Container Planting at May Dreams Gardens

The “container season” starts early in my garden with violas and pansies. As soon as I can find some for sale anywhere in the spring, I buy a flat or two or three and plant them in some low containers to put on my front porch and in a front window box.

This year I planted the violas and pansies on March 21st.

The container season continues in the late spring when I plant containers of summer annuals to put on my front porch, back patio, and on my sister’s patio.

Then in the fall, I add some mums and gradually clear out the containers that have plantings that look tired and worn out from the summer, until I end up with all the containers stowed away for the winter, waiting until spring arrives again.

I generally plant the same plants each year, very predictably.

Boring!! Stop me!!! I need help!

That’s why I am looking forward to reading all the posts for this month’s topic for the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, container plantings, sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild. My containers could use a little (a big) “punch up” this year and so could my sister’s, which I am also responsible for planting.

I have a good handle on the “how to” of containers…

Good drainage. It is difficult if not impossible for plants thrive in containers without good drainage, unless, of course, it is a containerized water garden. I won't buy a container that doesn't have holes for drainage or isn't made of a material that I can punch holes in myself.

Good soil. I mix my own potting soil for containers because I use a lot of dirt and it saves money. However, I am now looking for a good substitute for peat moss and will be experimenting with "the recipe" this year.

Good watering. I water my containers at least once a day in the summer-time. The soil can dry out quickly!

Good containers. Like Pam/digging wrote, “go big”. Larger containers make a greater impact and actually can go more than a day at times without extra water. Like many gardeners, when I have large containers, I put some old plastic pots or other loose filler in the bottom so I can use less soil. I also like the light weight “faux” stone pots.

Good plants. To maximize the impact of containers, just like elsewhere in the garden, use good, healthy plants. And remember to use plants that have the same light and water requirements when you plant them together in containers.

Good food. You should provide some light fertilizer for your container plants to get better results. I generally use a liquid fertilizer every few weeks or when I remember. This doesn’t have to be a synthetic fertilizer that comes as a powder that turns the water blue. There are organic liquid fertilizers readily available.

Good combinations. This is where I could use some help. I have a few tried and true combinations that I over-use. I’m tired of them and ready for something new.

The nice thing about container plantings is if you see one you like, it is pretty easy to duplicate it in your own garden. So I’ll be reading all the posts for this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop looking for new ideas for plant combinations in containers.

Or, if you want to directly help me out, just let me know about your favorite container plant combination and if I use it, I'll dedicate one of my containers to you in a future post!


  1. carol - thanks for the great container gardening tips. after reading some of the posts on GGW design workshops, i ran out and bought several pots. i cant wait to try some things and then there's the big purple pot which should be fun.

  2. Here I am reading about containers when I'm supposed to be writing my book review. Two plants that I used in different pots last year and will definitely use again are Convolvulus 'Blue Daze' and Salvia 'Blue and Black'. I also like popping some Gazania in my pots.

    I certainly agree about using large containers. It makes such a difference in the amount of watering needed.

    One of the things I also do is add some Turface to my potting soil. It helps with drainage and also with retaining moisture. I use it in all my potted plants as well.

    Your garden bench looks beautiful on the brick patio.

  3. Carol,

    I also put plastic bottles in the bottoms of the BIG containers, makes it easier to move them too. I under use containers and hope to remedy that this spring and summer.

    That is the best kind of rabbit on your stoop!


  4. There's that garden bench again that I love so much. I'm crazy about that color!

    I wanted to do a container post too and I'm running out of month. Yea! It's almost April!

  5. Carol, my favorite containers are completely filled with herbs. I did a hanging basket last year with bunches of herbs. I blogged about it and my herb barrel here:

  6. Carol,
    A good earth friendly alternative to peat moss is one called coir. It's shredded coconut fiber. The form I'm most familiar with is that it's compressed into a brick. You add a bit of water and let soak and then fluff it up a bit. Works nicely but can be a little stringy. It's also pH neutral where peat is acidic. Hope it helps.

  7. Carol,
    This is a continuation of the previous post. I forgot to mention a recipe for potting soil. I've used equal 1/3's of coir, vermiculite and perlite. I've also added compost to the mixture before for a little extra boost for nutrients. Usually about 25% to the total volume.

  8. We have a local organics vendor who uses leaf mold as a base for his potting mix. I think the combination is oak leaf mold, worm compost, bone meal, cotton seed meal, and DE. Sometimes the stuff stinks, but the plants do beautifully.


  9. Nice post, though when I got to the photo of the bench on the patio, I just wanted to stop there, sit down, and start reading...what a tranquil and delicious scene. I bet you'll have a LOT of fun doing containers this year, Carol, and I can't wait to see what your punching up of pots will yield.

  10. Chuckle...I have three containers (hanging baskets) on my front porch. They face the west and bake all afternoon - I can't keep them watered enough (using a step stool). It's a hard job keeping anything alive in those baskets, So, this year I'm going to Garden Ridge and by some FAKE FERNS. LOL! Go ahead and gasp...

  11. I think part of the fun of containers is going to the nurseries and choosing the new annuals that they come up with yearly. One of my best finds last year was a Crossandra infundibuliformis Orange Marmalade and as the common name suggests it is orange. It bloomed until a second frost took it and it didn't complain when neglected by not being watered daily. You might want to consider this. I planted it with a purple scaevola and a yellow hosta. I thought it was quite nice.

    I will look forward to all your new combinations. You will have lots of inspiration when home from Austin.

  12. I really must get on with sorting out my containers soon - been busy with a new allotment but my herbs (all in pots as we only have a patio garden) need to be tidied up and loved again and I really want to get some colour in my garden this year too... thank you for your lovely inspriation

  13. Carol, I know what you mean about planting the same thing each year. If I find something that works well, I like to repeat my success the next year. But it is always fun to try something new.
    Going to gardening workshops gives me new ideas--one speaker this year recommended euphorbia "Diamond Frost," which I intend to try.

  14. Your containers look good to me, Carol - in some ways, using the same combinations of annuals has the effect of perennials, doesn't it?

    I tried to get a post together for the workshop but it fizzled, my camera is giving me fits and I ran out of time. I don't have any "thrillers, fillers and spillers" anyway!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. I'm sure you know about the Renegade Gardener - he has a great post on containers: that will be on the home page until 10 April. You'll have to search after that.

    For shade, I like Gartenmeister fuchsia, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (golden Creeping Jenny) and a tall coleus that contrasts. I've also used the fuchsia, Blackie sweet potato vine and a lime coleus. Lamium looks good, too.

    For sun, I like coleus, dark pink Dragonwing begonia and terra cotta calibrachoa. Bacopa is also nice, and it hangs waaaaaaayyyyyy down.

    One of my favorites was a bronze stripe leaved canna with tangerine flowers, mostly light green coleus, some feathery grass, blue flowered bacopa and yellow flowered lysimachia.

    Good luck!

  16. I have a lot of containers but just discovered another difference in gardening in different parts of the country...most of my pots have perennials (or annuals that can actually last several years) like sword ferns, jade plants, wax begonias, geraniums and succulents. I sometimes tuck new allysum, nemesia or coleus in with those but I rarely get to start from scratch.

  17. Wow, you really do plant those containers early! I planted up a few pots with pansies last week and they look so sad today. Hopefully they'll perk right up when it finally gets out of the 40's here.

  18. I love containers. I seem to have the sane ones for years too. I think Marigolds and coleus go well together. Only you have to water the coleus like nobody's business. And find a right spot so each has not too much shade and not too much sun.


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