58 cool container gardens Beautiful container plantings for your deck, entryway, or yard Wine punch 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 Pinterest Starburst Arching gracefully in all directions, ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum displays juicy round leaves and stems topped with pink, star-shaped flowers. Mexican snowballs (Echeveria elegans) anchor the right side, young pups bunched up against mother plants. In back, the nonsucculent Pelargonium sidoides catches the light on its silver leaves, echoing the color of the Echeveria. Pro tip: Pelargonium sidoides is a favorite to mix with succulents. Its fuzzy, ruffled leaves and wandering habit transform any combo from rigid to loose. Texture play 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) Cool hues 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) Fireworks 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) Star power 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) Succulent mini landscape 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.). Cocoa colors Deep bronze, burgundy, and plum shades mimic the colors of autumn right on your porch. More: Cocoa fall plant containers Harvest gold hues Orange-striped blades of grass, apricot-tinged leaves with purple undersides, and matching gold containers make for autumn-inspired pots. More: Harvest gold fall containers Planting ideas for garden pots 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 Plant a pot of living color 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 Colors that complement 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'. Maximum impact 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). Big entrance 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. Woolly pocket wall garden 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 Mini garden in a pot: 3 easy pieces 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 Vertical container garden 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 One-pot vegetable garden Not everyone has the room or time for a big edible garden. But even if you’re limited to a lone container, you can still enjoy a summer’s worth of homegrown produce for pasta, Gazpacho, and even garden-fresh Bloody Marys. How to plant this one-pot vegetable garden Potted bamboo and maples Potted bamboos and maples dress the gravel-covered patio inspired by the architecture of Japan. More: See this Sunset reader's Japanese-inspired garden Small pots When speckled with blooms, Copia 'Gulliver's White' bacopa looks especially cheerful in 5-inch-wide, glossy green pots. Beach garden in a pot If you yearn for the beach but live miles inland, you can re-create the look easily in a pot. You'll need: a low, wide pot or bowl, approximately 14 inches in diameter potting soil 3 small, slow-growing plants in 4-inch nursery pots horticultural-grade washed sand (a 1-qt. bag is enough for a 14-inch pot) small pieces of driftwood or other found objects More: Get our step-by-step One-plant pots 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. Country charmers 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 Lime green container pot Soft textures and bright chartreuse tones light up bronze-colored 17-inch-wide containers. The plants: 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. Compact lavenders 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 Cool pot 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 Home-grown herb 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 Industrial light fixture becomes chic pot 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. Gardening with ornamental grasses: A sweet scent Chasmanthium latifolium and Acorus gramineus ‘Licorice’ get into a delicious tangle in an oval gray stone container. When bruised the acorus’s leaves have a licorice scent. Veggies in pots 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 Container for spring and summer Sago palm anchors this composition in a 22- by 24-inch glazed urn. Below it are 'Orange Profusion' zinnias, yellow Pachystachys lutea, and trailing variegated vinca. More: Containers for all seasons Unthirsty plants Dramatic, low-water Echeveria and New Zealand flax fill a pot in a drought-tolerant garden. Urn and succulents as patio table 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 shaded patio. More: Unique ideas to use urns in the garden Poolside planter 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. Halloween in a pot Create a Halloween garden 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 Touch of bronze Bronze and chartreuse foliage mingle in a 16-inch rose-blushed celadon pot. The plants: 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. Fall color 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 Group pots 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. Patio snow 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 Kale in a container 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 Video: How to plant a container How to add color, dimension, and great-looking plants to your backyard using container gardening.1-minute video: How to plant a container Drip watering 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 Carefree container 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. Start with a thin-walled, nonporous pot (at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches high) that has no drainage hole but will be easy to drill into—like the plastic ones shown here (Skörd planter, from $30; ikea.com). Drill a 1/4-inch- wide hole into its side, about 4 inches up from the bottom. Take a smaller plastic pot— roughly 6 by 6 inches—and drill 1/4-inch-wide holes, a few inches apart, into the sides and bottom. Fill with potting soil, then center in the bottom of the large container. (If your large pot is wide, like the one shown above right, use two small pots.) Cut a disc of sturdy plastic (we used the lid of an old storage bin) to fit securely in- side the large pot when sitting on top of the soil- filled one. Drill 1/4-inch holes, an inch apart, in the disc. Cut a 1-inch-wide hole near the disc’s edge, then place the disc on the pot, inside the large container. Cut a length of 1-inch PVC pipe that’s slightly longer than the height of the large container. Cut the bottom of the pipe at an angle (so it won’t clog), and insert the pipe through the 1-inch hole in the disc. Push pipe as far into the big pot as it will go. Set your plant on the plastic disc (next to the pipe). Fill in the space around it with potting soil, mixed with some controlled-release organic fertilizer, to 1 to 2 inches below the pot’s rim. (Don’t worry if some soil falls through to the reservoir below.) Cover the top of the soil with plastic sheeting, cutting an X in it to let the plant through and tucking it down into the sides of the pot. Hide the plastic with a layer of rock or bark. Pour water down the pipe until it flows from the drainage hole. Refill as needed, likely once or twice a week. “Tidepool” Echeverias and other small succulents, planted in a blue bowl, look like underwater creatures. Mood & attitude “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. Fireworks, contained 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 Tiny treasures 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 Bigger, better 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. The plants Left to right: Agave; Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’; E. tirucalli. Bold texture “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 here. The plants 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). Color coordinated 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. The plants Clockwise from top right: Gray-green echeveria; salmon-colored Kalanchoe orgyalis; variegated agave; and red-tipped Mangave ‘Bloodspot’. Vibrant color This orange pot filled with a Savour Greek basil tree adds a fun vibrance, making it a garden spotlight. Silver lining If those fuzzy leaves in the rear look familiar, it’s because they’re lamb’s ears (Stachys), but a new variety: ‘Bello Grigio’, with slender, silver leaves that almost glow. At its base, Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ contrasts with its black branches and Jurassic-looking leaves. In a single pot (foreground, right), the spines of an Agave potatorum ‘Kissho Kan’ catch the light. At left, ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum stretches itself in all directions, offering pink flowers at the tips. Pro tip: Use one type of plant per container for a modern, color-blocked look. Beauty and the beast ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue and similarly colored Pelargonium sidoides look sweet and wispy, while their evil third holds court at right. ‘Grape Jelly’ dyckia forms a picture-perfect rosette of rigid purple foliage, but the leaves of this terrestrial bromeliad are armed with vicious teeth. Watch out—this combo is killer. Pro tip: Use more dyckias. They handle drought in stride and, every summer, send up tall stalks of bright orange or yellow blooms that hummingbirds find irresistible. Perfect strangers Highlighting its red-tinged margins and sharp tips, a single ‘Blue Glow’ agave tucks up against a lush backdrop of soft plants. In back (from left to right), variegated Sedum lineare ‘Sea Urchin’ cascades over the rim; ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum shows off its pink blooms; and purple spurge (Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’) displays whorls of leaves on either side of an herbal-scented Pelargonium ‘Oldbury Duet’. Pro tip: When filling a large footprint, consider using multiple pots. They’re easier to move around, and you can play with their placement as planting evolves. Terrestrial tide pool A handful of Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'—dark purple rosettes on sticks—grow upward from the back of the pot. Next to them, silver woolly bush (Adenathos sericea) has a kelp-like quality, appearing to undulate as if growing in the sea. In the foreground, variegated Helichrysum peiolare, dark purple ‘Obsidian’ Heuchera, and a hybrid Echeveria balance colors and shapes from front to back. Pro tip: If you’re going for the kitchen sink look, add cohesion by echoing forms and colors. Succulent containers: Mini meadow (0316) Succulent stars, including a blooming Echeveria hybrid and a trailing Cotelydon hybrid, nestle between mounds of soft ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue and bright green thrift (Armeria maritima ‘Armada White’). At far right, the silver heart-shaped leaves of a Pelargonium sidoides spill over the edge of the planter. Pro tip: Incorporate thrift into more of your plantings. The unsung plant is a playful and sturdy champ, forming tufty evergreen mounds topped with lollipop blooms in white, pink, or red. The big chill In the center of the container, a hybrid Echeveria sits like an unfolding lotus, but one with far more staying power than the fleeting flower. Small, almost iridescent ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) echoes the shape and color of the larger succulent. At right, purple-leafed heuchera picks up the Echeveria’s pink edges. In back, feathery dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) offers some stature and fuzz to the mix. Pro tip: Adding height, like the dusty miller, offers visual contrast, plus it creates dappled light for more sun-sensitive plants growing in its shadow. Jolly green giant Spanning 18 inches across, Aeonium ‘Mint Saucer’ gives this combo some serious heft, like an oversized flower, but one that never needs to be deadheaded (an Aeonium lives a few years before sending up a stalk of yellow flowers and dying). Standing above it is velvety Plectranthus forsteri 'Aureus Variegatus', with limey green margins. Trailing at right is Rhipsalis teres heteroclada, a succulent with pencil-like stems. Pro tip: The old container recipe—thriller, filler, spiller—still stands the test of time.