Container Planting in the Time of COVID-19

Posted on May 14, 2020 by Lisa Rapalus

These are challenging times, to say the least! You may have noticed that some of your favorite annuals for containers haven’t been available this year. Growers have had to make hard decisions at a time of year when they are normally ramping up big time. And because so many folks are sheltering in place and working in their yards like never before, there is also a HUGE demand! Shorty’s staff is stretched incredibly thin right now and unfortunately will not have the time to individually design and help create containers for our customers, so here are some ideas to help you think outside the box and dress up your front porches and/or back patios, even if you can’t use tried and true favorites.

Large containers offer all kinds of possibilities, mixing trees and shrubs with perennials and pops of annual color. In this example, a beautiful Japanese Maple is the thriller, flanked by shade-loving perennials like Hosta and Astrantia as fillers, and beautiful Ajuga trailing down the side. I popped in some violas in late winter, which are still providing bright color in the front.

Also in this picture is a lime green low bowl full of Black Mondo Grass. I love the simplicity and contrast this combination provides… talk about an easy-care container!

This is a good time for a disclaimer: Most of my containers come together by accident and not with a whole lot of planning or artistic ability! We’ve all heard the rules for containers like “Thriller-Filler-Spiller” and using odd numbers of plants, and while these are very good rules of thumb, don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside the box. The next few examples came together from a random assortment of “extra” plants I had lying around and a piece of metal art I didn’t know what to do with.

Most of the plants (Carex, Hellebore, Heuchera, Euphorbia, and Senecio) in these examples are evergreen and provide year-round interest. I had some extra orange Nemesia from another planting project and had the epiphany when walking by that they would be perfect here!

If you don’t have a tall plant to add vertical interest to your containers, simply use a piece of garden art or even mossy sticks and twigs or drift wood.

Finally, for those of you looking for a great recipe for annual color with items we either have in stock or are expecting more of this week, here’s an example of one I’m putting together for my own back deck.

In this example, Purple Fountain Grass will be stunning by mid-summer with its showy plumes and dark blades. Even though Purple Fountain Grass isn’t winter hardy in our climate, it grows quickly and puts on quite a show, making it worth planting every year! Orange Dahliettas and lime green upright Verbena will fill the pot with gorgeous blooms, while Superbells ‘Blue Moon Punch’ will create a waterfall of rich blue color trailing down the pot. I also have Golden Creeping Jenny growing rampant in areas of my yard, so I might just dig up a few chunks and add it for an additional lime green trailing accent.

The Dahlias, Verbena and Superbells will be available in a variety of colors this week, so play with your own combinations to create a beautiful container that will look great all summer long!


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