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Container Planting Ideas

Fri, May 11th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, May 14, 2001

This year why not try something new in that pot by the door. How many years have you planted geraniums and spikes? OK, they're reliable, trustworthly plants; disease free old friends that provide a summer of color. But this is the year 2001 and change is in the air.

Make your containers more interesting by varying the heights of your plants and using plants with different types of foliage and texture. What, you say geraniums and spikes with the vinca vine do all that? Well, stay with me dear reader, the times they are a changin'....

For sun and part sun try the new 'Wave' petunia, or it's neat lookalike Calibrachoa parviflora 'Million Bells'. Verbenas come in lots of new colors, watch for the 'Tapien' or 'Temari' series. Sutera cordata or Bacopa is a sweet little thing, it grows in a tight cascading mat with tiny starlike flowers. Scaevola aemula is an Australian native that's been around a few years, it's a long bloomer with an interesting purple - blue flower. Try mixing in annuals like Torenia 'Wishbone flower' with allysum, dahlias, browallia, or 'Antique' shades of strawflowers.

Use herbs like parsley, ruffled leaf basil or the burgundy 'Opal' basil for added texture.

For height add varigated ribbon grass, cosmos, snapdragons, dill or even red leafed Swiss chard. Excellent choices for vines are: Ivy geranium, English Ivy, Fuschias, Ibosia vine.

Ipomoea batatas, or 'sweet potato' vine is a real eyecatcher . 'Blackie' has a deep dark burgundy foliage, 'Marganta' is a chartruese and the newest introduction is 'Lady Fingers' a green leaf with beautiful red veins. These fast growing vines provide a lot of color and accent. Keep them trimmed back for fullness.

If you are short on space and plant your tomatoes in pots, why not add a few marigolds for extra color? You can also deter bugs by interplanting this pair.

If your containers are in shade try the new double impatiens. New Guinea impatiens do really well in shade, look for new varieties with variegated foliage. Coleus comes in zillions of colors. Many new varieties of begonias are out, lobelia and pansies will bloom in the shade. Even a showy hosta will add height and interest.

When planting containers, place plants close together so they look full from the start. Don't 'give them room' or you may be disappointed. It's better to prune back to keep it full all summer long. Exposed soil will dry out faster and you'll be watering more. But do check your pots daily at first and especially on really hot days. You may need to water every day depending on the type of soil you use, container size and individual plant needs.

Soil mixes can be purchased by the bag, but you can make your own. One part garden soil, one part compost and one part sand or vermiculite is a good mix for most plants. Add a time released fertilizer or use a diluted liquid fertilizer when watering to keep your plants growing strong.

I hope this inspires you to try something new this year, I went shopping and got excited. So, for regular readers, next week I promise those tips on strawberry diseases.

Virginia Cooper gardens and writes in Mabel, MN and can be reached by email virgcoop@

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