Container Garden Ideas for Any Household
Tiny Winter Forest
Plant, water, enjoy: easy-to-create container gardens to brighten every corner of your yard from spring to fall. Create a winter forest in miniature to enjoy all year long by potting low-maintenance dwarf conifers.
Creating a container water garden is one of many cool ways to beat the summer heat. These plants need sun, but they don't require soil because they get their nutrients from water.
Wild colors are perfect for summer, so don't shy away from tropical annuals in bold, contrasting tones. This moss-lined hanging basket is planted with tuberous begonia, heliotrope 'Mini-Marine,' streptocarpus, coleus 'Golden Wizard,' and lobelia 'Blue Cascade,' with some trailing ivy thrown in for good measure. Plantings like this one are best with a foliage plant or two to help carry the combination through hot periods, when flowering plants may take a rest.
Well-planned window boxes will be dense with foliage even when flowers are scarce. Perennials heuchera 'Amber Waves' and 'Plum Pudding' blossom in late spring, but their leaves are hardy even past the first frost. The finely cut foliage of chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Pink' adds texture until it's overshadowed by a fall showing of dainty salmon-colored petals. Because the display is anchored around the lush greenery of cryptomeria 'Compressa' and dark-purple barberry 'Bagatelle' -- an evergreen and a semi-evergreen, respectively -- blooms are an added bonus.
Lush and Low Maintenance
Succulents are striking, but many are small and low-growing, making them hard to appreciate when planted in the ground. Planting a mix of hardy hens and chicks (Sempervivum sp.) in a hanging sphere allows you to enjoy them in a new way. Work from a wire form with soil, then press individual plants into holes no deeper than their roots. Hang it securely (it will be heavy) in a place where the spiky silhouettes and varied textures and colors can be enjoyed up close. As new offsets form, they should be pinned to the surface with a bent paper clip or hairpin to preserve the tight, compact profile.
Hint of Citrus
Perfect for balmy climates but easy to move indoors in colder ones, this handsome container garden brings a touch of the Mediterranean to any sunny spot. The kumquat 'Nagami,' with glossy, dark-green leaves and fragrant flowers, is especially ornamental when bearing fruit. The aromatic underplanting of lavender and rosemary contributes texture, color, and visual balance, and these plants only grow vertically, so there's no obscuring the decorative band that circles the pot.
Made for the Shade
Overflowing pots (and a friendly dog) will welcome visitors to a covered porch. The space has been turned into a traditional shade garden, albeit one that can be rearranged on a whim. Shade border stalwarts like silvery Japanese painted fern, hosta 'Krossa Regal,' leather wood fern, heuchera 'Autumn Bride,' and foamflower 'Black Velvet' are planted in low terra-cotta pots; the first fern also appears in the hanging basket. These plantings won't need much more than water, grooming, and a periodic check for slugs. Unlike beds, they can be maintained while you sit on the porch, saving your knees and back.
This garden, 19 stories above a New York City street, would also be at home on a suburban deck or patio. It has all the trappings of its more earthbound relatives: formal, architectural elements (a pair of juniper 'Skyrocket'), fine-textured shrubs (hakuro nishiki willow and variegated redtwig dogwood), a big fountain of four maiden grass 'Morning Light,' and a generous sprinkling of annuals and perennials. The combination of evergreen and deciduous, woody and herbaceous plants provides year-round interest and structure.
Shady spaces are always inviting on sunny summer days, especially when they feel like hideaways. To bring the garden inside this pergola, two same-size spherical baskets are hung at different heights; soft cushions on the bench below invite passersby to stop and rest. The whites of dusty miller, helichrysum, and ivy geranium 'White Nicole' brighten the shady corners and stand in contrast to the varied pinks and purples of nierembergia 'Purple Robe' and ivy geranium 'Blue Beard.'
Graceful plantings add color and whimsy to this home's dramatic entrance without detracting from its rich details. A hanging basket suspended from a spare but elegant bracket softens the strong lines of the doorway. Fine-textured plants, such as climbing snapdragon 'Victoria Falls,' white wild petunia, and moss verbena, spill from the basket, making the container all but invisible. The pink verbenas and the deep-purple climbing snapdragons intermingle with the white petunias to visually wed the door, the house, and the basket.
Made of tropical foliage plants typically grown indoors, this spherical beauty includes moon valley pilea, begonias, pothos vine, staghorn fern, a variety of other ferns, and philodendron. The effect is complex but easy to re-create. Simply choose a variety of textures and colors, and densely plant them in a steel-ball form. Offset the expense by taking the ball apart before frost, potting up the plants, and enjoying them indoors through winter.
Charming Fern Container
Old-fashioned enamel milk pails, available at flea markets and farm-supply stores, have a rustic charm. Place sword ferns (Nephrolepis obliterata 'Kimberly Queen') or similar plants in 10-inch pots inside large buckets (left); consider ferns in four- to eight-inch pots for smaller pails. If the bucket is too deep, put an upturned plastic pot inside, and stand the plant on top. Remove plant to water.
A selection of three plants makes for just the right amount of variety; the arrangement feels balanced without being uniform or overly formal.
Easy-to-grow coleus, fuchsia, and moneywort create a rich palette in an attractive bronze-colored base. Religious Radish Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Religious Radish'); Coralle Fuchsia (Fuchsia 'Coralle'); Golden Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia Aurea)
Tropical plants shoot orange and blue flares, framed by pale-green ferns and an understated pot. Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata 'Kimberly Queen'); Amethyst Flower (Browallia Americana); Bonfire Begonia (Begonia 'Bonfire')
A wooden window box anchors this planting without detracting from the delicate leaves and flowers. Aaron Caladium (Caladium 'Aaron'); Diamond Frost Euphorbia (Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Diamond Frost'); Wishbone Flower (Torenia Summer Wave Blue)
Instead of the usual sphagnum moss or coconut fiber, line a hanging planter with canna or hosta leaves. Choose large, thick leaves from your garden or florist, and overlap them a few times to create a supportive base. Plant cascading annuals, such as these sun-loving Calibrachoa, and enjoy the sight of them brimming out of a better-looking basket. Though the leaves will eventually brown, they will become obstructed from view as the colorful annuals trail toward the ground.
A Touch of Texture
Textural contrast adds life to this mostly monochromatic display, showing off shades of copper. Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana 'Haleakala'); Toffee Twist Sedge (Carex flagellifera 'Toffee Twist'); Sweet Caroline Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze')
Bold and Beautiful
All curves, spikes, and colors, this arrangement is set off perfectly by a traditional pot. Red Sensation Cordyline (Cordyline Australis 'Red Sensation'); Zinfandel Oxalis (Oxalis Vulcanicola 'Zinfandel'); Vancouver Centennial Geranium (Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial')
Steel utility boxes from the hardware store make sleek, modern pots. Choose a range of shapes and sizes. Turn so that the side with holes is at the bottom, and plant with low-growing succulents, such as Echeveria 'Black Prince' (left) and Sempervivum; top with gravel. (We used No. 2 grade grit.) For an exotic centerpiece, arrange several in a tray filled with grit.
Tower of Herbs
Don't miss out on fresh herbs (or pay a lot for them at the market) just because you don't have a big yard. Situate this compact herb garden in a sunny spot near the kitchen door for easy snipping.
Silver-edged fleeceflower and silver-white trailing dichondra are set off by dark-green flax and an unobtrusive textured gray pot. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax); Red Dragon Fleeceflower (Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'); Silver Falls Dichondra (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls')
Martha's Back Porch Container Plants
Houseplants brighten interiors during the cold months and add leafy green elegance to a porch or patio in summer. Here are Martha's suggestions for beautiful porch containers.