Magazine article Sunset

Potting Perennials: Three Approaches to Low-Care Planting. (Garden)

Magazine article Sunset

Potting Perennials: Three Approaches to Low-Care Planting. (Garden)

Article excerpt

You get a wonderful feeling when the potted perennials you've been ignoring all winter start to reappear in spring. Just when you've given up hope that new life will somehow spring forth from those clumps of strawlike twigs, fresh green growth appears, followed by robust stems, beautiful flowers, and a long summer show. It's the cycle of life and the seasons, being played out in a pot. And it's one of the joys of the low-care plantings pictured here, designed for beauty and simplicity.

Many perennials will come back pretty reliably for several years in the same container. You can grow them singly, pair a couple of compatible growers, or plant a medley of three or more comeback kids whose colors and textures complement one another.

For the first two years in pots, the perennials shown here need little care beyond watering, clipping spent blooms, and feeding (controlled-release fertilizer at the start of growing seasons works well).

But by the third or fourth year, mixed plantings can begin to appear crowded. Autumn is a good time to divide them.

Plant tall perennials (2 to 4 feet) in deep pots (at least 18 inches diameter and about 20 inches deep). Put low growers in wide bowls at least 8 inches deep.


Plant two perennials together-either a single tall one surrounded by low growers or two tall ones. In the pot pictured above, red Geum 'Mrs. Bradshaw' and white Gaura lindheimeri mingle their delicate blooms.


Use three long-blooming perennials to form the backbone of the planting, then add smaller plants in complementary hues. The pot at right, designed by Tina Dixon of Plants a la Cart in Bothell, Washington, and Cheryl Wilson of Kirkland, Washington, features Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', chocolate cosmos, and 'Pardon Me' daylily. Dark-leafed 'Ace of Spades' sweet potato vine trails over the edge; its color echoes the dark eye of black-eyed Susan vine. The container also holds purple fountain grass, bronze fennel, Sanvitalia procumbens 'Orange Sprite', Weigela 'Magic Carpet', Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea', and Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'. …

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