Beautiful container plantings for your deck, entryway, or yard
Start with the plants, then pick a container that will extend the color theme. Here, a 16-inch-wide olive green pot makes
the brighter foliage pop.
More: Wine punch container garden
This mix of (counter-clockwise, from top left) Kangaroo paws, Echeveria ‘Afterglow’, Adenanthos cuneatus ‘Coral Drift’, and Sedum reflexum provides a daring blend of textures. Container: $40; Home Depot (homedepot.com for stores)
A Chamaerops humilis palm (top left) and a ‘Frosted Curls’ carex (center) add texture to Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ (bottom left) and Goodenia affinis ‘Little Luna’ (bottom right). Container: $60; Pottery & Beyond (potsby.com)
Calandiva Goldengirl Yellow kalanchoe (bottom left) pops between ‘Silver Shadow’ astelia (right) and Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ (top left). Container: $40; Target (target.com for stores)
Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ (center) takes center stage against ‘Silver Shadow’ astelia (top), ‘Black Adder’ phormium (right), and Plectranthus ‘Mike’s Fuzzy Wuzzy’ (left). Container: $60; Pottery & Beyond (potsby.com)
Plum-colored foliage is a rich accent against soft greens in these easy-care containers. Arrange taller plants in the center or back, trailers near the pot’s edges. For immediate effect, choose large plants and
big pots (shown above left: 10 in. across, 14 in. tall; right: 16 by 18 in.). Start smaller for a less pricey combination.
Design: Daniel Nolan, Flora Grubb Gardens (floragrubb.com)
Grow them: Pick pots with ample drain holes and use fast-draining potting soil. Set in full sun. Water well, then only when top several inches of soil are dry.
Container at left (clockwise, from bottom left corner of pot): Aloe humilis (6 in.); Phormium ‘Guardsman’ (5 gal.); Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ (5 gal.); Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (1 gal.); Echeveria pulvinata (4 in.); Aeonium leucoblepharum (6 in.).
Container at right (clockwise, from bottom center of pot): Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (1 gal.); Sedum adolphii (4 in.); Coprosma ‘Evening Glow’ (1 gal.); Chondopetalum tectorum (1 gal.); Echeveria ‘Coral Glow’ (6 in.); Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ (6 in.); Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ (1 gal.).
Deep bronze, burgundy, and plum shades mimic the colors of autumn right on your porch.
More: Cocoa fall plant containers
Orange-striped blades of grass, apricot-tinged leaves with purple undersides, and matching gold containers make for autumn-inspired
More: Harvest gold fall containers
Splash of white
For a hint of spring on your patio, arrange several plants in a wide, low planter as you would in a garden bed ― layer by layer. Include pockets of green (grasses or ferns), bursts of color, and a soft carpet base (such as Irish moss).
In this garden pot: feverfew, ranunculus, licorice plant, Johnny-jump-up, blue star creeper, bacopa, and primula obconica
Like a canvas waiting for paint, an empty garden planter can become anything you desire: a meditation in violet, a carnival
of oranges and limes, or a quiet study of leaf shapes and textures.
Here, Seattle container designer Marsha Davis-Thomsen used Purple fountain grass, Zinnia 'Profusion Orange', Pelargonium 'Tango Violet',variegated English ivy (Hedera helix 'Gold Ripple'), Calibrachoa 'Liricashower Blue', and Acorus gramineus.
More: See the planting plan
Designer Kirstin Erchinger of Santa Fe is a horticulturalist with a floral-design background. She starts with a plant she
falls in love with, then selects companions that flatter it, not compete with it.
She filled this 24-inch pot with Hibiscus 'Maple Sugar', Agastache 'Sunset', Nassella tenuissima, Lantana 'Landmark Flame', and Petunia 'Suncatcher Saphhire'.
Container designer Mark Bartos likes to create maximum impact with a minimum number of plants. "Because this container was
so narrow, everythying in it had to be [visually] strong," he says.
The galvanaized metal container, 16 inches wide by 28 inches tall, is from Ikea (about $18). Bartos raised it on a stack of concrete pavers.
The plants: Adenanthos sericea, Sedum morganianum, rattail cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis).
Designer Bartos created these planters to fit a ranch-style home with a bit of art deco thrown in.
They're simple and contemporary; they're large and have strong architectural shapes. Bartos prefers big pots ― 24-inch-diameter minimum. You need that scale to create drama.
Each pot contains Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Marjorie Channon', cotoneaster, red 'Dragon's Blood' sedum, and chartreuse juniper.
Try a modern take on traditional hanging baskets with a wall of these Woolly Pockets. Since they're lined with moisture barriers,
you don't have to worry about any leaking.
More: How to make a hanging plant display
With copper-tipped Echeveria subrigada ‘Fire and Ice’ (center) playing off rich chocolate Aeonium arborescens ‘Tip Top’ (left)
and cascading Sedum rupestre ‘Blue Spruce’ (right), this pot of sculptural succulents creates a dramatic focal point, yet
takes just moments to pull together.
How to plant this succulent pot:
Buy the plants in 4-inch pots. Transplant them into a container, with drainage holes, that’s partially filled with potting mix. (The oval stone planter pictured is 7 inches wide, 14 inches long, and 6 inches deep.)
Care for these easily maintained container gardens by providing a sunny or partly sunny location and watering when the soil gets dry. They’ll fill in fast. — Julie Chai
Containers don't have to sit on the ground. Here, cuttings of assorted succulents knit together to create colorful, textural
living tapestries for a garden or entry wall.
More: See how to make a vertical succulent garden
Potted bamboos and maples dress the gravel-covered patio inspired by the architecture of Japan.
More: See this Sunset reader's Japanese-inspired garden
When speckled with blooms, Copia 'Gulliver's White' bacopa looks especially cheerful in 5-inch-wide, glossy green pots.
If you yearn for the beach but live miles inland, you can re-create the look easily in a pot.
Just one plant went into each of these white ceramic ‘Cylinder’ containers, from Gainey Ceramics.
A single plant with a bold, sculptural shape is easier on the eye than a mixed planting. And a white pot allows it to shine.
You don’t have to buy large, expensive specimens―smaller agaves, ferns, other other plants suitable to your area will work this way, too.
Nasturtiums are carefree creepers with a range of flower colors.
Dwarf kinds form loose mounds about 10 to 15 inches tall ― suitable for hanging baskets, patio containers, and low borders.
More: Our favorite nasturtiums
Soft textures and bright chartreuse tones light up bronze-colored 17-inch-wide containers.
Restio multiflorus: A wispy, grasslike plant that grows 3 to 4 feet tall or more, it develops brown seed heads that hang on through winter.
Libertia peregrinans: Stiff, narrow leaves have warm tones of olive and orange; plants reach 2 feet tall.
Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae: This spreading foot-tall plant has rounded grass green leaves.
Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold': Feathery green-gold foliage glows in soft autumn light. Plants reach 1½ feet tall.
A cluster of pots gathers on center stage.
Left pot: Aeoniums flank a dwarf mugho pine, with Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' and 'Silver Dragon' liriope behind.
Center pot: dwarf Alberta spruce and 'Burgundy Lace' ajuga.
Right pot: silvery Artemisia' Powis Castle', 'Moe's Gold' helichrysum, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Glacier', Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball', and black mondo grass.
Dwarf lavenders, which stay under 2 feet tall, are compact alternatives to the common varieties that can grow to 4 feet or
taller. They're particularly suitable for small beds, border edgings, even containers.
More: 12 small lavenders
Freshen your landscape’s look practically instantly: Just combine crisp white blossoms with a shower of icy blue or silver
foliage in a glazed aqua-colored container.
Here frosty blue Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls' cascades over the lip of an aqua pot, while blue oat grass fans out between a pair of angelonias and conceals a mealycup sage directly behind it.
More: See how to plant this container garden
This two-tiered container garden holds a selection of basic herbs. Trailers and fillers ― chives, rosemary, and thyme ― tumble over the edges of the bottom pot (about 24 inches wide).
Dwarf purple and sweet basils grow in the top pot (about 16 inches wide) with thyme filling in around the edges. To keep potted herbs healthy fertilize and water them regularly.
More: 18 easy herb recipes
Unwanted light fixtures (and other vessels) can become plant vessels with a contemporary edge.
Be sure your object can sit upright (flat bottom). Because there’s no drainage hole, we recommend using plants that don’t demand much water.
No such containers around your house? Try salvage yards for your own vessel to repurpose.
Small-leafed plants share a 30-inch-wide concrete bowl.
Silvery Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' fills the center while purple fountain grass hens and chickens a silver-leafed hebe and 'Teenie Genie' a slow-growing dwarf Syzygium (also sold as Eugenia) grow around it.
Even if you don't have much sunny ground, you can still experience the pleasure of harvesting your own vine-ripened tomatoes
and other crops.
All you need is a generous-size container, good potting soil, and a suitable spot ― a patio, deck, or corner that gets at least six hours of full sun a day.
More: How to grow veggies in pots
Root succulents by putting them in an 18-inch-diameter urn filled to 6 ½ inches below the rim with potting soil, then center
a 24-inch round of tempered glass ― sold as a tabletop ― on the rim. The mini-greenhouse doubles as a table for a lightly
More: Unique ideas to use urns in the garden
A lush poolside planter almost glows with color, all from foliage.
Medium green Lysimachia nummularia and lime green L. n. 'Goldilocks' tumble down the sides of the 16-in. square pot, while Stipa arundinacea provides a soft backdrop for 'Rustic Orange' coleus and blue-green Euphorbia polychroma.
Celebrate Halloween with orange and black plants. Combine black foliage with orange blooms in pots of similar hues like ebony
and persimmon. Then add some gnarly twigs ― like the pod-laden phormium stalks shown ― from your garden or a craft or floral
supply shop among the plants.
More: Get our plant ideas
Bronze and chartreuse foliage mingle in a 16-inch rose-blushed celadon pot.
Pieris 'Forest Flame': Fiery red new leaves fade to pink, then turn dark green when mature. This shrub prefers part-shade and can reach 10 feet tall.
Dryopteris erythrosora: The hardy wood fern’s feathery new growth blends copper, pink, and gold tones that turn rust-colored in fall. It grows 2 feet tall.
'Little John' azalea: Bronzy leaves make this azalea, which can reach 6 feet tall, a choice focal point.
For a modern look, plant your arrangements in glazed pots of deep burgundy, forest green, or pebble gray. You'll create a
fresh autumnal mood without having to rake a single leaf.
More: Fall color surprises
These pots, of different sizes but the same color, contain plants in shades that echo the garden's overall scheme.
In the smallest pot, fiber optics plant mixes with heuchera, lamium, and cyclamen. In the one at left, nandina pops against lamium, cyclamen, and hellebore. The tallest pot holds fine-leafed rosemary, cordyline, cyclamen, and heuchera.
More: Quick winter garden spruce-ups
Fluffy white azaleas and hydrangeas piled in containers resemble snowballs. Forced into flower for the holidays, both plants are sold at nurseries, garden centers,
and grocery stores, usually in 6-inch containers (www.hanabayflowers.com for store locations).
Lightweight fiberglass-clay planters, 16 and 20 in. wide; from $69; www.smithandhawken.com or 800/981-9888.
More: Garden gallery: White and silver plants
Because these showy cabbage relatives tolerate cold weather and can hold their brilliant color all the way into spring, they're
ideal for growing in pots to display on porches, patios, or beside entryways. They grow 1 to 2 feet tall.
More: Kale in containers
How to add color, dimension, and great-looking plants to your backyard using container gardening.
1-minute video: How to plant a container
A simple, automated drip-irrigation system, which applies water slowly and directly to roots, frees you from hand-watering
and helps eliminate harmful fluctuations in soil moisture. Plants respond by growing full and lush.
And you'll never have to drag around another hose.
More: Drip watering for containers
Follow these simple steps to create your own self- watering (technical term: subirrigated) pot and come home to happy plants.
A reservoir at the bottom allows more time between waterings, while an overflow hole prevents overwatering.
Echeverias and other small succulents, planted in a blue bowl, look like underwater creatures.
“This is the It Plant of the moment,” says San Francisco nursery owner Flora Grubb of the icy blue powder-covered Echeveria cante, pictured at bottom left. “I’ve never seen a plant as iridescent as this one.” Here, the succulent shimmers against moody dark foliage—‘Cheryl’s Shadow’ geranium and ‘Black Adder’ phormium, which add structure in back. The 16-inch-wide container is made of lightweight plastic.
A variegated Aloe arborescens with subtle stripes appears to explode above Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ (provenwinners.com) in this 14-inch-high zinc container. “It’s the best sedum I’ve grown,” says Jarrod Baumann, who designed the planting. “It
stays full and lush and doesn’t look ratty, even after it’s done blooming.”
Design: Zeterre Landscape Architecture, Los Altos, CA; zeterre.com
Costa Mesa garden designer Molly Wood fills vintage metal chicken feeders with tiny succulents for a rustic centerpiece. Hen
and chickens (Sempervivums), echeverias, and a dainty stonecrop grow in cactus mix in a 4 1/2-inch-deep trough. Find similar ones at flea markets or
on mollywoodgardendesign.com or etsy.com.
Design: Molly Wood Garden Design, Costa Mesa, CA; mollywoodgardendesign.com
A potted succulent may be pretty on its own, but group it with bromeliads and cactus, and it has presence. Whether it’s on
a porch or is part of a large yard, a vignette of containers “condenses beauty in a small space,” says Oakland landscape designer
Joshua Stenzel. In his work, he often mixes quirky drought-tolerant plants from Australia and the Southwest. The results are
dazzling compositions that need only the occasional watering.
“One thing I’ve learned with small-space designs is to skip the dainty little pots and go for big and bold,” says Stenzel. Make an impact by including one tall planting and repeating one strong color in either the foliage or the pots.
Left to right: Agave; Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’; E. tirucalli.
“I almost always include something lacy, something hanging, and something architectural,” says Oakland landscape designer
Joshua Stenzel. Then “throw in one thing that’s unexpected,” such as the Sempervivum succulents dripping out of a low pot
Upright Euphorbia tirucalli (back left); feathery Acacia iteaphylla (back right); Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’ (left); strappy bromeliad (Vriesea philippo-coburgii, center); variegated ‘Cornelius’ agave (bottom right); cascading mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis, bottom left).
Start with a plant or pot you love and let it lead the rest of the design. For this quartet, akland landscape designer Joshua
Stenzel first chose earthy ceramic pots, then selected plants in a complementary palette of coral and pale green.
Clockwise from top right: Gray-green echeveria; salmon-colored Kalanchoe orgyalis; variegated agave; and red-tipped Mangave ‘Bloodspot’.
A Greek basil grafted onto the sturdy rootstock of a shrubby wild basil, the Savour Greek basil tree has the pretty formality of a traditional topiary, but with spicy edible leaves and stems. Place a pair next to your front door or garden gate throughout summer and move them to a sunny window indoors when the weather cools. Water about once a week (let dry between waterings) and feed with a well-balanced organic fertilizer twice a month. As you harvest, just snip to keep the shape; the ideal width of the topiary is 6 to 8 inches. Look for the Savour Greek basil tree in nurseries in late spring, or go to savourtree.com for updates on availability.