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Are you more than a little tired of containers spilling with petunias? Is your love affair with impatiens over? We hear you. Although there’s nothing wrong with red zonal geraniums and alyssum, wouldn’t it be fun to shake up containers slightly and go in a different direction? Perennials might be just the ticket.

A container packed with perennials is the perfect segue between a garden bed and places where people hang out. Got a walkway that needs an accent? Got a porch where the rocking chairs sit or a bench where you take a breather between yanking weeds and deadheading flowers? A container would fit perfectly into all those situations. And with perennial beds all around, maybe you want to work with more of the same in a slightly different presentation. The good news is that many perennials can easily make the leap from your garden beds to a pot.

The trick to creating any container starts with the soil. No matter what you’re nurturing, you want to anchor it a base that will grow it strong. You need to anchor your plants in soil of the right texture, fertility, and draining action to keep any composition pumping out the performance. And containers really put a soil to the test. First of all, pots are usually points of pride prominently displayed where people will notice your cunning talent. And you’re asking a whole lot when you push plants to perform together in close quarters but also perfect harmony. In order to create the artwork you’re hoping to display, go straight for Coast of Maine Stonington Blend Organic & Natural Grower’s Mix. It’s a hardworking potting soil custom made for the job.

Perennially Perfect for Pots

When you create a container, you want it to perform for as long as possible. With that goal in mind, you should feature perennials that look great over the long haul while also tolerating the stresses of life in a container. The plants you select should forgive an occasional lapse in watering (however, try not to be a frequent offender by continually forgetting to furnish drinks). They should fit the situation – scope out your target site and match sun lovers with a bright location while low light locations will need perennials made for the shade. If you have a choice between sites, keep in mind that a container lounging in the shade will need fewer visits with the hose or watering can compared to a pot baking in bright sun. Foxgloves deliver both flowers and handsome foliage while working their magic in a low light situation.

Plants that are Sympatico

Compose your combo and consider focusing on a theme. Maybe your theme might be variegated foliage, native plants, or bodacious blossoms. For a foliar match, consider combining hostas, epimediums, lamb’s ears, lungwort, painted ferns, and asarums for a shady site. Try working with striped foliage, using hostas and variegated Solomon’s seal. To create a native plant combo that’s made for the shade, you could go with foamflowers (tiarellas), coral bells (heucheras), and fairy candles (actaea). Got a sunny site? Flowering plants like lavender, catmint (nepeta), and thyme will love it.

Focused Containers

Although combo containers are fun, sometimes it’s more dramatic (and easier maintenance) to plant perennials singly, each in its own pot. You could profile each container alone for a strong statement or try clustering the containers for a moveable display. As your perennials add height or when you reduce their girth by deadheading, switch them around for a totally new look. And consider painting your containers for a dialogue with foliar or flower colors to add a “custom” craft look.

When autumn begins to wane, simply switch the perennials to your garden beds where they will pop up next spring because that’s the beauty of a perennial plant. See what we mean? You can have so much fun with this!


Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin.  Photos also taken by Tovah Martin.  Find her books and more information on her website:

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