Containing a colorful garden


Many plants fare well when planted in containers.

Some thrive for a short time while others happily sit in pots for years before sulking. The key to successful container gardening is proper plant selection, intelligent design and consistent maintenance.

Annual flowers are popular potted plants because they are long blooming. Perennials, herbs, grasses and small shrubs or trees also flourish in container gardens.

To be a good candidate for potting, a plant should have most of the following characteristics:

Long-lasting (months) attractive foliage.

Long-blooming (weeks) flowers.

Roots that tolerate crowded conditions.

The ability to withstand periods of drought.

A form that lends itself to containers, such as a graceful trailing habit.

Most gardeners mix different types of plants in pots to create a lush display. However, a single type of plant may also be used effectively.

If quite large, one plant may carry the show. Single plantings have a strong presence if kept healthy and full-sized. Several of the same plant type may also be combined in one large container to create a grand arrangement.

Always fill containers so that they have a luxurious, complete appearance. Do not assume that a few plants will grow to “fill out” the space.

For example, plant annuals closer together in containers than you would plant them in the ground. A good rule of thumb is to situate them about 40-50 percent closer than the plant tag suggests. Select plants that grow tall enough to look appropriate in their containers. For example, a 12” or taller plant is in scale with a 14” container.

To achieve instant full color, purchase a hanging basket filled with mature plants that have a lot of flowering stems, moss rose for example. Replace the basket with a single container. Replant so that the plant stems cascade over the pot’s edges.

If combining plant types in pots, include those with varied growth habits. For instance, insert short or trailing plants alongside a tall, slender plant. On the other hand, using three types of habits – tall or spiky, trailing and medium growing – creates a spectacular design.

For an eye-pleasing effect, select plants with colors that combine well. And don’t forget to take advantage of foliage texture and color. Pair contrasting foliage, such as fuzzy silver leaves with shiny dark green, to add depth and character to container plantings.

When combining plant types in a single container, always use those that have similar water, sun and maintenance requirements.

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at