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Container Gardening - Summer Pots

Container Gardening - Summer Pots

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Container gardening can be immensely rewarding. Containers let you put plants where there is really no garden. Or to put it another way, it lets you put a garden where there was no garden before. Often there is very little time lag between planting and a display that holds its own. In addition, containers can be moved, rearranged, or simply put in storage.

Think Big

Pots can hold almost anything. In fact, many plants that get huge spend their early years in containers. They can do that at your home as well as in a nursery. So what it really comes down to is the decision how long one wants to keep the plant in the container.

Obviously a giant redwood or a mighty oak are going to have a limited lifespan in a pot. (The pot may have a limited lifespan, too. Usually in a tree vs. pot contest, the tree wins.)

Often, a plant that achieves its full glory when very large, looks gawky and awkward in its youth.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible to grow a small tree or, even better, a shrub that will be pruned as a tree - and this can last for many, many years. A distinct advantage in a large pot is that, with more soil volume it is easier to keep a more consistent moisture level.

Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects is going to be over wintering. Even a cold-hardy plant can be in trouble if the root ball freezes solid. The easiest way to avoid the problem (sorry for all you Northerners) is to grow the plants where cold will not be a problem.

GARDENING TERM: Tender - sensitive to cold and frost. For example, "tender annuals" are cold sensitive and should only be planted when all threat of frost is past.

This means those living in the south, west or, everywhere else that does not get too cold can leave the pots outside or move them to a sheltered location. In other areas, or with tender plants, they must be moved inside when cold weather arrives. This could refer to an unheated patio, as long as it does not get below freezing.

Trees or Shrubs to use as Trees for Large Pots or Tubs

Here are some suggestions of known performers in pots:

pot Acer circinatum, A. palmatum
Camellia japonica, C sasanqua
Crataegus oxyacantha Paul's Scarlet, C. phaenopyrum
Eleagnus pungens
Fagus sylvatica (as well as purple weeping variety)
Ficus benjamina
Ginko biloba
Juniperus chinensis Torulosa
Laburnum x watereri Vossii
Laurus nobilis
Ligustrum lucidum
Osmanthus fragrans
Pittosporum tobira, P. undulatum
Pinus thunbergiana
Podocarpus sp
Prunus blireana, P. laurocerasus, P. serrulata
Pyracantha coccinea
Viburnum tinus

Think Small

Tiny can be terrific. It invites a close viewing, and a whole world of the miniature can be discovered. Small potted plants certainly save space, and entire collections can fit on a small patio or garden table. They are also easily moved. Two groups that immediately come to mind are the Cactus / Succulent plants and Bonsai, the miniature trees.


These are really specialties that should have their own articles, but for now suffice that they do make great displays. Put then in a place where the detail can be appreciated. The very important thing about small pots is that they can dry out quickly. So check them often and water appropriately.

Plants for Pots

Annuals are terrific for color in pots on patio, balcony, porch, or wherever. The suggestions below are easy to grow and dependable performers:

Sunny Location

Cockscomb (Celosia) - dwarf types
Marigold - French or Dwarf types (Tagetes patula or T. tenifolia)
Petunia - many types from upright to cascading to dwarf
Asweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima
Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus

Half-Shade to Shade

Begonia - bedding types
Coleus - grown for colorful leaf rather than flower

Using pot and tubs, your garden can be brought close and leaf and flower conveniently displayed.

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