Tips on plant combinations for perfect planters

From low-maintenance containers of mostly foliage to formal, monochromatic flower combinations.

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

Not all container plantings must be lush and full of flowers to be beautiful. A single plant, tree or shrub can be stunning in its beauty and impact. For example, an exotic canna lily or Japanese maple tree can be a real showstopper on its own.

Containers that feature mostly green or grey foliage and white flowers give a cool feeling, while reds, oranges and yellows produce a hot impression.

For low-maintenance containers, select plants that need less water and enjoy being root-bound. Ornamental grasses, lilies (Lilium), bay (Laurus nobilis) and lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus) are among the low-maintenance plants that will thrive for several years without repotting if given liquid fertilizer.
– Therese D’Monte, GardenWise Magazine photographer and writer

For a pretty planting with a somewhat formal feel, try planting a container with a variety of flowers of the same colour. Monochromatic plantings in elegant containers have a quiet beauty all their own.

Simple recipe for a mixed planting: Two to three flowering plants (with colourful blooms) combined with one green foliage plant and one white-flowering plant.

You can hurry the arrival of spring to your patio or deck by container planting the native red-flowering currant – a favourite of the hummingbirds. The showy pink blossoms appear in March, just as the first Rufous hummingbirds are returning from a winter spent in Latin America. For a succession of blooms, try planting containers with other hummingbird and butterfly pleasers, like petunia, salvia, delphinium, gilia, columbine and fuchsia.
– Bruce Whittington, avid birder and feature writer on planting for wildlife for GardenWise Magazine

For sunny spots combine upright, spiky, purple-leaved Phormium tenax (New Zealand flax) with the soft silvery leaves of Brachyglottis greyi (a.k.a. Senecio greyi) and Muehlenbeckia complexa (wire vine) to drape gently over the edges of your container. Try these with a blue or rust-coloured pot for added effect. The muted leaves of the Brachyglottis are highlighted wonderfully against any glazed container. In mild climates these plants will be evergreen, and in hot zones they will outlast annuals that begin to die at the very end of summer. These subtropicals have what it takes to thrive in the heat of late summer. In cooler winter climates, take them indoors to overwinter.
– Barbra Fairclough, horticulturist and GardenWise Magazine writer and photographer