7 Ways to Incorporate Containers in the Landscape

By Kimberly Toscano

Add depth and seasonal interest to the garden with savvy container placement.

Containers are mainstays on porches and patios, but why limit these workhorses to those traditional locations? Turn container plantings into a powerful design tool and problem-solver for your garden. Here are seven design ideas to get you started.

1. Break Up Beds and Borders

Use containers to add a vertical element to otherwise flat plantings or liven up large areas of groundcover. Grasses, small shrubs, and upright perennials like Lydia™Tecomalift the garden skyward. Tailor plant material to meet your needs. Looking for an accent or focal point? Try Delta Fusion™Crapemyrtle. Create a “pause” or moment of calm with a simple evergreen or white-blooming shrub like Jubilation™Gardenia. These plants let your eye rest as it moves through a planting. 

2. Play Dress-Up


Need a pop of color in a hard-to-plant space? Containers are perfect for bringing color where it is needed. Pot up showy shade-loving plants like ‘Angyo Star’ Fatshedera and Purple Pixie®Dwarf Weeping Loropetalumto brighten the base of large trees where digging is out of the question. Or fill the side-yard and decorate fence-lines with pots erupting in bloom. ‘Maui Punch’ Canna and Ever Sapphire™Agapanthusare perfect for this role. 

3. Grow Something to Eat


Modern cultivars make fruits accessible to everyone, even if you have no space for a garden. Container-friendly plants like ‘Little Miss Figgy’ Dwarf Fig and Takes the Cake™Rabbiteye Blueberry bring fruit production to the patio. Herbs are also great in containers, as soil and watering schedules can match plant needs. Keep a container full of Chef’s Choice®Culinary Rosemary close to the kitchen for easy access.

4. Mix and Mingle 


Containers offer the power of individualization. By planting them in individual containers, you can combine plants with very different needs in a single composition while ensuring each receives the proper soil, fertilization, and watering regime. So why not mix up stunning architectural plants like succulent Skyscraper™Senecio with moisture-loving ‘Black Ripple’ Colocasia?

5. Define Space


Space-making is easy and inexpensive with containerized shrubs. No need to invest in bricks and mortar, a line of potted ‘Scarlet’s Peak’ creates a simple living wall. To enclose a garden room, place containers in groups at the corners of the space, incorporating a variety of plant heights and forms. Define the walls of a room with low or tall shrubs, depending on your desired level of privacy. For implied walls that allow views out into the garden, set containers of Low Rider™Holly or Baby Gem™Boxwoodalong the room’s edges. 

6. Arrange and Rearrange


Easily moveable and endlessly rearrange-able, containers are perfect for practicing design. Hesitant gardeners gain experience by organizing and reorganizing containers until they find pleasing arrangements. Confident designers can create unique compositions again and again throughout the landscape. Just getting started? Try grouping different-sized containers in odd numbers – three or five work well­ – and incorporate a variety of textures and plant forms such as the bold foliage of ‘Poquito’ Banana and the long blades of Design-A-Line™Cordyline

7. Hide and Seek

Containers can also be useful as a screen or simply to draw attention away from eyesores in the landscape. Every landscape has some unattractive element – the gas meter, a well-head, or simply a bare wall. Containers provide the perfect solution when you want to hide an element from view, but still allow access for maintenance. At the opposite extreme, container plantings can also be used to frame good views in the landscape and on neighboring properties. 

Next time you encounter a problem area in the landscape or want to add a pop of color, turn to containers for an easy solution.

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