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Step-by-Step: Easy Summer Color Pots

Container, article and photos by NHG General Manager, Cody Hoya.

Garden color container combination

Quick and easy color pots are the perfect dose of color in summer. They’re ideal for punching up your patio before summer parties and for dressing up your entry when cool-season blooms come to an end. Here’s your project list to get going on your own, in time for your fourth of July party:

1. First, you’ll need a great container. Whether you crave bright and bold or tend toward classic terra cotta, choose a pot that has good drainage, sufficient root space to sustain your plants, and if it’s going on a table or deck, a drainage saucer.

I picked this bold, contemporary ‘Moonscape’ planter in orange–it’s one of my favorites, and it shows off plant colors beautifully:

'Moonscape' planters
These ‘Moonscape’ planters offer texture, color, and matching saucer. This size retails for just $34.99.

2. Next, add a bit of old cocofiber basket liner to place in the bottom. This will maintain drainage while mitigating the loss of soil through the drainage hole.

Coco fiber protects soil from seeping out of your containers.
Coco fiber protects soil from seeping out of your containers.

3. Now, the fun part: plants! As the famous rule of thumb says, select a ‘thriller’, a ‘filler’, and a ‘spiller’–i.e., an upright accent plant, a bushy plant, and a trailing or cascading plant.

Here, I’ve chosen ‘Green Spike’ Dracaena (left) and ‘Midnight Rambler’ Coleus (right) as ‘thrillers’–although arguably, the Coleus serves as both a thriller and a filler:

garden container "thrillers"

As fillers, I love ‘Purple Flash’ (left) and ‘Chilly Chili’ (right) Ornamental Peppers–they look great all summer, produce beautiful textural fruit and that color is wonderful–the pale white and flecked lavender foliage compliments anything:

Ornamental Peppers
Ornamental Peppers: ‘Purple Flash’ (left) and ‘Chilly Chili’ (right).

Another great filler is ‘Nirvana’ Vinca–its vivid lipstick-pink flowers are produced all the way until frost:

'Nirvana' Vinca
‘Nirvana’ Vinca

‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra is a favorite ‘spiller’ plant–it’s tough, vigorous, and the silver color sparkles in any combination planting:

Dichondra for color containers

After placing your cocofiber liner in the bottom, fill your container with a good general potting soil–I used ‘Top Notch’ potting soil here–up to the right depth for the largest plant. The goal is to pack the soil well so that there’s minimal settling after you plant, and so that you leave 1/2″ to 1″ of space to water after planting:

Be sure that the root balls of your plants are level,
Be sure that the root balls of your plants are level, and make sure you leave room to water after planting

Combine your plants for maximum appeal: if your pot will be viewed from all sides, say, as a centerpiece, your ‘thriller’ plant will  go in the center. If it’s to be viewed primarily from one side, it’s best toward the back.

Next, add your ‘filler’ plants: I placed the ‘Purple Flash’ Ornamental Pepper opposite the dark purple coleus, instead using the orange pepper and vinca nearer the darker foliage. This gives me maximum contrast across the composition:

Color containers

Lastly, tuck in the ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra, carefully arranging its runners so that they offer maximum cascade effect. To finish, make sure the root balls of your plants are level and that you fill each nook and cranny with potting soil, then water in well. You may choose to give the finished container a mild boost with organic root stimulator or liquid seaweed to get it off to the best start:

color containers
Carefully add soil to fill all of the gaps between root balls; this will help ensure even watering and reduce transplant shock.

Voila! Easy summer color that doesn’t break the bank and will offer you months of colorful enjoyment.

color containers

We’re always happy to help you create your own combinations that are perfect for sun or shade areas.

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