Planting a summer container is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon. But with so many plant choices, it can feel overwhelming. Here are the key steps to building beautiful summer containers.
The first step in planning your summer container planting is determining light conditions. Your plants will only thrive if they receive the correct amount of light. You’ll often find the light requirements on the plant tag, but if it’s not there, just ask! Today we’ll be planting a pot that will receive a minimum of 6 hours of sunshine per day—this is considered “full sun” conditions.
The second consideration is the amount of water each plant requires. You don’t want to mix plants that require consistently damp soil with plants that prefer to dry between watering.
The third step is the fun one—aesthetics! This is where you can let your personality shine and make the most personal choices.
Choosing the Plants
In this example, we’re going to plant a monochromatic pot with lots of texture and variation in tint and shade of our chosen color. This means that while purple is our color choice, we will have a variety of purple shades and lots of texture variation in leaf and flower choices.
I prefer to plan a planting by choosing my hero plant first. This doesn’t have to be the centerpiece or the largest plant, although it often is. It’s the plant that you’re most drawn to and that you want to take center stage. Today I chose a passionflower vine. This will be the largest plant in the pot as it grows up its trellis, but I chose it because I love its distinctive flower and how quickly it climbs.
With that choice, I knew I wanted to play off the purple flowers and have all the other plants in the pot complement and enhance those flowers, not fight against them.
With that in mind, I chose the heuchera next. The ruffled foliage is almost the exact color of the passionflower. This creates visual continuity from the base of the planting – where the heuchera will stay low and lush – up through the top of the trellis where the passionflowers will bloom. By choosing a foliage the same color and not another flower, we avoid the overall planting looking too matchy-matchy or trite.
Next up, the petunias! Petunias can get a bad rep for being ubiquitous, but they’re heavily used for a reason. They bloom consistently all summer, and their flowers are always the focus over their foliage. These Bordeaux petunias have a gorgeous color ombré and bring a brighter purple into the planting. If all the purple was the same shade, the planting will look flat and lifeless.
Looking to add some contrast, I grabbed the Diamond Frost euphorbia. White can always be added to plantings to add contrast and brightness. The small flowers mix around the other plants and add a softness to the overall planting. Adding euphorbia is a great way to add lightness to a planting that may be feeling heavy.
The final addition is the purple sweet potato vine. I chose this because it incorporates a new shade of purple and a new leaf shape and texture. It will also trail out of the planter adding a new dimension. Be careful when choosing a sweet potato vine variety as some types trail and others grow up. Sweet potato vine will also need trimming throughout the summer to keep it from taking over the planter.
Together these plants bring out the best in each other. And with some care, this planting will look even better in August than it does now.
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