Planting in containers allows you to instantly brighten a porch, deck, balcony or window box with flowers, herbs and even vegetables. Container gardening also offers accessibility and ease of care. By carefully choosing your plants and containers, you can create a big impact in a small space.
Color and Shape
Thoughtful use of color and shape can make the difference between a distinctive planter and a hodge-podge look. When creating a color scheme, consider the color of the container, the color of your home and the background the planter will be placed against.
Shape of container plants is important too. One container planting rule of thumb is to have "thrillers, fillers and spillers" in every planter. A medium-sized container might hold one thriller (tall plant), three to five fillers (round, mounding plants), and five to seven spillers (plants that hang over the side).
Landscaping With Containers
Just one planter can add beauty to your porch, deck or patio, but three or more planters allow you to "landscape" with your containers. Using planters with different shapes, heights and textures gives you numerous possibilities to make pleasing plant combinations. Grouping planters gives the illusion of fullness, even when pots are newly planted. Experiment with planters at different heights by placing some on bricks or overturned pots. Placing planters together offers more visual impact than if they were separated.
Changing the contents of your planters throughout the year keeps them looking seasonal and fresh. Spring containers might include bulbs, pansies, primulas and snapdragons. In the summer you can include some tropical plants among the traditional annual flowers. Mums are a fall classic, but don't forget other autumn bloomers such as pansies, ornamental kale and asters. Planters can even be decorative through the winter months by adding evergreen boughs. If you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to overwinter small boxwood or conifers.
Vegetables and Herbs
Even if you don't have room for a full vegetable garden, you can grow many types in containers. This has added benefits, including ease of watering and fewer problems with weeds, soil-borne diseases and pests. Carrots, radishes and lettuce don't take up much room. Peppers, tomatoes, bush beans and onions are all excellent candidates for growing in a container on a sunny deck or patio. The Arizona Master Gardeners Manual recommends small-fruited varieties of tomatoes such as Tiny Tim, Small Fry and Roma. Herbs such as rosemary, parsley, thyme and basil do well in containers and can be planted together or separately.
It's not necessary to have a traditional garden to attract wildlife--it can be done in pots. The National Wildlife Foundation recommends planting red, orange, pink or purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered to attract butterflies--zinnias and marigolds are two good choices. Hummingbirds are drawn to bright red and orange flowers that are trumpet-shaped. Try attracting them with planters filled with salvia, petunias and impatiens.
Add some whimsy to your garden by using your imagination. Many cast-off household items, such as old boots or an old watering can, wagon or wheelbarrow can be turned into planters. Shop flea markets for ideas--items such as a vintage copper wash tub or claw-foot bathtub make unusual and distinctive containers.