tropics to your doorstep is a breeze with this combo: this beautiful container with a water-inspired glaze has a gorgeous array of plants that burst forth like a sunburst on a bright day. You’ll love giant-leaved, sunny ‘Maui Gold’ elephant’s ear; heavily blooming, fiery orange SunPatiens; velvety, fragrant citronella plant; purple iridescent Persian shield; and a heavenly skirt of angel vine spilling down the sides. If you listen closely you will be able to hear the ocean.
Similar pot here.

See more of this Tropical Container Garden

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Brighten a Shady Spot

You’ll be planning window boxes everywhere you can once you see how beautiful and simple this arrangement is—and how much it brightens this once-empty shady space on the side of the house. ‘Aaron’ caladium, holly fern, ‘Key Lime Pie’ heuchera, ‘White Nancy’ lamium, ivy, and light pink periwinkle come together in this eye-catching window box. This box emerges in a subtle sea of layers, each adding depth and color to the other. What is so unexpected is how easily this box stays in a palette of greens and yellows, relying on tone and variation to create a melody of color and shape. It may be a window box, but it is anything but boxed in.

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Fill a Big Container

The pitchfork may suggest a little ‘American Gothic’—but the beautiful star here is the freestanding flower container. Here, we make a statement with a this large, overflowing planter that can work equally against a blank wall, at the perimeter of a parking court, or on the edge of a terrace. Fill it with ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, coleus, ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ petunia, and geranium. Ours is weathered, and it will only patina further over time. Let it happen. This is part of the beauty of natural materials like wood—and this beauty is only enhanced further by vibrant flowers.

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Snapdragons, Penny Violas, Tulips, Parsley and Ivy

One of the beauties of container gardening is the ability to create visual variety. Containers are the perfect canvas for unique approaches to color, texture, and composition.  These showy snapdragons, in a cacophony of bold colors, add height to your containers. They pair well with a mixture of flowers that will act as your fillers and spillers, including Penny violas, tulips, parsley, and ivy. Each of these has its own wonder and surprise, rich with color, tone, and texture. This container garden feels incredibly expansive without taking up a great deal of space, so it works well in any number of locations.

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Collard Greens

Yes, you read that right. This does say collard greens, and they really are one of our picks for a fantastic container garden. Easy and versatile, collards have graced Southern gardens and tables for generations. A cousin to kale and cabbage, these nutritious, leafy greens thrive in the cooler weather of fall and early spring. Durable, versatile, and beautiful, they are also incredibly enticing visually, and imbued with a range of tonal variation. They work well in differently sized containers. This galvanized-metal tub is filled with collards, creating an intimate container garden. Use them in situations where you would like simplicity to come to the fore.

Learn how to plant and care for collards

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Pink Nature-Inspired Planters

The natural hues of the sweet potato vine and pennisetum make the trio of pink geraniums, petunias, and angelonias pop. Petunias look incredible in containers because they come in an amazing array of colors. They’ve also been adapted to grow well in our humid Southern climate, and often bloom continuously from spring until fall. Take advantage of all the eye-stopping excitement that will bring to your front porch. Here we’ve used three different sizes of pressed-metal planters with decorative embossing and a copper-toned finish to hold these incredible container fancies.

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Terrarium

To make a terrarium, choose a glass container with an opening wide enough for your hand. Gently add an inch or two of washed, fine gravel. Top gravel with a thin layer of activated aquarium carbon. (You’ll find both items at your local pet store.) Next, add moistened potting soil, and you’ll be ready to plant. Create a collection of plants, or showcase just one. Good choices include ferns, succulents, mosses, miniature moth orchids, African violets, and kalanchoes. How often you need to water or fertilize your terrarium will depend upon the type of plants you choose, but this is a beautiful way to enjoy container gardening.

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Evergreens and Annuals

One of the challenges with container gardening can be retaining visual beauty through changing seasons. This thoughtful approach puts that problem to rest. The solution is to think of every container as having a ‘keeper’—a durable plant that continues from season to season—with a plant that may require more attention. For this beautiful pair of urns we’ve partnered colorful annuals with an evergreen for an established planting that can still change from season to season. With ivy spilling over the sides, and ‘Pandora’s Box’ violas providing bold tones, these planters are pure excitement. In general, violas are more tolerant of temperature variation than the botanically similar pansies.

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Bring on Spring!

This container is as sensual as it is beautiful, creating a multisensory sensation. It combines a burst of daffodils with bold hues and fragrant seasonal blooms for colorful containers that keep on giving. This trio combines floriferous ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’ calibrachoa, the delicately fragrant and easy-to-grow ‘Snow Princess’ sweet alyssum, and cool-weather ‘Sunsatia Lemon’ nemesia. Tonally, these bolt towards the warm end of the color spectrum, and are rich with deep oranges and yellows, tempered by touches of white throughout. Even separately, every one of these would be a visual delight. Together, the interplay of each with the other is intoxicating.

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Pansies, Violas, Panolas, Grass & Ivy

To truly celebrate the joy of container gardening, take the time to change your containers to reflect the colors of the season. For this fantastic arrangement of bold, bright pots, orange pansies, violas, and Panolas provide a warm autumnal welcome to everyone who you welcome to your home. It is always important to experiment with composition to make a growing garden a visual delight, so try pairing colorful and distinctive flowers like these with a textural plant, like a grass. You’ll love the lush, full carpet of green the grass creates, punctuated by the bright bursts of color that the flowers provide.

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Magnolia, Spider Plant & Caladiums

You’ll be phobia-free about welcoming these spiders into your home—spider plants, that is. For this flowing composition that can create color throughout your garden, Red ‘Freida Hemple’ caladiums, a spider plant, and a ‘Little Gem’ Southern magnolia decorate a large pot in the corner. This helps hide a downspout, and fills the space with bright beauty. Working with the idea that repetition creates rhythm, and that builds to a harmonious container garden, smaller pots of the same caladiums tie the grouping together. The boldness of the plants is contrasted with the simple, neutral containers. Think of using natural tones in stone and off-white for these outdoor container compositions.

  • Learn More about Magnolias

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Agave

Container gardens are perfect ways to highlight the elegance of simplicity. This succulent garden is a perfect example of having individual plantings in single containers, allowing each to reflect its unique leaf shape and form complemented by the architecture of the container. Using various decorative ground covers jazzes up your potted plantings—these are enhanced with beautiful selections of natural stone. The highlight of this design is a potted blue agave surrounded by pebbles serves as a living sculpture on this deck. The smooth stones inside the container reflect the larger stones around its base, creating a synthesis of inside and out.

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Mixed Succulents

Using plantings is a simple but sophisticated way to enliven your outdoor table. For hot, dry climates, drought-tolerant plants are the perfect way to go. This shallow bowl of mixed succulents makes a great centerpiece, creating a mixture of tones, shapes, and textures. When considering plantings for this type of arrangement, echeverias, sedums, and other similar plantings work well. Look for types that will create visual interest as they grow, and consider containers that can create long, shallow, and low spaces for these great green wonders to develop. You’ll love how harmonious these succulents are together. They are great low-maintenance plants that will last until frost.

  • Heat-Savvy Desert Plants

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Grasses & Caladiums

Photography Joseph De Sciose

Sometimes design is actually all about the form rather than the function—like when plants with distinctive visual features create amazing sights in a gorgeous garden setting. For such an approach to work, you’ll have to pay special attention to how the forms work together. For this design, textural plants construct a beautiful sense of high drama. This homeowner helped to create this sensation by adding spiky and vertical plants, such as ornamental grasses and caladiums, to her pots. Against the vast, multileveled, linear expanse of her back garden, with its beautiful pool, she created a sense of lightness and height simply by using plants that were always reaching towards the sky. Let your container gardens aim high!

  • See More Poolside Escapes

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Sweet Flag & Creeping Jenny

If you are tempted to let your container garden run just a little wild, then plantings like these may help create that perfect sense of cultured mess that you’re after. Just plan to let your plants spill out of their container. A generous planting of golden variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) fills this kettle, with golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) trailing out and onto the gravel below. One, contained, lifts the eyes, while the other gently creates a delicate, soft carpet of green that creeps towards a comfortable seating area. This is for when the garden is not totally wild, but it is just wild enough.

  • Tour this Historic North Carolina Garden

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Tiny Succulents

Bigger is not always better, and a judicious use of these tiny succulents is a case in point why. Rather than overwhelm small spaces with large plantings, here is a great lesson in how to use containers to fill bare spots in your garden. This concrete planter, tucked into a planting of dianthus, is filled with tiny textured succulents, pulling you in for a closer look. This creates a contemplative moment of intimacy and pause, a time for simple reflection, and a sense of communion with these delicate plants. These tiny plants are like a whisper in the garden, quietly asserting what it is they have to say.

  • See this Charming Cottage Garden

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Lettuce & Ornamentals

Use unique containers like vintage wooden boxes and buckets is a great way to bring harmony and symmetry to any container gardens. Since these are not designed with planting in mind, to make them function well be sure to drill drainage holes in each before planting. For a new take on the living and eating local approach, this variety of planters is filled with a mix of simple to grow and harvest edibles, like lettuce, and decoratives, like marigolds and geraniums. How better to bring the useful and the beautiful together in one simple, enjoyable idea—container gardening?

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Rosemary Topiary

The historical term for a classically designed French garden is a ‘parterre garden.’ Some of its most famous examples are actually in England, including the fabulous—and recently recreated—geometric garden at Hanbury Hall. This container garden, with its formal structure and arrangement, takes both its inspiration and its design from the parterre garden design concept—but the container gardening part of the process is still incredibly simple. Regardless of your overall garden design plan, you can add some height to the center of any flowerbed by placing a very vertical potted plant in its middle. Here, a potted rosemary topiary rises above the other edibles in this bed. What is so sensational about this approach is that it uses a traditional language, but with new, timesaving gardening innovations.

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Mandevilla

Although it is sometimes confused with the completed unrelated plant the Bougainvillea, mandevilla is a beautiful, bright flowering and climbing vine found throughout the South. Mandevillas can thrive in containers—as with the one pictured, which twines its way through the railing on a rooftop deck. Reveling in hot weather given its tropical origins, mandevilla can grow more than 10 feet a year, and will bloom continuously from spring until the first frost. And, although in the tropical and coastal South they may weather the winter outdoors, if you plant them in containers you may even bring them inside for the cold season.

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Hanging Fern Container

There’s a lot more to do on a porch than swing, and since it’s such an important part of a Southern home it should be beautiful. You can add charm to this incredible space with hanging ferns—a quintessential feature for any Southern porch. Cheery containers also add inviting color to this architectural essential. So get the containers filled with ferns, get the porch swing ready for company, set the rockers out, and get ready to enjoy a gorgeous summer evening—your container garden just made every minute spent in this family-friendly space even more beautiful.

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Trailing Petunias

If you are looking for a simple but fantastic summer gathering decorating idea, one of the best is to add color to your outdoor party with potted plants. In the heat of the season in the South, there’s no need for a patterned tablecloth here. Potted petunias will add all the beautiful color you need under the glass-top dining table, and make a show stopping, sensational and unexpected addition to your outdoor party décor. These planters have a simple curved wrought-iron base that works well with the simple glass top of the table, but you can match the container to your own personal design and decorating style.

  • Give your Yard a Party Makeover

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White Impatiens

Using white to lighten your garden is a great way to let the tone of plants themselves be the neutral foundation for the design you build upon. Here several large pots of white impatiens filled to bursting brighten this shady corner with hundreds of blooms. Apart from being filled with one type of plant, these white impatiens are planted in a single style of container—this can help to tie your outdoor space together. If you are planning on planting several different container garden features, consider choosing separate planters for each, or choose a single planter to create a sense of harmony.

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Lettuce, Violas & Mums

Although they may not be the first thing that come to mind, don’t ignore edibles when selecting your planting materials. Different varieties of lettuce have beautiful color and texture, and can add both visual interest and an unexpected kitchen surprise to your container garden. Here, several leafy edibles mix with violas and mums. These leafy greens will be a surprise to people who wonder what is creating the beautiful colors in your containers—and you’ll be just as surprised if you choose to let them be the centerpiece of something on your dinner plate.

  • How to Grow Fresh Lettuce

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Coleus, Begonias & Purple Fountain Grass

This window box design is concerned less with the box as a container, and more with the box as a foundation for an incredible approach to beauty. Layered, loud, and filled with color and excitement, coleus, begonias, and purple fountain grass spill from this spectacular window box, completely hiding the container. The purple fountain grass blooms in summer, and can continue blooming into fall, giving this container wonder from season to season. Coleus comes in every color of the rainbow, and remains bright from spring through fall. This sets up a container full of wonder. Put it together and let its radiance glow.

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Variegated Boxwood & Violas

Contrary to popular belief, not all boxwoods are dark green—nor are they shaped into topiary, or complex geometrical forms, even though the easily can be. A popular choice for container gardens, known as variegated American boxwood (‘Elegantissima’), has green leaves accented with a white color. White violas, highlighting and reinforcing the color of the boxwoods, illuminate this garden corner, and in the larger planters are even mixed in with the boxwoods. Everything is tied together with the consistency of the terra cotta pots. These are simple and natural, and reflect the brick pavers.

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Colorful Mixture

Containers can be a simple yet sophisticated way to soften a hardscape, which is precisely how they have been used here. Containers were brought right up to this pool’s edge to beautify the landscape and help integrate the pool into the environment. Many of the plantings are repeated in a number of containers, creating visual consistency throughout the arrangement. The colorful plantings are even reflected in the water, doubling their visual impact. The containers also direct swimmers towards the pool stairs—a smart choice for safe yet beautiful ways to help guests find their way into or out of the inviting water.

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Violas

Sometimes repetition can be a better approach than difference. Finding a simple planting scheme, then sticking with it until you’ve found the perfect amount of containers to make it beautiful, can lead to simply incredible results. So don’t think that your container garden has to be filled with every type of plant imaginable. Instead, repeat your favorite plants in containers and flowerbeds. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of these simple containers set against the natural stone stairs. Pots of bright purple and yellow violas climb the front steps, seeming to spill over and out into the flowerbeds creating a lush, fluid, yet consistent look.

  • Winter Bloomers to Try

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Raised Urns

If you like the idea of celebrating the architectural impact of some truly special containers you’ve selected, you can elevate them for impact. In this elegant semi-formal garden, a pair of oversized urns are raised, then filled with pink verbenas and white bacopas. The urns are each set on a simple, flat stone capital atop a flagstone column. They create a columned entryway onto a flagstone path through the garden. The verbenas and bacopas cascade over the sides, creating a whimsical sense of movement, echoing the graceful lines of the garden’s architecture.

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Coleus & Lantana

Finding plants with the right combination of beauty and durability for withstanding a harsh climate can be a challenge. Coleus and lantana fit right in with the South’s increasing appetite for hot, cheery, assertive colors that stand up to heat and humidity. With the right types of coleus, you’ll find them to be tough and tidy, and you’ll also get beautiful leaf shapes—something that makes a plant even more enticing for a small container. Pair those shapes with tight clusters of lantana flowers and you get an incredibly intriguing arrangement of visual exhilaration dressed up as a simple gardening idea.

  • 10 Plants that Beat the Summer Heat

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Mint

Prized for both its flavor and its aroma, mint can be an incredible herb to have growing in a garden container. What’s more, its bright green leaves can bring in a pop of color. Left uncontrolled, however, mint can have a tendency to overrun an outdoor space. With this in mind, you will want to keep more invasive herbs, like mints, contained in pots in your kitchen garden. Pick your mint based on the flavor you want and whether you’d prefer it for tea or for flavoring food—you’ll be thrilled by mint’s wondrous varieties.

  • Grow Herbs Anywhere

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Caladiums

Caladiums are one of the most popular plants in the South for creating beauty in difficult-to-grow-in shady places. Caladiums—a tropical plant native to America—have incredibly colored foliage that can have blotches of red, rose, pink, white, and more. Some of our favorite caladiums include ‘Pink Symphony,’ ‘Iceberg,’ ‘Miss Muffet,’ and ‘Candyland.’ To bring this beautiful plant into your landscaping plan easily, integrate planters into your hardscape. This poolside scene includes a trough-like container built right into the bank. Fill it with a colorful array of caladiums and you will have created your own personal poolside tropical oasis.

  • Our Favorite Caladiums

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Blue Lily-of-the-Nile

Lily-of-the-Nile makes a big statement around this pool, and it is a beautiful plant to pair with the subtle tones and colors of cool water. While these are described as ‘blue,’ agapanthus actually come in a rainbow variety of this color, from a deep blue to a pale blue and seemingly every shade in between. If you want to know which color blue the plant is, you will need to choose one that has blossomed if it is simply identified as ‘blue.’ Whatever shade is preferred, the gorgeous blue of the flowers mirrors the blue of the pool, and evergreen varieties will make it seem as if it spring all year round.

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Variegated Agave, Lavender, & Japanese Roof Iris

Variegated agave, native to southern Texas and eastern Mexico, is a spreading ground cover that grows to about a foot tall and, left uncontained, would spread to roughly four feet wide. In a container, it becomes the perfect, full planting depending on your needs. A similar height, the Japanese Roof Iris—so named because it was popular to plant this on cottage roofs in the island nation, brings a gorgeous violet-and-white flower to this container delight. During your garden design, plan to vary the heights of your containers for greater visual interest. This garden features planters in a range of scales and materials, adding to its eclectic cottage personality.

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Mixed Greens

If variety is the spice of life, mixing tones and textures certainly brings both variety and life to this gorgeous small-scale container garden. Within a design scheme that could best be described as clean-rustic meets semi-modern, smooth metals and natural woods all combine into one harmonious whole. Rather than stick to a rigorous, single-plant approach, here a series of textural leaves gives a more modern look. An assortment of plants in shades of green anchors the backyard corner and adds depth in the small space. Settle in on the comfortable bench and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in this incredible container garden wonder.

  • Tour this Small Cottage Garden

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Coleus & Ivy

Sitting in a natural environment, on a table of weathered wood, this container is a perfect lesson in how to best frame colorful plants with a textured background. These vibrant ‘Molten Orange’ coleuses provide a pop of color among textural grass plantings. Plants with bold but often or predominantly monochrome foliage, such as coleus, can work well in a classically shaped planter such as this one with Roman and Rococo influences. Filling in below the coleus is ivy, its green-and-white leaves spilling over the planter’s natural patina of aged cast iron. Resist the urge to sand or sandblast containers such as these if they are structurally sound—simply brush off any loose debris and leave their history and finish to shine through.

  • Learn more about Coleus

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Cilantro, Parsley, and Chives Garden

Having fresh herbs at home can be much simpler than making a trip to the store. Transplants of cilantro, parsley, and chives are at their best in late winter months, both in containers and in the ground. Plant them in a shallow box, as pictured, and use them as an outdoor centerpiece. They will grow wonderfully well together, and you’ll have as much or as little as you need on-hand for topping a wide range of delectable dishes fresh from oven to table. Label your herbs to be sure which is which, then grab a handful whenever you need one. These raised-bed container gardens should produce plenty to share with family, friends, and neighbors.

  • Tips for Planting Herbs in Winter

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Boxwoods

Van Chaplin/Styling: Scott Martin

You don’t have to get out the clippers, although should the mood strike, you can train and topiary these boxwoods into any shape that you like. Potted boxwoods offer the beauty of formal elegance with the simplicity of little maintenance. In general, boxwoods can be drought tolerant, and you won’t have to fertilize them too often. This large American variety creates a living wall in a line of concrete planters—a process helped by planting the boxwoods in identical planters at the same time. Use a few simple tips and tricks to make your boxwood container garden easy to maintain, but even easier and more beautiful to behold.

  • Plant Boxwoods in Pots

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Cascading Geraniums

If you make the perfect plant selection for your container garden, no summer will see you shedding tears over a poor selection of plants. Instead, great growers like these Mini Cascade ivy geraniums will take the South’s harsh summer heat and just keep on blooming. Geraniums work wonders as part of a hanging container garden, blossoming to a rich, full, and verdant cascade of flowers spilling over and out of their planters. You’ll be excited by the rush of color, but even more thrilled with how simple these Cascading Geraniums are to maintain.

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Hens and Chicks

This is not something you need a chicken hutch to have in your back garden. Instead, these beautiful low-growing Hen and Chicks plants fill this vintage metal planter. The silver undertones of the leaves mirror the copper finish of the tub. The Southern Living Garden Book describes Hen and Chicks as Mexican natives with ‘rosettes of fleshy leaves,’ and that is simply the perfect description for these succulent perennials. Available in a wide range of colors, you will be able to choose the Hen and Chicks that best fit the tone of your container garden. Or, mix and match to your heart’s delight and revel in their subtle variations.

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Trailing Algerian Ivy, Needle Palm, & Colorful Annuals

For big impact, use big pots. They’ll accommodate more and larger plants, and the added soil means they won’t need watering as often. This simple, straightforward, and direct advice is great to remember if you want to create large-scale drama in your container garden. Trailing Algerian Ivy is the perfect choice in this case, with its large, wide leaves. It is also an aggressive grower. The other perfect plant selection here is the Needle Palm, which may well be the hardiest plant in the world—so tough Southern summers won’t prove any challenge for this powerful palm. Add in some colorful annuals, and your perfect containers are full, fun, and fit for anything.

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Purple Pixie

Try planting ground cover in a pot. ‘Purple Pixie’ loropetalum shrub combines showy pink flowers in spring with deep burgundy evergreen foliage and a pronounced weeping form. As a ground cover, it reaches 1 to 2 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Placed in a container, a 1-gallon plant in a 24-inch-tall pot will completely hide the vessel in just a couple of years. This is a great way to give visual structure to your garden without having to make decisions regarding more formal architectural elements when you prefer to focus on softer, more natural forms.

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Daffodils, Pansies & Violas

As they say, things that look like they are alike always reveal their little differences, and things that seem at first like they may be different often turn out to be quite alike. If you adopt this approach to your container gardening, you’ll find that grouping flowers by form or by color becomes a great way to rethink your approach to planting if you have a tendency to keep your flowers all the same. Instead of only one flower, use several flowers of the same color for a greater impact in a small planting. Tall yellow daffodils, medium-size pansies, and small violas are a happy mix in this terra-cotta planter.

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Impatiens & Dwarf Spruce

It is both beautiful and simple to use impatiens to accent porches and entryways, and as filler flowers, they subtly enhance any garden container. Here, a skirt of coral impatiens surrounds a dwarf Alberta spruce. The dwarf spruce is also well suited for container gardening— ‘Tiny Tower’, for example, grows to a full height of between only 4-6 feet tall. These beautiful, small trees also have soft, bright green needles when they are young, and color to a gorgeous silver-green as they mature. You may need to gently prune this spruce into shape, which will help to promote slow growth and a full, dense form. You’ll love the results.

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Mixed Succulents

When selected thoughtfully, and planted judiciously, a living arrangement of succulents demands little care and will last for years. The color of these containers, with the sandy, natural colors of the cast concrete and the blues of the chipped fill, bring out the colors in the plants. The strict geometry of these containers creates a subtle tension with the organic shapes of the plants themselves. Succulents enliven any space, but they work particularly well in hot, dry climates. They are also drought-tolerant plants. Consider echeverias, sedums, and other succulents when planning a mixed succulents container. They will all become even more beautiful with age, so anything you choose will give you great pleasure.

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Pansies & Violas

As much as we love pansies and violas, they’re vertically challenged. This means that if you want to give them a sense of height or elevation you will have to do this yourself with your choice of container or through the design of your container garden. Give them a lift by perching pots on benches and tables or placing them on your steps. Then leave your pansies and violas to do their true duty, which is to be beautiful and brighten their space through bold color and soft blossoms. Grouping them will create even more interest, so don’t let a single container be left on its own. Go big, go bold, and go colorful.

  • Secrets for Great Fall Pots

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Variegated Silver Grass

Planting grasses in a container is a simple way to include them in your garden while keeping them under control. This allows you to bring their bold verticality wherever you like. Grasses in containers can also add soft texture and billowing form when placed directly into a border. One of our favorites is the beautiful ‘Morning Light’ silver grass, shown here in a blue glazed pot. It lights up in the garden as sun strikes its foliage. You never have to worry about silver grass running, because it clumps, but planting it in a container creates a bold focal point for its animated stalks.

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Succulents

Succulents equal low-maintenance. For this simple-means-surprising container a vintage sorghum pot is filled with cold-hardy succulents that bloom in the fall. They are paired with flowers that attract masses of bees and need also need little water. What this means is that you’re helping the natural ecosystem while putting few additional strains on its resources—by encouraging bees you’ll be helping nature’s pollinators, but the choice of plants with few water requirements you may also allow nature to meet their needs. That’s smart container gardening. Since the container itself—a vintage sorghum pot—is also repurposed, this is a wonderful way to approach your rustic backyard back yard container garden.

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‘Mona Lavender’

Don’t confuse Plectranthus, or ‘Mona Lavender,’ for the lavender you think of when you imagine the beautiful-smelling plant that fills the fields of Provence. This gorgeous tropical nature shares its beautiful color, but is not the same thing. Use a pot of ‘Mona Lavender’ plectranthus as your container garden to add an unexpected pop of color to any outdoor space. It will brighten the shorter days of fall and add wow to your yard.

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Begonias & Dichondra

This pink ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia—a hybrid—is the perfect plant for a hanging outdoor container because it will grow to be about one to one-and-a-half feet tall and ten to twelve inches wide. Begonias will grow particularly well in containers in general. The ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia drips with flowers throughout the summer and into fall. For an even more exciting container, combine it with ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra for a splash of color against shimmering foliage. You will marvel at the dichondra’s heart-shaped leaves, and its silver-toned leaves will glisten.

  • Learn more about ‘Dragon Wing’ Begonias

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Boxwoods

Van Chaplin/Styling: Scott Martin

One of the most exciting ways to create a boxwood garden is to make subtle changes to varieties of the same plant. For this design, English boxwoods growing in the ground surround a terra-cotta pot planted with an American boxwood. When planning your boxwood garden, particularly if you plan to use containers, be sure that they will be well drained, and that they can be kept fungus-free. Also, Southern gardeners face specific challenges: Choose boxwoods that are best suited for hot and humid climates; be aware of insects that may wreak havoc on boxwoods; and check your site’s exposure before planting. Follow these simple steps and you will reap the rewards of a beautiful boxwood container garden.

  • Boxwood Basics

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Leyland Cypress

Get creative with your containers. This living gate rolls open to let you in and rolls closed for privacy. The structure starts with a galvanized horse trough filled with soil and planted with arborvitaes. A wooden brace attached to an old piano dolly on the bottom allows the container to move with little effort.

  • Tour this Budget Backyard

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Impatiens, Spider Plant, Begonias, Ferns & Ivy

Your garden is a palette for your creativity, and garden design is your paintbrush. One of the best ways to create a beautiful composition is to hang your baskets in unexpected places. This container is a medley of plants that grow in various shapes and to various heights, creating their own unique array of delights. A hook installed in a tree branch holds this basket featuring a sensational combination of plants that will work wonderfully in the shade. You’ll love the way many of them spill over the basket and drape in the wind.

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Purple Heart

Purple heart is a wonderful ground cover, but it can have a tendency to run, and become invasive. As the focus of a container it fills to a beautiful, bold color, and a lush fullness. Create opportunities for container gardening by building planters into your hardscaping any time you do a creative outdoor project. In this innovative design they have literally taken the edge off—a large, round planter filled with Purple Heart softens the corner of this wall. Let it become a feature, and let a plant like Purple Heart be its focal point.

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White Flowers & Dark Foliage

Since opposites attract, this study in contrasts is a great combination of form and function. What was formerly a blank wall becomes a work of art with the addition of a planter. White flowers and black-green foliage are dramatic, echoing the Gothic style of the planter’s decorative wrought-iron embellishments. The addition of the planter also creates another visual level for creativity to operate upon. Use this to bring in colors and tones that might otherwise be missing from your garden, or to bring in shapes and textures you’d like to repeat or reinforce. However you proceed, these stark opposites form a harmonious whole, leaving the plants to sing.

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Raised Baskets

Flowers don’t have to grow at ground level. Get face-to-face with your containers by literally putting them up on a pedestal! These columned containers consist of coco-fiber baskets atop steel posts. Eventually the plantings will grow over the containers and obscure them completely, leaving the plants to float over the steel pedestals. For this garden, sleek geometric poles provide an elegant contrast to the wild excitement of the plants, but you may choose a style of pedestal that complements whatever design aesthetic you prefer for your personal style. Simply top it with a suitable container, and enjoy the visual variation your container garden creates.

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Coriander, Rosemary, and Thyme Garden

Having fresh herbs on hand means that you can always add beautiful tastes to your home-cooked meals. You can make this simple by planting a tiny kitchen garden in a pot. Easy to create, and simple to maintain, you will love the fragrances and flavors that are contained in this one display of coriander, rosemary, and thyme. Coriander—often called cilantro—is beautiful in salads and salsas. You can choose rosemary according to your flavor preferences since there is one that is even known as ‘Chef’s Choice’. Thyme makes a delicate seasoning. Since you’ll have this all at your fingertips, plan your weekly recipes to take advantage of everything these great herbs can bring to your table.

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Pansies

If you’re not yet color confident, choose one flower you love in a favorite shade, and stick with it. For more texture and interest, add foliage that complements the color of your flowers. In the South, pansies may bloom through the fall and winter in the proper zones, so this can be a great way to bring unexpected color to your garden in your coldest season. Just because you choose a single color, this doesn’t mean you won’t experience variety—just choose strains that will flower the same color.

  • Winter Pansy Tips

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Irises & Begonias

Plant an attention grabber with a creative combination. This tall jar showcases Japanese roof irises and creeping strawberry begonias. Japanese roof irises—known as such because they were traditionally grown on the roofs of Japanese cottages—can thrive in those conditions. Begonias, which are native to tropical and subtropical regions, work well partnered with these irises. They propagate well. If you plan to use begonias in a hanging basket in your container garden, consider a trailing or climbing variety, like the hybrid ‘Potpourri.’ Dragon Wing begonias will also do well in your containers. Select your favorites, and enjoy their beauty.

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Mums, Marigolds, Peppers, & Crotons

Cluster containers in one space for high impact. Look at the group as a whole composition, and plant it as a cohesive unit with complementary and repeated colors. If you don’t feel confident with how you choose colors, think of your plants like you might think of a artist’s color wheel—or use the idea of a color chart, or the colors from the paint chips at a home improvement store, to get ideas for how you might like shades and tones to go together. Then, select your plants and your containers to create the feeling you love in the space that makes you feel comfortable.

  • Beginner’s Guide to Mums

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Tip-Top Shape

Robbie Caponetto; Produced by: Mark Thompson

Always a classic, the topiary’s proper form hails from iconic gardens, and it provides order among rambling plantings. But an evergreen topiary like this ball-form spruce is also a hard worker, going strong through fall and winter. Pair it with ‘Orange Marmalade’ firecracker flower, and it will feel at home on the porch during the changing seasons. Firecracker flower (also called crossandra) is an MVP from late August through early fall as its colorful bloom spikes continue to shine even when most other summer flowers are dying off. If your area gets a final heat wave, firecracker flower will take it in stride as long as you keep it watered. Leave the firecracker flower until the first frost, when it will die off. Then swap in tougher, cold weather-friendly blooms like mums.

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Multicolored Violas

Three truly is the charm—flowers, that is, since the third flower brings together the two prevalent colors in this fantastic container garden arrangement. Simply adding a bicolored viola to this planter is a way to create a bold sense of visual interest while keeping all of the ease of maintaining this container garden. This fantastical planter has a cast relief of a gryphon on its side, bringing a sense of history and drama to the quiet softness of the flowers themselves. When considering this approach to your garden, look for a single planter that can form the centerpiece, and then complete your design around it.

  • 15 Tips for Great Winter Pots

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Pansies

Sometimes your container garden can focus as much on its structures as it does on its plants and flowers. With creative thinking, large pots can be repurposed around your yard. This unused pot fountain was repurposed as an accent table and stand for a cheerful container planting. In a similar vein, low columns can also form pedestals for containers. Look in antique stores, salvage yards, and related locations for unexpected finds that can ground your garden with creativity and history. Then, think outside the container and create new pieces that are uniquely yours.

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Hanging Annuals

An outdoor room, like the space created under a pergola, can be a welcoming place to mix your containers. This grouping has a lush, vibrant assortment of planters and hanging pots. Combine complimentary colors and plantings to ensure you will have the feeling of a unified, welcoming space that you can settle into on a warm, sun-filled summer afternoon. Hardscaping defines a space for seating under the pergola, which well-placed containers will soften and enhance. Then, sit back and listen to the sweet chirp of birds, watch the butterflies on wing, and enjoy the fragrances from your beautiful container garden.

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Daffodils & Grape Hyacinth

Daffodils are container-friendly options for spring plantings, and they are quite literally they are some of the most-prized bulbs in the South. They naturally increase from year to year, so they can fill a container naturally. They also require minimal care. But most of all, they’re simply gorgeous—they’re available in colors including white, salmon, pink, orange, apricot, and red. Pair them with other spring bloomers with similar condition requirements such as grape hyacinth. The grape hyacinth will grow to between six inches and a foot tall, leaving the daffodils to soar above.

  • See Our Complete Daffodil Guide

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Petunias

Landscape petunias—new hybrid petunias that are well suited to growing conditions in the South—are a great choice if you would like to include these wonderful flowers in your container garden plans. All petunias need good drainage, which growing in a pot (with at least one hole in the bottom) provides. Be sure to use a cascading variety for a luxurious planting. Whether your petunias are mounding or trailing, you’ll have flowers that are dense and full and, in most places, in the South, they’ll bloom from early in the spring until late in the fall.

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Romantic Stair Step Pots

These beautiful containers can make every step up your stairs seem like the first step ever into your home.  If you choose similarly colored containers, you will let the flowers do all the talking. For this beautiful arrangement, the containers are in soft neutrals, while the blooms bring the heat. The ‘Caliente Pink’ geraniums, ‘Surfinia Rose Veined’ petunias, and ‘Techno Heat Light Blue’ lobelias create a soft and feminine color palette for this doorstep welcome. Geraniums, petunias, and lobelias will all thrive in similar conditions, so caring for this bright container garden wonder will be simple. Step up to this gorgeous arrangement today.

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Hanging Geranium Container

They say that form follows function, but in the case of nature its beautiful forms follow their own rules. The cascading form of ivy geraniums makes them ideal for hanging baskets and window boxes. This basket is filled with the ‘Sophie Cascade’ variety, which billows out over the edges, creating a rich cloud of leaves and blossoms.  Ivy geraniums are often used as a spiller plant in container gardens, giving life and movement to any arrangement. Here they are the star in their own right, bursting forth in a blaze of bright pink.

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Impatiens

Impatiens is one of the best options for flowers that can take heat and humidity, which makes them the perfect choice for container gardens in the South. Although they love the shade, as long as you keep impatiens well watered, they can manage some sun. Some hybrids like ‘New Guinea Hybrid’ will even tolerate bright light. In this design, large, low containers are filled with lush mounds of potted impatiens. Kept pinched back, your impatiens will remain full and bushy, and their blossoms can last until the first frost. Get your container garden going—you know these can’t wait!

  • Learn More About Impatiens

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Boxwood Topiaries

Get out the wire patterns and get ready to make some amazing shapes because once you have boxwood in your container garden you will want to give them their own unique identities. Boxwood’s willingness to be clipped, shaped, and trained makes it the perfect candidate for a classic topiary. There are guides for learning tips and tricks to achieve the perfect topiary design. We’ve got images of the amazing topiary skills of Pearl Fryar—and you may one day wish to emulate his creative skills—so get clipping, and with skill and patience you’ll soon have your boxwood topiaries in tip-top shape.

10 Spectacular Topiary Designs

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Red Rice

Red Dragon Rice grows tall, leafy spindles that can add touches of color to a simple container garden setting. Here, a chicken feeder planted with ‘Red Dragon’ rice makes a novel addition to this deck railing. Red dragon rice requires a high degree of moisture, and it does not tolerate cold at all, so consider this plant an annual. And while it is colorful and beautiful, it also should be planted judiciously. Red dragon rice is considered a serious weed in rice-growing areas. However, it is okay to plant it elsewhere.

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Calibrachoa

Calibrachoa looks like a miniature petunia. Forming a trailing mound, it’s perfect for pots and hanging baskets. Be careful to ensure that your calibrachoas have good drainage, because they require it—so they are better in containers than they are in garden beds. You’ll love the names of your calibrachoas too: Million Bells, Mini Famous, Cabaret, Can-Can, and the positively powerful Superbells are just a few of your choices. So whether you want to ring a ton of bells, have a little fame, do a little dance, or see a show, these are the perfect solution for your container garden.

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Coleus, Joseph’s Coat, Verbena, Fan Flower, Calibranchoa & Petunias

Unlike cut blooms, a living flower arrangement planted in a container will give you color and beauty for months. Combine plants that thrive in the same growing conditions and offer colors and textures that complement each other. These six plants do precisely that: Coleus id perfect for adding color to pots, and loves shade; fan flower, with all its segments on one side, brings a unique shape to any garden container; and Joseph’s Coat, which has been described as having ‘wonderfully gaudy foliage,’ brings color like bright fire to any arrangement it is a part of. So let these six flowers be like a sextet, and share a harmony. You’ll love the sound of their voices alone and together.

  • Dazzling Petunias

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Grasses & Succulents

Grasses and succulents have great textural contrast, so they make the perfect visual and textural combination for a container garden. Begin with something called ‘Amazon Mist’ sedge grass—which is not in fact actually a grass at all, but from a different plant family—which then combines wonderfully with creeping sedum and purple echeveria for a container planting that varies in shape, height, texture, and color. Here, the echeveria brings in tones of red, orange, as well as the purple, all of which pick up and play off of similar tones in the sedge. The succulents, low and full, also contrast the sedge’s light, airy, and wavy texture.

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Lily-of-the-Nile

Think of this as the ‘other’ Lily, meaning not the one ‘of the Valley.’ Lily-of-the-Nile performs incredibly well in a container, and can say in the same pot for years. It doesn’t mind crowded roots in the least, meaning that this plant will require less maintenance than others might. Lily-of-the-Nile can live in full sun or light shade, so you’ll have great choices for where you can locate your containers. Given their range of incredible blue shades, these look beautiful near pools. Some named types may eventually grow to be as tall as three feet.

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Mandevilla

Think of mandevilla as your favorite winding climber, and one that is perfect for the humidity and climate of the South. Mandevillas flourish in containers. The containers can even provide the foundation from which your mandevilla can begin a decorative journey across your pergola, porch, or canopy. Harking back to its tropical roots, in the right conditions mandevilla will grow ten feet a year. All the while, you’ll enjoy its beautiful blooms from spring until the first frost. Then, if it is possible, you can bring this beauty in for the winter, and have it ready to bloom and blossom again next spring. 

  • Best New Flowers for the South

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Boxwoods

Give your containers a boost. Classic pedestals—these are inspired by classical Greek architecture—raise these potted boxwoods to new heights, adding variety to the arrangement. You can choose this style of column in a range of materials. Look for versions in cast concrete, stone, or metal for the most durability, but this pedestal will also be available in primed and painted wood. The rhythm and repetition of the presence then absence of pedestals, the shared materials for the planters, and the regularity of the boxwoods add an internal harmony to the container garden’s composition. You might wish to consider these types of approaches when developing your garden design.

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Ivy, Ferns, Impatiens & Caladiums

Having a container that looks immaculate does not have to mean sourcing an antique or making an expensive purchase—although you may want to look at some of the beautiful, historical containers that remain available to the present day. If a simple approach that only looks like it cost a pretty penny is more your style, there is always a way to update your standard plastic planter. A gel stain was applied to this pot for a richer finish. It was then filled with a selection of Ivy, Ferns, Impatiens, and Caladiums, for a bold, multilevel container design that is both elegant and affordable.

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Purple Fountain Grass and Coleus

Purple fountain grass looks great in containers. Its vertical shape creates an exclamation point in the border. Then, its purplish-red leaves and fall plumes combine well with the red coleus below. This grass and the coleus are not winter hardy in most areas, but new plants bought in spring are inexpensive and grow quickly, so you can enjoy this pairing from early spring until late in the fall. You’ll have its beautiful memories to get you through any harsh winters, and the anticipation of it growing again will have you excited to be back in your garden at the first opportunity in the spring.

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Caladiums

There are three classes of caladiums—fancy leaf, strap leaf, and dwarf—and all three will work in containers. Once they are established, and their basic needs for water and fertilizer are met, they should thrive. The colorful foliage of caladiums has tons of drama. Pots containing three different caladiums add color and variety to this entry in summer. From left to right: ‘June Bride,’ ‘Pink Gem,’ and ‘Aaron’. You can probably find a wide range of caladiums at your local garden center, but if you need to find a wider selection than what may be locally available, caladiums are also available online. 

  • Caladiums 101

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Petunias

An easy way to add color in your garden is to integrate potted plantings of annuals. These containers of petunias surround a trellis of climbing vines. Some petunias are grown from seed, and some from cuttings, but all petunias have become move treasured by gardeners in the South. If you choose white petunia, its fragrance will be intoxicating, while if surfinias enhance your garden you’ll be amazed when they bloom all along their stems. Whatever your preference, petunias will beautify your back yard spaces as part of your favorite container gardens.

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White Flowers & Silver Foliage

Despite their name, window boxes needn’t be hung only below windows. This charming barn gets even more character from being accented by window box plantings. Using whites and silvers for neutrals, the homeowner then accents with bold and bright pops of color, including selections from each of the primaries: red, yellow, and blue. In fact, set against the white and silver is a great deal of yellow. As she explains it, ‘When I was studying graphic design in college, on the first day of class, my professor asked us to write down our least favorite color,’ she recalls. ‘I wrote, ‘yellow.’ So he made me use only that color for the entire semester. Now I love yellow, because I found out all the incredible things it can do to jolt the eye and bring light to shadow. Yellow works well with just about any other color. It makes you happy.’

  • Tour this Shady Backyard Retreat

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Tulips, Pansies Foxgloves, & Grasses

You won’t have to tiptoe around these fantastic plantings. Instead, you can create beautiful pathways through your container garden with these simple, architectural containers. When planning your flowerbeds, simply buy extra plants for accents. These containers were planted with flowers left over from the borders. Not only do the containers look great, but also they tie back into the colors of the adjacent walk.

One of the special plants in this arrangement is a low-growing foxglove that will give the container some height without becoming too overwhelming. It also brings a lovely purple, creating complementary colors to many of the other flowers within these containers.

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Large Succulent

Assuming you are in the right zone for this type of planting, if you don’t want to spend all of your time watering, stick with easy-care options in some of your containers. Succulents and bougainvilleas need little care in containers. You can choose succulents that will grow to create senses of scale and drama, such as agave, or aloe. Depending on your choice of succulent, some of these may grow as tall as ten feet high, so be are of their potential when planning your container garden. Then, prepare for a beautiful sight.

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Petunias, Begonias & Cypress

Stacked pots offer opportunities to layer texture and color in your plantings. If you plan to use this approach, have it in mind and prepare your structure before doing your planting. Terra cotta pots work particularly well for this application because they will allow moisture to transfer from one pot to another, meaning that when you water the upper tier you may still get some benefit below. A mixture of colorful annuals and textural foliage fills this grouping, and spills from above to below. Plan a variety of colors in each to create visual harmony and interest.

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Twinspurs, Violas and Kale

By the end of winter, people are ready for spring. March weather is unpredictable—although the weather in April can in fact be crueler—so for those cool days, try the prolific pink blooms of ‘Strawberry Sundae’ twinspurs (Diascia hybrid). Twinspur loves this weather so much it actually goes dormant in the heat of summer. Hardy violas, and kale, will contribute to making spring seem like it has definitely sprung, as each of these plants will work together to maintain their shape and color. They will keep looking great even when temperatures fluctuate.

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Succulents

Forgiving succulents are both heat and drought tolerant, so they’ll look great all summer long. There are many novel ways to plant succulent containers, particularly since they are so resilient. Terra cotta pots work particularly well since they transfer moisture well and help succulents retain water. They also share a desert color palette with succulents, making the two appear as if they were always intended to go together. You may group a variety of succulents together, or create a container for your garden filled with a single type. Whatever your choice, water carefully and selectively, and these resilient plants will reward you with a beautiful container garden.

  • Get the Planting Guide

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Evergreens

Using evergreen plants in a container means that you will always have a base that will look good for years. Once this element of your container is established, you can fill in with beautiful plants that may need more attention, but that will be easy. Choose something like a cast-iron plant, and then add in some caladiums, some impatiens, and even a creeping fig. This will give you the classics to thrill, fill, and spill. Any shade-loving combination that works well in a container can add color to an entry. If you need more structure, or balance, simply create an additional container of the same size and materials, or do a smaller one as a complement.

  • Get the Planting Guide

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Go For Gold

You’ll definitely feel the power of gold when you combine the beauty of these three containers in your garden. These bright blooms of ‘Ogon’ golden sweet flag, ‘Matrix Yellow Blotch’ pansies, and ‘Penny Clear Yellow’ violas will make your pots and flowerbeds glow. Choose containers of similar materials but varying heights to create visual interest, and then tie everything together through the use of the shared tones of your plants. You will love how bright and bold these flowers are. You can add in height by including a grass in one of the plants if you like, or mix in some filler should you wish.

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Easy to Maintain Miniature Garden

Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

When filling a show-stopping window box, don’t hesitate to use small evergreen shrubs or perennials, which last throughout the seasons. These work well in window boxes and provide sustained and consistent color. In the fall, turn to mums, kales, pansies, violas, and snapdragons for color, and then add a few daffodil or tulip bulbs for a bold burst of excitement in the spring. Be sure to include something that can spill over the edge of the window box and you’re assured of a sense of movement, and a great deal of excitement. Keep the evergreens trimmed as necessary—you’ll love how restrained they look against the bold splashes of color.

  • See a window box planting guide

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Potted English Ivy Topiaries

Combine several English ivy topiaries and a clipped lemon cypress to accent a garden table. You’ll be able to sit down, yet feel as if you are strolling through a classic parterre garden. Mix spirals, globes, columns, and lollipop shapes of varying heights—you’ll love how simple it is to help these topiaries maintain their beautiful shapes. Unify the look by planting everything in terra-cotta pots. We love the flared sides of these clean and simple pots by Campo de’ Fiori (campodefiori.com). The topiaries are by Schubert Nursery (schubertnursery.com), and should be readily available at your local garden center.

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Eat Your Greens (and Reds)

It can be salad days every day if you plan your container garden carefully. Plant colorful red and green Wildfire mix lettuces in a sunny spot near the kitchen, and you will be mixing up everything from a classic Caesar to a Nicoise to everything in between. These containers will make it easy to prepare salads with your fresh harvest. Pair this with other leafy edibles, and you can have a container garden filled with freshness right in your own back yard. This is an easy way to eat locally—you can’t get much more local than your own home, and it is hard to beat the freshness of hand-picked. Enjoy!

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Tough As Nails Perennial

Tough-as-nails perennials are great when you want plants that can endure difficult back yard conditions. Yellow acorus, lime green euphorbia, purple viola, variegated ivy, and pink Lenten rose make this container pop. If you want to be you’re your containers look their best for the longest, you will want to try a tried-and-true approach. Combine Lenten roses with these three great plants and you will achieve maximum curb appeal, with fantastic durability:

  • Hostas: Their wide leaves hide the foliage of fading bulbs.
  • Daffodils: Early-blooming types continue the show.
  • Black mondo grass: It’s dark, grassy foliage provides excellent contrast.

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Beat the Heat

Sometimes a single container can be all it takes to transform an outdoor space from dull to divine. This container, filled with ‘Baby Tut’ dwarf papyrus, elephant’s ear, ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine, and ‘Vogue Audrey’ mandevilla, is the ideal focal point or space filler in an area that receives full to partial sun. Any variety of these plants will work wonderfully well together: Just focus on color, texture, and shape to create a great arrangement in your preferred container. They will all do well together, and their beauty will beat the heat.

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Edible Garden

Surrounded by a skirt of dwarf mondo grass, this ornate planter filled with an assortment of herbs provides a striking focal point in the middle of the diverging walks. What is so wonderful about this approach is that you can select your preferred herbs to fill this container—choose ones that will grow well in similar conditions, then prepare to enjoy the tastes and aromas that just-picked, fresh from the garden herbs bring to your favorite dishes. The scale of this container contrasts beautifully with what it contains, so fill it full and let them grow. Then, pick these fresh herbs frequently, and savor every delicious bite.

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Hostas, Violas & Blue Phlox

We’re making our list of Container Gardening Ideas great with a tip that will have you thinking outside the box—or planter. Consider using a cast-concrete pool for a miniature garden. You’ve probably already considered these for many other garden design applications, but they are far better suited to container gardening than you might have imagined. Because these pools are made to accommodate plumbing, there are already holes in the bottom that allow for drainage. Make use of what seems like a fortuitous accident, and capitalize on their often-wonderful designs. Then place plants like hostas, violas, and blue phlox straight in. They’ll grow wonderfully in their new pool that’s become a smart new planter.

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Beautiful Baskets

Hanging baskets follow the same recipe as containers as far as plant care goes. But instead of an upright thriller plant, you want more spillers and fillers—an upright thriller obviously won’t work as well. Calibrachoa in red, purple, and yellow can fill out fast with blooms that look like miniature petunias, so it makes a container overflow with interest quickly. It also covers the container, making the flowers, rather than the container itself, the center of attention. Consider planting calibrachoas by color, or mix them together, depending on your design plan and personal preference. Either way, your hanging baskets with be eye-grabbers.

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All Fired Up

Take glorious fall color right up to your door by mixing the blazing tones of orange and yellow with cool shades of purple and blue. First, encircle a copper container with a bittersweet wreath (fresh or faux). To contrast with the orange berries, add ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum and the regal hues of purple cabbage. Spice up the center with ‘Calypso Orange’ ornamental peppers and ‘Cosmic Yellow’ cosmos. Crown the look with a halo of Mexican bush sage. Stack pumpkins on the steps for additional color. Provide full sun and moderate water and the display will flourish through the fall. When it’s done, just plant the sedum in your yard to continue the show.

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Poinsettia Tree Container

Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson, Laurey W. Glenn

To create a poinsettia tree, follow these instructions: First, cut the larger blooms, leaving about 6 inches of stem. Sear them quickly to stop sap from dripping out. Sap should bubble under the candle flame, and the ends of the stems will turn black. You may also need to sear the points where larger leaves were removed along the stems. Insert each seared stem into a water-filled florist tube. Stems are hollow and will absorb water after being seared. Place the stems into the base of the ivy topiary. Then repeat this process with the medium-size and smaller poinsettia blooms, cutting the stems so they’re about 4 inches long. Insert blossoms into the topiary, working your way toward the top. Once it’s complete, care is simple—just add water to the tubes every few days, as needed.

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Fire Up Fall with Color

Go-to grasses and can’t-fail lantanas mark the advent of a bright new season. And the coming of fall doesn’t mean the end of container garden beauty. It simply means you have to pay new attention to what needs to be planted—and where. Consider moving your planters indoors; consider plants like fountain grass, which is sun-loving and forgiving; and add in some lantanas, or some sweet potato vines, for color, thrill, and excitement. Focus on your fall containers too. Use bright pops of color, particularly if you plan to bring your containers inside. Or, use a clean neutral, like black, or white, and let the flowers and foliage truly shine. 

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