Container Gardens with Pizzazz
Horticulturist Gail Estka considers containers an art form in her Illinois yard. See how she creates drama with tropical plants and trees as well as texture, foliage and color schemes.
A welcoming committee of colorful blossoms and foliage flanks a side door. Pots brim with spineless yucca, croton, ageratum, marigolds and coleus; a hanging basket spills over with verbena 'Bright Eyes' and Wave petunias.
Metal orbs give air plants (bromeliads) an unexpected lift.
Containers make 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.
Contain aggressive spreaders like creeping Jenny in pots and hanging baskets where the foliage adds lushness but is kept in bounds.
Grouped containers create a privacy screen for al fresco dining.
Related: Ideas to Dress Up Your Deck
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.
Trees add vertical interest to container gardens; here evergreen podocarpus teams with vinca and petunias. You can over-winter some trees, but often it's cheaper to pot a tree—even if it survives only one season—than to fill a container with annuals.
Moss rose and corkscrew grass make for a whimsical updo.
Related: Creative Ideas for Container Gardens
Green, yellow and blue create a soothing color scheme in this garden urn. Calla lily, coleus and duranta offer vertical interest; ageratum, lobelia and lantana fill the middle ground; and trailing creeping Jenny drapes down like Rapunzel's locks to steal the show.
Bamboo palm underplanted with calibrochoa helps create upward movement and visual interest.
Clever and Carefree
Tuck a mix of succulents and moss into a trug on the patio table and water once a week.
Related: Easy Succulent Container Gardens
Tap into Texture
The fleshy blue-green trailing stems of burro's tail provide enough visual interest to stand alone in a small- or medium-size container. This succulent perennial offers pink to red flowers in summer.
Versatile containers can easily be worked into a larger landscape to create a focal point or fill in a blank spot. Here, a glazed blue urn filled with petunias, coleus and lantana brightens up a corner of the garden.
Related: Easy Annual Flowers That Deliver Color All Summer Long
Using just one plant in a container creates an uncluttered look that lets that specimen shine. The densely mounded form of this 'Dragon Wing' begonia easily fills a 10-inch hanging basket and blooms continuously from May until frost. This shade-lover tolerates heat, especially if given sufficient water.