Tips on designing a container garden

Credit: Brand X Pictures/Home and Garden/Alison Miksch

Container gardening tips and tricks

Select containers of one style or material and/or of the same or similar colour palette to create a sense of harmony.

The colour of the container, as well as the hues that appear in the leaves, stems, buds and seeds of your selected plants, is as important as the flowers themselves. Strive to repeat or echo colours in your container planting. Conversely, add in a few plants that contrast with the colour of the pot.

Connect your containers to the rest of your garden by repeating a few of the same colours or plants. These repeated colours or plants connect the plantings to each other and create a unifying effect.

Group plants with similar light and water requirements in the same containers. Check the plant tags or consult with nursery staff if you are unsure.

Select plants that present different forms (linear or round, airy or dense, clusters or singles), different sizes (large and small) and varying textures (delicate or coarse, slender or succulent, fuzzy or smooth). Combining plants with contrasting shapes and habits creates interest.

“Incorporate bold foliage into your mixed container plantings. Foliage provides a great foundation for showing off the flowers of summer. Containers with a good foundation of foliage plants will also remain fresh and interesting, especially when flower production slows down. ” – Bruce McDonald

Use trailing plants, such as ivy or lobelia, around the rim of your container to help soften the edges.

Proportion – the balance between the size of the pot and the size of the planting – is important. The tallest plants in your container planting should be at least as tall the container – preferably taller. One simple formula is pot height = 1/3 and plant height = 2/3 of total height. Similarly, low-growing, mounding plants often look best in a shallow container. The rule doesn’t necessarily apply to larger potted trees, which may more than exceed the usual proportion. These general guidelines will help create well-balanced container plantings, but rules are meant to be broken. Low-growing plants can look very interesting, even in a tall pot. It all depends on how the planting is put together. Always feel free to experiment!

Trellises, stakes or wire cages are sometimes needed to support container-grown flowers and some vegetables. In addition to being utilitarian, they can actually add beauty and interest to a container. Handsome wrought-iron obelisks add style and drama. When selecting a support, consider its scale. It should always be in proportion to the container. Also, make sure supports are well secured so you don’t lose your plant to wind or heavy rain.