Choosing plants for seasonal containers
by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Summer annuals aren't the only kinds of plants for seasonal containers rich with color, texture and scent.
Perennials, tender bulbs and small shrubs are the latest trend in thrillers, fillers and spillers for containers, and these plants prolong the season because most can go from early spring into fall without a replacement.
As a bonus for Midwestern gardeners, some of the perennials and shrubs can be planted into the ground in early fall for years of beauty in the landscape.
Tender bulbs can be dug from the pots and stored in a cool, dry place for winter and planted again the following spring.
Perennials are better able to withstand the wide temperature swings of chilly spring, hot summer or cool fall days without damage.
In the small shrub category, Flower Carpet roses (Rosa) or Lo & Behold Blue Chip butterfly bush (Buddleia) thrive in containers placed in sunny spots. Their blooms last at least all summer, especially when grown solo in the pot. About the only thing required is adequate water and regular water-soluble fertilizer applied according to label directions.
Here are the recipes for the containers showcased in the photographs. They'll do best in part sun to part shade, such as an eastern exposure or an area with dappled light.
Photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries – The centerpiece of this Towering Inferno is a canna lily (Canna).
- The centerpiece is a canna lily (Canna). This is a tender bulb in northern climates. You could also substitute Tandarra Red (Ensete) or other large-leaf plant.
- In the upper left, the blue flowers are blue-eyed grass Devon Skies (Sisyrinchium). An alternative is Lucerne, or the species of this winter hardy perennial to USDA Zone 5.
- In the lower left is Peach Flambe coral bell (Heuchera). Any heuchera with foliage this color can be substituted. Many heucheras are winter hardy and evergreen to USDA Zone 4.
- In the lower right is Begonia Cathedral. It's a cold-tender plant, hardy only to USDA Zone 10. Any tender begonia with a bit of a sprawling habit could be substituted, such as Angel Wing Red.
Photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries This Gold Spot container garden consists of plants designed to last past the end of summer.
- The centerpiece is a Cordyline, sometimes called a dracaena. This is a tender plant and not winter hardy beyond USDA Zone 7. A substitute could be the North America native perennial Yucca filamentosa Color Guard, which has creamy white and green leaves. Yuccas are winter hardy to USDA Zone 4.
- In the lower left is Japanese forest grass All Gold (Hakonechloa), which is winter hardy to USDA Zone 6. Aureola, another gold leaf forest grass, is hardy to Zone 5.
- In the lower right is Ginger Ale (Heuchera). Any heuchera with foliage this color can be substituted. If the yucca is used, you could select a heuchera with a little more green in the leaves, such as Green Spice. Many heucheras are winter hardy and evergreen to USDA Zone 4.
Sometimes known as the Hoosier Gardener, Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp lives in Indianapolis and is part owner and editor of Indiana Living Green magazine. Her work has also appeared in many other publications, including The American Gardener, Garden Gate and Greenhouse Grower. In addition, Meyers Sharp speaks about gardening and sustainable living throughout the Midwest and is a director of the Garden Writers Association.