Container Gardens Just Right For the Midwest
Fast, fabulous and fun, container gardens add zing to any deck, patio or yard. Check out our ideas for pretty plant combinations that will thrive in the Midwest.
Four containers make a bold welcome in front of an Ohio home. Plants include Canna 'Australis', reddish orange New Guinea impatiens, purple petunia, Ipomea, angelonia, cleome, colus, Scaevola, lantana, kangaroo paws, Algerian ivy and croton.
Bring life to your patio with container gardens of terra-cotta pots and purple hues. This plant includes Areca Palm, Rex Begonia, caladium, purple shamrock and variegated ivy. Read more about this container.
An Iowa homeowner alternately stacked two sizes of circular pavers to create a sculptural plant stand for a cheerful yellow container. "By bringing the pot closer to eye level," he explains, "you can better appreciate the succulents' details."
Related: Easy Succulent Container Gardens
Water gardens are surprisingly easy to create—and such a peaceful addition to your yard. Here, tall plants (elephant ear and dwarf papyrus) contrast with low-growing water lilies and water lettuce in a ceramic planter.
Resin Hanging Baskets
A cross between UFOs and spinning tops, resin hanging baskets like these from Urbilis hover like a garden chandelier. They're filled with 'Inky Fingers' coleus and 'Angelina' sedum.
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.
A granite remnant elevates and unifies a collection of pots on this side table. (Stone suppliers often discount the small pieces left over from cutting countertops.) Choose one large plant—in this case, the swooping spruce—as a focal point, then surround it with smaller plants that also have intriguing silhouettes. From left: Japanese holly, aloe, 'Skylands' oriental spruce and agave.
Ten manhole risers from a local concrete pipe company create an unusual twist to the typical raised bed. The homeowner rolled the 2x36-inch rings into place and stacked them five-high (no mortar required). The beds hold tomatoes, kale, peppers, sorrel, basil and parsley. In winter, you can fill the bare spots with castaway Christmas trees.
Related: Enjoy a Vegetable Container Garden
A colorful miniature cottage garden in a container will thrive throughout the summer. Our step-by-step instructions show how to create this container.
Containers are ideal hosts for specimens that you normally wouldn't plant in a Midwest garden, such as this tropical blood banana paired with trailing geraniums and scaevola.
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.
Basket of Fresh Flavors
A fresh garnish of parsley, dill and thyme waits just outside the door in this pair of purple basket planters. Lavender blooms of Serena Mixture angelonia complement the basket color. You can purchase a colored basket or paint and plant your own.
Follow this three-part plan for lush containers. Begin with a "thriller," an upright star player such as this calla lily. Next, add in one or two complementary "fillers," which can include foliage or flowering plants like lantana and geraniums. Finish with a "spiller"—in this case livingstone daisy 'Mezoo Trailing Red'—that cascades over the edge.
Related: Container Gardens With Pizzazz
Basic geometric forms become affordable building blocks to a stylish landscape. Here, concrete and granite orbs (and even bowling balls) echo rounded plants such as ornamental kales and coleus topiaries. Big-leaf tropical plants like elephant's ear cut a striking figure in a large, bright ceramic pot. The homeowner didn't want to close off the property with a traditional privacy fence, so he assembled planks and posts into a few rectangular screens and strategically placed them by his side yard and back dining area.
Pedestal Dish Moss Garden
Dicranum scoparium, Dicranum scoparium with saprophytes and Plagiomnium cuspidatum mosses make their home in this pedestal dish alongside dwarf mondograss (Ophiopogon japonicus) and striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata). See how to create your own moss dish garden.
Instead of a solo elephant ear (Alocasia 'Serendipity') in the center of the pot, plant two and move them to the sides, then add tall purple verbena, coleus and fishtail palm for a stunning arrangement.
Related: Container Garden Inspiration From a Top Chicago Designer
A teal container at an Ohio home showcases bird of paradise, lantana, angelonia, Euphorbia corolatta, coleus, Mexican flame flower, pink salvia, heliotrope and Phygelius.
Ohio garden designer Kevin Reiner likes to plant some containers with single species, such as warm green honeysuckle, to help them stand out. But he also teams his go-to pink impatiens with green trailers for contrast. Kevin likes the visual impact of large, ornate and unusually shaped containers.
A Chinese fan palm spreads above 'Alligator tears' coleus, 'Marguerite' sweet potato vine, angel-wing begonia and orange New Guinea impatiens.
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).
Bright Shade-Loving Annuals
This container garden features a bold palette of red and chartreuse—the classic combo of "thrillers, fillers and spillers."
* 'Garden Meister' fuchsia (thriller)
* Fancy-leaf coleus (filler)
* 'Marguerite' sweet potato vine, yellow calibrachoa and variegated potato vine (spillers)
Goat's beard, sweet potato vine 'Sweetheart Purple' and Superbells 'Lemon' combine for a pretty grouping in a vintage container.
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).
Vibrant Color in a Full-Sun Mix
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.
Splashes of Color
This bright and fresh combo exudes charm. Echeveria 'Perle Von Nurnberg' pops in its surrounding of the lime-green Plectranthus 'Limelight'. Purple petunias and pink blossoms crown the arrangement with a touch of sweetness.
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 pictured. The containers hold a purple-leaf coleus and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia 'Goldilocks').
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.
Build drama into your garden scene by elevating container gardens on pedestals. This elevated urn contains Fuchsia 'Gardenmeister Bonstedt', Euphorbia corollata and golden creeping Jenny.
Contrasting colors create eye-catching appeal. Here, Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac stands alone in a pot of contrasting color.
Sometimes one plant is all you need for a striking container garden. Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop' carries off solo style with ease.
Different textures of plants—fluffy, smooth, shiny, ruffled—add interest to your container garden. This container features white mandevilla, coleus, lantana, white penta, angelonia and variegated ivy.
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.
Wooden ladder planters with zinc troughs provide an easy way to achieve vertical gardening in small spaces such as patios. These troughs hold varieties that can handle partial shade: pink and white wax begonias, 'Wasabi' coleus, Pentas 'Butterfly Deep Rose' and 'Pink Crystals' ruby grass.
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. 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')
Both containers pictured hold Echeveria spp.; the one in the front also has cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum) trailing over the side.
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.
Stylish dark plants add drama to container gardens. This container combines Canna 'Australis', verbena, sweet potato vine, 'Midnight Lace', angelonia and Scaevola.
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)
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.
For a formal summer look, 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)
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)