How to create a blooming container garden for Southern climates
The business of container gardens continues to increase steadily, year after year, because it’s everything that traditional gardening isn’t: controllable, time-efficient, convenient, mobile and thrifty. With the short and relatively mild winters of Southern states, container gardens there can be a four-season accent and stylish landscaping accessory.
At the start of each season, new blooming and ornamental plants arrive, tempting newcomers to experiment with pot culture and luring experienced plant lovers with the season’s latest offerings. Dina MacArthur, assistant manager of Calloway’s Nursery on Custer Road in Plano, Texas, says planted containers remain very popular with customers throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area due to their convenience. She says customers often buy pre-planted containers as party décor. “We call them ‘color creations.’ People add color to their home or deck with these pots — and it’s convenient for them,” she says.
Some customers bring their own plant containers for MacArthur to refresh or redesign. And some call on her plant expertise to help them select the right combination of materials that they can plant themselves.
The skill set required to create an attractive potted plant display lies somewhere between maintaining houseplants and arranging flowers. You can make it as easy or complex as your talents and patience allow.
Begin by choosing a plant container such as a pot, urn, flower box or trough, then decide whether you want to grow things in the sun or shade. Next, buy a fresh, lightweight growing medium, such as soil-less potting mix, and fill the container.
Then, select plants appropriate for sun or shade. Create a design according to the plants’ height, growing habit (does it stand straight, arch or cascade?) and flower and leaf features, such as size, color and shape. Arrange snuggly in the container and water thoroughly.
For fall, MacArthur uses a combination of tropicals, such as brightly colored crotons mixed with pansies and purple fountain grass. “After the first frost, we pull out the tropicals and pop in ornamental cabbage and kale that work well with pansies.” With bigger plant containers, MacArthur designs around tall evergreens, such as juniper and cypress, with seasonal plants around the container’s edge.
In Bradenton, Fla., Diane Adams, owner of highly rated The Plant Place, says her customers receive container plant design assistance from her company’s “pot-scaper.” She says customers snap up the season’s latest selections, including blooming flowers, herbs and edibles. “We notice that kids want to plant containers with vegetables, even strawberries. They get excited about eating what they have watched grow,” Adams says.
Adams also offers a custom container great for cooler weather. “We call it a ‘color bowl.’ It’s a large limestone planter that we fill with succulent plants and annuals.”