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Create Spectacular Plant Combinations to Beautifully Accessorize Walkways, Pools and Patios
Story and photos by Linda B. Gay

Container gardening is like the icing on the cake, making the presentation and results amazing. You choose a lovely, colorful container that accessorizes with your home decor color scheme — a current trend in the green industry to market plants as home decor.

A container can be used to accent a front entry or walkway, pool or patio area. It can be chosen for shape, style and color. A container doesn’t even have to contain plants if you have chosen to use one as an architectural piece or accent. Most gardeners want to put soil and plants in containers to grow flowers, herbs or vegetables.

First is the “Thriller,” the “WOW” plant in the container and what your eyes see first. It can be architectural, have exotic colorful foliage or is a continuous bloomer and the tallest plant in the combination.
Second comes the “Filler” and does just that: Fills up the container and grows 6-12 inches tall. This is a colorful, spreading plant that acts as a base plant for the Thriller.

Third is the “Spiller,” and this plant prefers to grow outside and down the container, spilling out of the pot. This can be ivy, a cascading flower or weeping foliage used to soften the hard lines of the container.

When creating combinations, make sure you choose plants that have the same soil, light and water requirements. The best way to come up with beautiful combinations is to put them together as a “work in progress” and see how they contrast or complement each other.

COLOR TIP: You will be surprised how beautiful two plants look together. For instance, a container of all red flowers is nice, but adding a little white or yellow will make the red “pop” even more. Color attracts the eye and draws attention. The motion and direction of red, orange and yellow colors advance in the garden, while green, violet and blue colors recede in the garden. 

Clay is very popular because the pots come in sizes from 2 to 24 inches. Clay is porous and pulls water away from the plant so if you are an “overwaterer,” this is a great container for you. Cactus, succulents and other drought-tolerant plants thrive in clay containers.

When you water plants in clay containers, you need to water the outside of the pot first, then the soil, root ball, foliage and wet the pot one last time. This reduces the amount of water pulled away from the plant.

Plastic becomes our pot of choice as we age because they are lightweight and take longer to dry out. Plastic pots are short-lived when used outside as the sun breaks down the plastic material and the pots shatter. Grow plants in plastic pots that like to stay moist longer like philodendrons, monstera and ferns.

Ceramic/glazed containers are beautiful, colorful and hosen to complement your home decor for both indoor and outdoor use. Make sure there is a hole in the bottom or pot your plant in a smaller container and use the ceramic one as a cachepot.

Concrete containers are used outside as they are normally large, heavy and a particular style and theme. Concrete containers are also porous and wick the water away from the soil and plants. You can line the inside of these containers with trash bags to separate the soil from the concrete and poke holes into the plastic at the bottom of the container to allow the water to drain out.

These tips apply to containers both indoors and out.
• PEAT-BASED media is best for plants with large fleshy roots and want to stay moist longer.
• BARK-BASED media is best for plants that like to dry out or the gardener is an “overwaterer.”
• REAL SOIL (compost) really helps woody plants grow stronger, bigger root systems and reduces the watering time.
When replanting your containers, refresh the soil you have in the container. Remove most of it and mix new soil with the old soil at a 50:50 ratio, add some organic fertilizer and replant. Thoroughly yet gently hand water.

Happy gardening!

Linda Gay is a horticulturist and gardener at The Arbor Gate Nursery in Tomball.

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