Anyone can have a garden now. No, really! Containers make it possible, even if your only deed to land is a tiny balcony or back patio. Larry Pfarr—owner of Leap Retail Consulting, who worked at Bachman’s for more than 20 years and has been the on-air home and garden expert for KSTP-TV for nearly that long—walks us through four easy recipes for flourishing foliage: plant combinations, themes, trends, and the tools to see you through every season, from pansies to arborvitae, boxwood to bromeliad.
Succulents are a hot trend in the gardening world thanks to their exotic look and easy care. Their provenance—the desert—means they love to luxuriate in full sun. Succulents do best in low, shallow containers, which means they make the perfect centerpiece for your backyard picnic table or patio set. The wide variety of colors and shapes makes for a visually interesting container if you choose to mix and match.
In this container: Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), Blue Chalk Fingers, Pinwheel, Jelly Bean, and other assorted sedums and succulents.
BEAUTY MEETS FUNCTION
“Working” plants like herbs don’t have to be relegated to the garden. Herbs are the fashion-meets-function players of the garden world. Put them in a full-sun container and keep it near the grill for easy garnishes. “My personal favorite is curly-leafed parsley, which adds texture and a bright, fresh green color,” Pfarr says. Other pretty, edible performers include thyme, rosemary, and sage. Pop in a few flowers for color.
In this container: Parsley, rosemary, lavender, oregano, scented Geraniums, English Daisy, Yellow Calibrachoa
No flowering plants
You can still have beauty without dealing with high-maintenance blooms. Instead, these containers feature high contrast and drama between plants of different foliages: choose plants with unique colors, shapes, and textures to really make a statement. “People often comment on these because they feel different. But they don’t even notice that there’s something missing—the blooms,” Pfarr says. Added benefit: this container is a little lower maintenance, since there’s no need to deadhead flowers when blooms are past their peak.
In this container: Artichoke, Mondo Grass, Red Sensation Dracaena, Jungle Drum Carludovica, assorted ivies
To plan this stunner of a container, pick a color, any color. Then stick with it—don’t stray further than paint-sample strips at hardware stores do. Focusing on a single color—we chose this year’s Pantone Color of the Year, Tangerine Tango—will create high drama and garner attention. For maximum impact, place this at a front door or in a window box. You can also create a dramatic look by filling it with one type of plant. But beware: the drawback is if the plant flops, so does your container. There’s safety in numbers.
In this container: Bromeliad, Croton, ivy, Orange Calendula, Orange Calibrachoa, Allure Tangerine Geranium, Papaya Orange Potunia
- Starting in early July, fertilize your containers with a water-soluble fertilizer every week—this will help keep plants growing and blooming.
- Remove flowers (deadheading) when blooms are past their prime to encourage more flowering.
- Water as needed so that soil does not create a gap around the sides of the container.
Quick and Easy Container Care
“I plant about 35 containers each year,” Larry Pfarr says. “Each container is like an artist’s canvas, ready for color and texture.” Here are tips for a work of art.
- Make sure your containers are at least 10 inches in diameter. If they’re too small, they don’t hold enough soil and dry out too quickly.
- Get potting soil: it is pasteurized and contains perlite and vermiculite, which prevents the soil from packing down.
- Pots must have a drainage hole, or plants will drown.
- Pick plants from the same light-tolerance group for each pot. Generally speaking, six or less hours of sunlight is considered shade and more than six hours is sun.
- Each container should have three types of plants: those that give height, plants that fill the middle, and ones that trail along the sides.
- If your potting soil does not include a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, add it before planting.
- Keep soil level about an inch below the rim. This will prevent soil from washing out when you water.
- Don’t just scout annuals to fill pots. Any indoor plant once grew outside—indoor ivies are great outside! Just wait until mid-May (or frost-free date) so they don’t freeze at night.