Create Bold, Dramatic Planter Arrangements and Container Gardens

Alternathera, million bells
Photo: Peter Krumhardt

Make your shopping list for the nursery a lot simpler. Use our plant-by-numbers guide to create bold, beautiful, and eye-catching container gardens.

01 of 22

Choose a Bold Container

Canna, geranium, petunia
Adam Albright

Geometry at play makes for a striking base, as seen with this 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

02 of 22

Create an Old-Fashioned Look

Begonia, coleus, heuchera
Peter Krumhardt

In this old urn, tried-and-true plants flow into one another, creating a lovely patchwork of burgundy, green, and pink in a delightful planter arrangement for a container garden.

A. Begonia 'Bayou Pink' ⁠— 3

B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Christmas Candy') ⁠— 2

C. Coralbells (Heuchera 'Palace Purple') ⁠— 1

D. Dusty miller (Senecio 'Silver Dust') ⁠— 3

E. Ivy (Hedera helix 'Eva') ⁠— 1

F. ⁠⁠Dracaena marginata — 1

03 of 22

Video: Container Gardening Design Tips

Watch this quick video from Better Homes and Gardens® to get ideas on creating your own dramatic container garden. These are the elements you need for the perfect planter.

04 of 22

Dress Up an Entry

Sweet potato vine, coleus, petunia
Celia Pearson

Urns are a classic way to dress up gates, doorways, or other entry points. This one is made special with smart plant choices⁠—two sweet potato vines grab your eye and are brought together by 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 ⁠— 1

E. Petunia 'Celebrity Mid-Blue' ⁠— 1

05 of 22

Go for a Contemporary Look

Spiderwort, geranium, sweet potato vine
Andy Lyons

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

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

06 of 22

Add a Touch of the Tropics

Impatiens, croton
Peter Krumhardt

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

A. New Guinea Impatiens 'Sonic Red' ⁠— 4

B. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum 'Petra') ⁠— 1

07 of 22

Plant a Tree

Citrus, million bells
Edward Gohlich

Think both vertically and horizontally when container gardening. Pretty cascades of million bells spruce up the base of a dwarf lime tree.

A. Citrus 'Pixie Tangerine' ⁠— 1

B. Calibrachoa 'Starlette Yellow' ⁠— 3

C. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Lavender' ⁠— 2

D. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Purple' ⁠— 2

08 of 22

Use Warm, Bright Colors

Tecoma, impatiens
Mary Carolyn Pindar

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

A. Tecoma stans 'Gold Star' ⁠— 1

B. Impatiens 'Fanfare Orchid' ⁠— 4

C. Ivy (Hedera helix) ⁠— 1

09 of 22

Play Up the Power of Foliage

Fountain grass, coleus, rue, croton
Kritsada Panichgul

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

A. Purple fountaingrass (Pennisetum 'Rubrum') ⁠— 2

B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Glennis') ⁠— 2

C. Rue (Ruta 'Jackman's Blue') ⁠— 3

D. Croton (Codeiaeum 'Gold Star') ⁠— 3

E. Dracaena 'Florida Beauty' ⁠— 1

F. Hosta 'Bright Lights' ⁠— 1

G. Dracaena marginata ⁠— 1

10 of 22

Draw Your Eye Up

Million bells, petunia, verbena
Richard Hirneisen

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

11 of 22

Create Your Own Fireworks

Phormium, bacopa, fescue
Edward Gohlich

Striking phormium looks excellent as a specimen plant. It looks even better dressed up by other plants. Here, bacopa and fescue contrast in 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 'Elijah Blue') ⁠— 2

D. Lonicera nitida ⁠— 1

E. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze') ⁠— 1

12 of 22

Create Drama with Vines

Black eyed Susan vine, coleus, lantana
Peter Krumhardt

A pretty yellow black-eyed Susan vine scrambles up the center of this unique planter arrangement, 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 'Suzie hybrids') ⁠— 2

B. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Goldie') ⁠— 1

C. Lantana 'Landmark Yellow' ⁠— 1

D. Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii' ⁠— 4

E. Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony' ⁠— 1

13 of 22

Create a Soft Look

Million bells, coleus, petunia
Peter Krumhardt

The range of blooms found here, sometimes unrestrained, include petunia, nicotiana, and daisy. They soften 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. 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

14 of 22

Keep Your Colors Simple

Petunia, million bells, bacopa
Marty Baldwin

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

15 of 22

Play Off Your Container

Lamb's ears, stonecrop, veronica
Matthew Benson

Use creative planters 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

B. Sedum 'Vera Jameson' ⁠— 1

C. Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' ⁠— 1

D. Veronica 'Blue Charm' ⁠— 1

E. Ruby Grass (Melinus 'Pink Crystals') ⁠— 1

16 of 22

Eat What You Grow

Citrus, fescue, rosemary
Edward Gohlich

Bold container gardens don't have to only 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 'Prostratus') ⁠— 2

D. Tricolor sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor') ⁠— 2

17 of 22

Revive an Old Urn

Bacopa, ivy, lobelia
Kritsada Panichgul

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. Instead, a creative 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 (B. 'Nonstop Yellow') ⁠— 2

E. Tuberous begonia (B. 'Go-Go Red') ⁠— 3

F. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii') ⁠— 1

18 of 22

Create a Grouping

Heuchera, begonia
Andrew Drake

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. Coralbells (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. Oakleaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' ⁠— 1

I. Plumbago auriculata ⁠— 2

J. Heuchera 'Starry Night' ⁠— 1

19 of 22

Create Cottage-Style Charm

Hydrangea, rose, sedum
David McDonald

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

20 of 22

Vary Plant Shapes

Mandevilla, dahlia
Bill Stites

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

21 of 22

Add Layers of Interest

Alternathera, million bells
Peter Krumhardt

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

22 of 22

Bright, Drought-Tolerant Container Garden

You don't have to stick with one style per container. Check out this drought-tolerant container garden that mixes tropical and Mediterranean plants.

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