Recipes for Perfect Flowery Container Gardens

05/09/2014 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Container Gardens, Flowers, Tips

pw_hearts_on_fireLocal gardeners know which flowers grow most successfully in our climate, and which plants look their best paired together.  If you’re a gardener new to our area, this article will guide you in finding the perfect flower combinations for container gardens.

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For more garden inspiration double click the photos to see more examples.

Tfeeling_grapefulhere is never a “wrong” time to fill a container with colorful plants to bring a fresh touch to any style garden. Pots of flowers and brightly colored foliage can be an inexpensive way to garden and are far easier to plant than putting them into the ground. When moving about in the yard becomes a challenge for elderly and even disabled gardeners, caring for plants in containers on tables and plant stands is a way to continue gardening.  For the more ambitious gardener, containers can be changed out with the seasons. I’ve found that using containers to fill gaps in my garden is helpful when I need more time to figure out permanent plantings.

Ipw_velveteen_vibe enjoy creating garden vignettes with flower-filled containers. Last year I filled a container with the leftovers from my garden plantings; the effect was striking and cost-effective. I especially enjoy working a surprise factor into my container gardens.  For instance, at the front door I have a container with a tomato plant surrounded by solar yellow marigolds.  It’s unusual to find tomatoes in an entryway centerpiece, but the addition of the marigolds creates a really stunning eye-catcher.  I like to spray my tomato cages in colors that make them stand out and be noticed.  A brightly colored cage instantly becomes the exclamation point of the centerpiece.

Helpful bits of advice if you want to create your own container centerpiece:


  1. Make sure to have drainage out the bottom of the container.
  2. Use as much potting soil as possible. The more soil in a container the easier it is to keep watered through summer.  Forget fillers like pottery shards, Styrofoam peanuts, or empty water bottles; the more potting soil the better.
  3. Using the correct potting soil will make or break a successful container project.  You might be surprised that the best is not a variety of a national brand but one created precisely for the local environment, that why we recommend Watters Professional Potting Soil.
  4. Keep container flowers blooming with good plant food.  I created Flower Power 54 specifically with big bold blooms in mind.  Flowers are heavy feeders, but with a bi-monthly application of this water-soluble food, they will grow, bloom, and fill your gardens with their colors and fragrances.
  5. When planting your containers try to think like a florist. As part of the design have a striking plant that stands twice as tall at the rest of the plants filling the container.  Then incorporate several plants that creep and spill over the container’s edge. An easy way to remember this pattern is:  1 plant to thrill, 1 plant to fill, 1 plant to spill over the edge.

Spw_breezy_shoresome of my favorite plant combinations for containers in sun-splashed locations are mandevilla vine, harlequin dahlias, and barnyard blue verbena, with white alyssum filling every vacant nook and cranny.  For shady spots, I really enjoy a mixture of King Kong coleus, Icicle helichrysum, begonias, and ivy geraniums spilling over the sides.  Large containers are a great place to keep corralled those “prone-to-go-wild” plants like bamboo and purple fountain grass.  Using rambling petunias and million bells to spill over the edges of these bigger containers makes for a really impressive display.

This year for my containers I chose annuals with small foliage and small flowers. The two sun-loving flowering plants are Babylon blue verbena and orange million bells. For shady area containers, I incorporated Kiwi Fern Coleus because of its colorful narrow foliage.  Fiber optic grass is an interesting plant because it has delicate fine blades that drape over the pot edge with buff-colored flowers on the blade tips.  The other foliage plant I’ve used for filling in bare spots is a ferny-textured silver Artemisia.

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Just as a residential doorway should be welcoming, so should the entrance to a business. Apw_rosy_skies commercial front entrance enhanced by a large container of plants is a graciously warm invitation to do business.  Once business establishments have tried them, their doorways never again are without them.

In June the light posts on the Prescott courthouse square will be decorated with hanging baskets.  These are super-sized containers designed to take the summer heat and wind yet bold enough to make a living, colorful statement through autumn.  Of course, I have grown extras to show off at the garden center.  They make glorious Mother’s Day gifts, although Mom probably will need help to hang them from the porch or by her back door.

I planted two of these stunning, large, hanging baskets for our backyard, but when I got them home I had a scathingly brilliant idea and plopped them into a pair of tall glazed containers.  Trust me, these are centerpieces that scream, “Look at us!  We’re beautiful!”  Sometimes my spontaneous creative bursts of genius really surprise me.

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Don’t fopw_avalon_plumrget that Mother’s Day is this weekend.  Also, keep in mind that containers filled with blooming plants last much longer than an equivalently priced bouquet of cut flowers. Your favorite garden center, and I hope that is Watters, has more ideas readily available for Mother’s Day.  There are many options available, from containers, flower combinations, or anything beautiful for the garden.

Better yet, get your mom a gift card to Watters and come in together to do some garden planning/shopping.  All summer long she’ll be talking about how she got her flowers for Mother’s Day and what a great experience it was.

Until next week, I’ll see you here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at  or Facebook page