Back to School Fall Project: Simple Container Planting
It’s back-to-school time, so that means it’s back to the crazy school schedule. Finding a little time to give your patio or front door area a little curb appeal might be a little tough with all of the demands that school season has on our time. I wanted to give you some easy ideas to get you excited about some great combinations that can have a dual purpose – making your containers less of a chore, more useful, and more fun!
Constructing containers has evolved from a place to stuff a bunch of flowers to an art form in only a few decades. You don’t need to be an artist to make great containers – most of them follow a similar pattern! Most containers have a few different shapes in them: an upright, a broad, and a trailing plant. Upright shape is a plant that grows mainly vertical, like ornamental grasses. A broad shape is something that grows upwards a little but then grows outward as well. Trailing shapes are, you guessed it, plants that spill over the sides of a container like a waterfall. Most containers can be made by mixing and matching plants to fill each of these elements, though of course you don’t have to, either.
All of this sounds dreadfully technical and specific, but I promise it’s not that hard. It’s actually easy to make a container that is pretty as well as functional! Read on to see what I mean.
Fall Container Idea #1: Insect-repelling Container
Your pretty planters in your hangout space can be more than just a pop of color – they can earn their keep by helping to keep pesky biting insects away too. Three great container plants you can use to give you color and insect protection are Lavender (upright shape), Geraniums (broad shape, but some varieties do trail a bit), and Marigolds (also broad).
Each of these flowers grow well in the milder fall (and spring) weather here in Florida, and the coming days of cooler temperatures really help them last a long time – keep them dead-headed and they’ll bloom past Thanksgiving! Plus, you can use the lavender as potpourri in the house or to make crafts like soaps and teas.
The color palette for these containers really speak of fall – mix and match geraniums in red, scarlet, or orange to compliment the red, orange, or yellow of the marigolds. The Lavender will have the silvery stems and foliage to really pop in the middle of that arrangement and the purple flower heads compliment the other flowers as well.
Fall Container Idea #2: Garnish Garden
Some of my favorite container gardens are full of herbs. Among my favorites, some of the best fall flavors in the herb family are Rosemary, Mint, and Parsley. They have so many uses and taste amazing – and these herbs work overtime as garnishes to give that touch of finesse to any of your holiday party dishes.
Rosemary is an evergreen that has an upright habit, so it would be planted in the middle. Parsley can also grow quite tall, but it also tends to spread out – and if you’re using it in comfort foods like soups, stews, or even just your morning eggs, you’ll be snipping it back pretty regularly so it won’t get so “leggy”. There are many varieties of mint, but most of them will trail out and down the sides (and will root in the ground and spread if you’re not careful, so use up that mint as it grows!)
The contrast of the pine-like rosemary foliage with the fan-leaf or crinkle-leaf parsley is super eye-catching. Add the light greens and soft texture of the mint family and you can really make this all-green arrangement shine. The container can be as simple or fun as you want by mixing in however many different flavors, colors, and textures of the leafy herbs as you’d like.
I like to take some fun whimsical things, like fairies or gnomes, and place them in and amongst the greenery…they stare at me until I trim their garden and use it in my cooking!
Fall Container Idea #3: Cabbage Kingdom
Cabbages are so much more versatile than most people give them credit for – usually coleslaw is the first thing that comes to mind, or the traditional Irish corned beef & cabbage. But did you know that there is such thing as ornamental cabbages? Yep, they come in all kinds of colors, and they are really hardy, often lasting through Winter until the Florida weather gets too hot.
Of course, edible Cabbages are beautiful too – they have greenish-silver leaves, or bright purple leaves, which works really well for fall. Combine with another plant in the same family as Cabbage, Kale, and you can really make a great textural planter with lots of color. If you don’t like Kale, that’s ok, there are nearly endless leafy options to suit your taste. Maybe you can use the smaller plant like Spinach, or Bok Choi to give you a nice green broad shape and rich color. For your tall plant that also can have a trailing habit, and also has LOTS of color, throw one or two complimentary types of coleus in there.
You can get super creative here – my Plant-o-gram will get you started with the basics, but you’ll likely want to experiment to see what’s perfect for you.
You Have Permission to Play
The most important thing to know about container gardening is this: If something isn’t working, or it doesn’t look right to you – YOU CAN CHANGE IT. You can move plants to another container, or remove them altogether. Containers are miniature gardens that we get to play in to find what works for us. I’m happy to start you off with some plant-o-grams but encourage you to explore beyond them to find the perfect combinations for you and your family.
They Will Need Nutrients
Container plants have much less soil to pull from than your traditional garden, so you have to feed them fertilizer a little more than you would a tree or a bush in the ground. Follow instructions on the fertilizer you choose, and we hope you choose the Shell’s-branded formulations, because we worked really hard to make those to work best specifically for Florida gardens and conditions…even container gardens. Call us or stop in for more information!
I personally love container gardening (it’s most of the gardening I do), and when I’m not working I’m usually out on the porch playing with my plants. They’re the best way to play with what you love and want more of at home, and are a fun way to make a pretty statement that helps out around the house, too.
Thanks for reading!
Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child.
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me. The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!) Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.