30 Beautiful Container Gardens | Midwest Living

30 Beautiful Container Gardens

Fast, fabulous and fun, container gardens add zing to any deck, patio or yard. Check out our ideas for pretty plant combinations just right for the Midwest.

Hanging around

Short on space? Planters hung from rafters, arbors, eaves or even trees draw eyes up and inject color to your landscape. Here, baskets filled with impatiens hang from a spreading tree.

Splashes of color

This bright and fresh combo exudes charm. Echeveria 'Perle Von Nurnberg' pops in its surrounding of the lime-green Plectranthus 'Limelight'. And purple petunias and pink blossoms crown the arrangement with a touch of sweetness.

Go grassy

Containers with ornamental grasses provide easy-care drama. For greater impact, combine different textures, heights, colors and plumes. These tough plants will still look great at the end of the season. In containers such as this one, the flowers hide the base of the grass and can be switched out as blooms fade.

How to Use Ornamental Grasses in Midwest Gardens

Hanging around

Short on space? Planters hung from rafters, arbors, eaves or even trees draw eyes up and inject color to your landscape. Here, baskets filled with impatiens hang from a spreading tree.

Made for shade

Give shady areas of your yard bursts of color and texture. This shady container may not need watering as often as your sun pots. Feel the soil or use a monitor before you water so you don't drown the roots. Water should not stand inside the container. Our pot uses:

-- Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')
-- Begonia 'NonStop Pink'
-- Fuchsia spp.
-- Caladium bicolor
-- Slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum callosum)
-- Bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.)
-- Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
-- Elephant's ears (Bergenia spp.)
-- Labrador violet (Viola labradorica)
-- Bird's-foot violet (Viola pedata)

Video: How to plant a cottage garden in a pot

A colorful cottage garden in a big container will thrive throughout the summer. Plant a pot with some of our favorite flowers and herbs, or simply use what’s available in your garden.

Attractive trio

Goat’s beard, sweet potato vine ‘Sweetheart Purple’ and Superbells ‘Lemon’ combine for a pretty grouping in a vintage container.

Instant vacation

Flowers provide an instant vacation feel to any setting. Put out pretty containers in your backyard seating areas and grow flowering, fragrant favorites. The container pictured at left has pink begonias, red impatiens, gold-leaf fuchsia and English ivy.

Sunshine garden

Add drama to your yard with plants that happily bask in the sun. Give these plants at least six hours of sunlight every day. Use curly willow twigs or a small, decorative trellis to support the mandevilla. Plant list:

-- Vinca vine (Vinca spp.)
-- Water hyssop (Bacopa caroliniana)
-- Annual phlox (Phlox drummondii '21st Century White')
-- Daisy (Leucanthemum spp.)
-- New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens 'Pure Beauty Purple')
-- Bellflower (Campanula 'Birch Hybrid')
-- White monkey flower (Mimulus spp.)
-- Lobelia erinus 'Rosamund'
-- Phlox (Phlox spp.)
-- Gerbera daisy
-- Mandevilla spp. vine (one pink and one white)
-- Delphinium elatum 'Magic Fountain'
-- Dusty miller (Centaurea cineraria 'Silver Dust')
-- Salvia x sylvestris 'Blue Queen'
-- Morning glory vine (Convolvulus spp.)

Color on wheels

We planted this sunny collection of annuals in a child's wagon, but any rectangular planter with similar dimensions will work. Tuck extra bedding plants into fun containers, such as brightly colored beach pails. Be sure to drill a hole in the bottom to allow good drainage. Our wagon includes:

-- Horned violet (Viola cornuta 'Sorbet Plum Velvet')
-- French dwarf marigold (Tagetes 'Bonanza Orange')
-- Lobelia erinus 'Riviera Midnight Blue'
-- Variegated Swedish ivy (Plectranthus coleoides 'Variegatus')
-- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus 'Big Smile')
-- Floss flower (Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Danube')
-- Petunia milliflora 'Fantasy Red'

Bright shade-loving annuals

This container garden features a bold palette of red and chartreuse —  “thrillers, fillers and spillers."

• ‘Garden Meister’ fuchsia (thriller)

• Fancy-leaf coleus (filler)

• ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine, yellow calibrachoa and variegated potato vine (spillers)

Fantastic foliage

Texture and color combine to create a forget-about-flowers mix that thrives in full sun. Contrast the fine ‘Sky Rocket’ fountaingrass with the bold, burgundy leaves of Big Red Judy coleus. Trailing over the edge are velvety ‘Atomic Snowflake’ scented geranium (left) and creeping thyme (right). 

Petite presence

When you've got a small plant, using it in a tabletop container lets you bring it to eye level where it can be better appreciated. Here, hyacinths take the spotlight. Placing them up close means you can appreciate their fragrance better, too.

Up high

Gardeners often overlook vertical space. Use freestanding or hanging containers to give your garden three-dimensional color. In this container: 'Ramblin' Violet' Wave petunia, strawflower (Bracteantha bracteata), and 'Cuzco Yellow' creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens).

Vibrant color

Balance zingy chartreuse or lime-green foliage with pink, orange or purple blooms. Magenta Petchoa SuperCal ‘Neon Rose’ and coral/orange Petchoa SuperCal ‘Terra Cotta’ pop against the chartreuse leaves of Wasabi coleus. This full-sun mix will look good all summer long.

All in a row

Unify your landscaping by repeating color and shape with similar or identical containers. This technique is especially effective along a path or on a long wall such as the one at left. The containers hold a purple-leaf coleus and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia 'Goldilocks').

Vines so fine

Vines can give your container garden height, shape and visual interest. Here, a Spanish flag twines upward to add the finishing touch in a colorful planting:

-- Zinnia haageana 'Persian Carpet'
-- Petunia 'Ultra Blue'
-- Coleus (Solenostemon 'Alabama Sunrise')
-- Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata)
-- Vinca 'Illumination'

Good companions

Container designs should have plants with the same sun, soil and water requirements. Good companions include a variety of sedums and other succulents. The larger container at left features 'Bon Bon' (Sedum reflexum) for height with 'Angelina' (Sedum rupestre) and hens and chicks (Sempervivum) to fill. More 'Angelina' is in a companion pot.

Hang ups

Contain aggressive spreaders like creeping Jenny in pots and hanging baskets where the foliage adds lushness but is kept in bounds. 

Vintage charm

Update the relaxed, cheerful look of a vintage container with rambling plants in a pretty pink, ivory and green palette:

-- Verbena Aztec Light Pink
-- Transvaal daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
-- Geranium (Pelargonium hybrids)
-- Periwinkle (Vinca major 'Wojo's Gem')
-- Mini petunia (Supertunia Lemon Plume)

Sitting pretty

A long planter chock-full of flowers and foliage substitutes for a window box on a porch railing. ‘Goldilocks’ creeping Jenny, ‘Burlesque’ pigeon berry, Madagascar dragon tree, calibrochoa and coleus create a lush mix of upright and trailing plants.

Earthy impact

Create color harmony with soft yellow, deep red and rosy hues for a warm, organic feel. Partnered in a shallow pot, these plants are just right for tabletop pizzazz:

-- Wizard Sun coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
-- Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana)
-- Kong Mosaic coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
-- 'Swizzle Cherry and Ivory' zinnia
-- 'Yellow Madness' petunia

Tall accent

For extra drama in a pot, use plants of varying heights. The spiky, red leaves of Cordyline ‘Crimson Star’ rise above the star-shape flowers of ‘Graffiti Violet’ geranium. Supertunia Watermelon Charm gracefully spills over the edge. This arrangement does well in full sun.

Informal summer planting

Trailing vines, willow branches, creeping myrtle and fountaingrass give a relaxed, flowing feel to this container garden, created in a 24-inch galvanized-metal tub. For a more formal summer planting, see the next slide.

Here's what we used:

-- Three 8-inch pots of fountaingrass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Autumn Light')
-- Two 8-inch pots of sweet potato vine (lpomoea batatas)
-- 12 willow (Salix spp.) branches
-- Three 6-inch pots of marigolds (Tagetes spp.)
-- One 8-inch pot of creeping myrtle (Vinca minor 'Variegata')

Formal beauty in an urn

For a more formal summer look than the previous slide, we created a planting in a 36-inch-diameter iron urn:

-- One 8-inch pot of maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus')
-- Two 4-inch pots of miniature roses (Rosa spp.)
-- Three 4-inch pots of Ficus nitida
-- 24 pussy willow (Salix discolor) branches
-- Two 6-inch pots of aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei)

Easy-care succulents

Succulents are a snap to grow and need almost no care. Most succulents prefer full sun, well-drained soil and good air circulation. Use a potting mix designed specifically for succulents or cacti. Water potted succulents regularly during the growing season, but don't overwater. Always water the plants at their base instead of overhead. Feed succulents monthly with a balanced plant food.

Both containers in the photo hold Echeveria spp.; the one in the front also has cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum) trailing over the side.

Multiple choice

This succulent planting combines Echeveria spp. with various types of hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) in a sleek black metal container. You can choose from more than 40 species of hens-and-chicks to vary your look. A few smooth stones between plants give this combination a rocky, organic effect.

Ruffles and flourishes

Mix spiky Dracaena with puckery coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), coralbells (Heuchera spp.), flouncy pansy blossoms (Viola spp.) and geranium leaves (Pelargonium spp.) to create a lush, springtime combination.

Backyard jungle

Surround a burgundy paddle-leaf canna with low-growing, white-striped dwarf bamboo (Sasa masumuneana) to make a stunning foliage-focused container. Planting this bamboo in a pot will discourage rampant spreading.

Exotic alliance

Pair a tropical bulb--large-leaf imperial taro (Colocasia esculenta 'Illustris')--with scarlet plume (Euphorbia fulgens) in a 30-inch container. The result: An amazing addition to your landscape, so big it could even be used to divide sections of an outdoor room.

Air time

Metal orbs give air plants (bromeliads) an unexpected lift.

More on container gardens

Click the links below for more container garden inspirations.

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