Create Bold, Dramatic Container Gardens

Use our plant-by-numbers guide to create bold, beautiful, and eye-catching container gardens.

By Kelly Roberson


  • view all thumbnails
Fountain grass, coleus, rue, croton
1/21
Play Up the Power of Foliage

    A collection of foliage plants, grouped in vintage and new containers, pulls greens, yellows, and rust into a coordinating palette.

    A. Purple fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') -- 2
    B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Glennis') -- 2
    C. Rue (Ruta graveolens 'Jackman's Blue') -- 3
    D. Croton (Codeiaeum 'Gold Star') -- 3
    E. Dracaena 'Florida Beauty' -- 1
    F. Hosta 'Bright Lights' --1
    G. Dracaena marginata -- 1

2/21
Draw Your Eye Up

    A tall container calls for vertical plants -- but you don't necessarily have to grow up. Here, trailing stems of creeping Jenny surround mounds of petunias, verbena, and calibrachoa (also called Million Bells).

    A. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Hot Pink' -- 1
    B. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) -- 2
    C. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) -- 3
    D. Verbena 'Wildfire Deep Lavender' -- 2
    E. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) -- 1
    F. Petunia 'Easy Wave Blue' -- 1

3/21
Create Your Own Fireworks

    Striking phormium looks great as a specimen plant. It looks even better dressed up by other plants. Here, bacopa and fescue add contrast in both color and plant size and add to the planting's bold interest.

    A. Bacopa (Sutera 'Snowstorm') -- 2
    B. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax 'Variegatum') -- 1
    C. Blue fescue (Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue') -- 2
    D. Lonicera nitida -- 1
    E. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze') -- 1

4/21
Add a Touch of the Tropics

    Elegant and simple, this container gets its beauty from the coordinating foliage and blooms of croton and impatiens.

    A. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens 'Sonic Red') -- 4
    B. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum 'Petra') -- 1

5/21
Create Drama with Vines

    A pretty yellow black-eyed Susan vine scrambles up the center of this rolling container, complemented by the yellow-green shades of coleus, lantana, and osteospermum. Place plants and containers such as these against exterior walls in need of a summer color boost.

    A. Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata 'Suzie hybrids') -- 2
    B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Goldie') -- 1
    C. Lantana (Lantana 'Landmark Yellow') -- 1
    D. Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii' -- 4
    E. Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony' -- 1

6/21
Create a Soft Look

    At times unrestrained, the range of blooms found here, including petunia, nicotiana, and daisy, softens the wood timbers and helps give them warmth.

    A. Calibrachoa Starlette Yellow -- 2
    B. Coleus (Solenstemon 'Colleen') -- 1
    C. Petunia 'Baby Compact Coral' -- 1
    D. Daisy (Argyranthemum 'Madeira White') -- 1
    E. Nicotiana 'Saratoga Deep Rose' -- 1
    F. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Autumn') -- 1
    G. Sanvitalia 'Sunbini' -- 1
    H. Strawflower (Bracteantha 'Sundaze Flame') -- 1

7/21
Keep Your Colors Simple

    Blue and yellow is a classic color combination you can always count on to create impact. Here, it's freshened up with a couple of white accents.

    A. Petunia 'Easy Wave Blue' -- 1
    B. Angelonia 'Angelface White' -- 3
    C. Lobelia 'Techno Heat Light Blue' -- 3
    D. Osteospermum 'Vanilla Symphony' -- 1
    E. Sanvitalia 'Sunbini' -- 2

8/21
Play Off Your Container

    Use your container to create contrast. Here, soft silvers and purples accent the deeper-toned container. The minimal blooms make way for a selection of interesting foliage.

    A. Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina 'Big Ears') -- 2
    A. Sedum 'Vera Jameson' -- 1
    C. Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' -- 1
    D. Veronica 'Blue Charm' -- 1
    E. Ruby Grass (Melinus 'Pink Crystals') -- 1

9/21
Eat What You Grow

    Bold container gardens don't just have to look good -- they can taste great, too! Here, a calamondin offers a beautiful focal point for sage and rosemary.

    A. Calamondin (Citrus mitis 'Calamondin') -- 1
    B. Blue fescue (Festuca glauca) -- 2
    C. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus') -- 2
    D. Tricolor sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor') -- 2

10/21
Plant a Tree

    Think both vertically and horizontally when you create container gardens. Pretty cascades of million bells spruce up the base of a dwarf tangerine tree.

    A. Citrus 'Pixie Tangerine' -- 1
    B. Calibrachoa 'Starlette Yellow' -- 3
    C. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Lavender' -- 2
    D. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Purple' -- 2

11/21
Create a Grouping

    A wild assortment of plants, each in their own container, assures visual interest in this container composition. Plus, you can keep the display looking fresh by moving the containers around or adding others.

    A. Coral bells (Heuchera 'Lime Rickey') -- 1
    B. Ivy (Hedera helix 'Asterisk') -- 2
    C. Chamaecyparis 'Fernspray Gold' -- 1
    D. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial') -- 1
    E. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Nonstop Orange') -- 1
    F. Reiger begonia (Begonia 'Spectrum Jutta') -- 1
    G. Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana' -- 1
    H. Golden oakleaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' -- 1
    I. Plumbago auriculata -- 2
    J. Heuchera 'Starry Night' -- 1

12/21
Choose a Bold Container

    Geometry at play makes for a striking gathering, with a container detailed with interlocking rectangles against an upright canna and sprawling petunias and geraniums.

    A. Canna 'Assaut' -- 2
    B. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Designer Cherry') -- 1
    C. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Graffiti White') -- 2
    D. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Graffiti Pink') -- 2
    E. Petunia 'Easy Wave Shell Pink' -- 1

13/21
Create Cottage-Style Charm

    Pinks and greens spell summer in this lush arrangement, accented with unusual choices such as sedum and hens and chicks. Another way to interest, which this container does, is to mix up foliage shapes and sizes.

    A. Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pia' -- 2
    B. Rose (Rosa 'Anne Boleyn') -- 1
    C. Sedum sieboldii -- 2
    D. Begonia 'Pink Minx' -- 2
    E. Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) -- 6
    F. Tradescantia zebrina -- 2
    G. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) -- 1
    H. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Abel') -- 2

14/21
Vary Plant Shapes

    This grouping of four containers works well because there are contrasting plant shapes. An upright mandevilla contrasts with the mounding purple heliotrope, which complements the trailing forms of thyme and nolana.

    A. Mandevilla 'Alice du Pont' -- 1
    B. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Fantasia White') -- 1
    C. Heliotrope (Heliotropium 'Marine') -- 3
    D. Thyme (Thymus 'Argenteus') -- 5
    E. Dianthus 'Devon Cottage Miss Pinky' -- 3
    F. Nolana 'Blue Eyes' -- 2
    G. Lantana 'Lucky Yellow' -- 1
    H. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Graffiti Double White') -- 1

15/21
Add Layers of Interest

    An elevated ironwork container stands partially hidden behind the lush blooms of a skirt of petunias. A layer of foliage plants rises above, which creates even more interest.

    A. Alternathera 'Purple Knight' -- 1
    B. Calibrachoa 'Blush Purple' -- 6
    C. Plectranthus argentatus -- 1
    D. Vinca major 'Variegata' -- 2
    E. Dracaena marginata -- 1

16/21
Create an Old-Fashioned Look

    In this old urn, tried-and-true plants flows into one another, creating a lovely patchwork of burgundy, green, and pink with a group of plants you know you can depend on.

    A. Wax begonia (Begonia 'Bayou Pink') -- 3
    B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Christmas Candy') -- 2
    C. Coral bells (Heuchera 'Palace Purple') -- 1
    D. Dusty miller (Senecio 'Silver Dust') -- 3
    E. Ivy (Hedera helix 'Eva')
    F. Dracaena marginata -- 1

17/21
Go for a Contemporary Look

    A crisply modern hammered tin container plays host to a decidedly relaxed assembly of plants, making for a summery combination.

    A. Spiderwort (Tradescantia 'Sweet Kane') -- 3
    B. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Designer Hot Coral') -- 4
    C. Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony' -- 2
    D. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Marguerite') -- 3
    E. Licorice vine (Helichrysum petiolare) -- 4

18/21
Dress Up an Entry

    Urns are a classic way to dress up gates, doorways, or other entry points. This one is dressed up by smart plant choices -- two sweet potato vines grab your eye and are brought together by a coleus that blends the two colors. A dracaena adds extra texture.

    A. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Marguerite' ) -- 1
    B. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie') -- 1
    C. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Private Dancer') -- 1
    D. Dracaena marginata
    E. Petunia 'Celebrity Mid-Blue' -- 1

19/21
Use Warm, Bright Colors

    Warm, bright shades of purple, pink, red, orange, or yellow add excitement to any spot. Here, the yellow tecoma offers a lovely complement to a boldly colored impatiens.

    A. Tecoma stans 'Gold Star' -- 1
    B. Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid' -- 4
    C. Ivy (Hedera helix) -- 1

20/21
Revive an Old Urn

    A container as classic as an urn doesn't have to be filled with the same old petunias and geraniums you're used to seeing. A smart mix of plants can give it a whole new feel.

    A. Bacopa (Sutera 'Snowstorm') -- 1
    B. Ivy (Hedera helix 'Ceridwen') -- 1
    C. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Nonstop Bright Rose') -- 1
    D. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Nonstop Yellow') -- 2
    E. Tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Go-Go Red') -- 3
    F. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii') -- 1

21/21
Popular Slideshows
Use this collection of recipes to create lush, bea...

If you want to create beautiful container gardens ...

Use these easy plant-by-numbers recipes to put tog...

Looking for an inspiring container garden? Take our short quiz and receive a customized planting strategy perfect for you. Start now!


Top Brands


Related Links
Use this collection of recipes to create lush, bea...

If you want to create beautiful container gardens ...

Use these easy plant-by-numbers recipes to put tog...

Really go green this holiday with a living urn tha...

Share Your Thoughts