Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Put Up or Shut Up Season

This is the time of year when the summer containers typically are looking their best.  In the heat of the South, some things are stressed, but in the northern states, the containers should really be at their best.  It's the time of year when it's time for containers to either produce or get stuck behind the garage until it's time for autumn planting.

Here are a few containers that have done well this summer, with some "notes from the gardener".

In the breezeway, we used the darkest-leafed cannas we could find for structure.  "Missus" isn't a big fan of red flowers, so we have cut most of the blooms off as they come up.  Kimberly Queen Fern is also a favorite plant for shade containers.  It goes forever in the summer heat and humidity, overwinters beautifully if you are so inclined, and is very inexpensive in most cases.  (I buy the giant hanging ones that are a "loss leader" at one of the big box stores every spring, and cut each hanging plant in four pieces to use in containers---this container here is using one quarter of one hanging basket that we bought for $9.99)
The front entrance pots are doing really well this season, with a "Fox Tail Palm" in the middle, with the elephant ear "Elena" that was mentioned in the previous post.   
The containers in the gazebo are virtually all shade, and a great place to utilize house plants during the summer.   
Ginger is a container standby for us, and this one has a great peach bloom that will start soon.  Ruellia also performs really well for us in containers, as do hibiscus.  We have a really difficult time overwintering tropical hibiscus in the greenhouse (scale magnets!).  This one is cold hardy, so we'll see what happens. Oleander really pops in late summer, and this year we've used a good amount of "bat face" cuphea, which has just exploded with color all summer!
This container grouping repeats lots of the same plants that are on the other side of the pool (above), and tends to get only morning sun.  For many of the filler plants (coleus, etc.), we pointedly buy full flats of 4 inch pots, and then split them up between the different containers for consistency throughout the property. 
This semi-shaded pot also is using canna for structure this season, which I'm really happy with.
Hot, hot hot!  These terra cotta pots bake in the sun for at least 8 hours every day, and are still blooming like mad!  Angelonia, convulvulus, and callibrachoa all seem to be loving life! 

A tip that I learned from Rita Randolph (the container queen) involves topdressing.  Once the container is completely pot-bound (not before), topdress the container with a couple of inches of play sand.  That very fine sand from Home Depot or Lowe's that one uses in kids' sandboxes, or to underlay pavers.  When watering, that sand will hold water like nobody's business, and will bring you another few weeks of great looking containers.  A bit messy to disassemble at the end of the season, but it's worth the extra step!


  1. Two words...pot envy! What wonderfully beautiful containers!

  2. Your container combos are great. I have never been fond of them in my own garden, but appreciate other people's. I do use container plants, but only have one type of plant in a pot and arrange the different pots in clusters. Thanks for the tip on the sand.

  3. Tim everything is looking delightful! Ruellia is a new one on me; do you know the cultivar you are using? Would be interested in growing this.


  4. Your containers are amazing! I have to admit, I'm totally clueless about planting containers...and even worse at watering them :-(