Sometimes in gardening, you need to go big or go home. That’s the case with container gardening. This fall, pack a large pot to capacity with chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses and late-season perennials and annuals to punch up your porch or patio.
Not just for commercial landscapes or formal gardens, large containers bring blooms to eye level, pulling together color, texture and shape in a touchable space.
Large containers also have the advantage of protecting plants during cold weather. Add plant caddies for portability and you can wheel your container to a protected space.
To bring this look to your home, begin with the right container. At the Garden Center, choose from heavy ceramic or clay pots, or go for lightweight synthetic containers.
Some synthetic containers are self-watering with reservoirs that will prevent the plants from sitting in water, causing root rot.
The Home Depot breaks down the variety of container options in our buying guide. Before you plant, make sure the container has drainage holes. If not, use a drill to create some.
Filling the container: Use high-quality, well-draining potting mix. Some large containers will take at least one 32-cubic foot bag and possibly more, but it’s not necessary to use soil in the entire container.
Options include collecting empty plastic soda or water bottles, layering them in the bottom third of the container, putting sheets of newspaper or newsprint on top, then topping with potting mix. You can also put a layer of pine bark mulch.
Another trick is to place a nursery pot upside down over the drainage hole.
These options will make the planter as lightweight as possible. Gardeners in windy climes can add pavers, bricks, rocks or even cinder blocks to the bottom of the container to add heft.
TIP: Large containers need to be set up off the ground to improve drainage and to prevent insect infestations. For portability, consider plant caddies. If mobility is not important, pavers make convenient props.
Planting the container with blooms: How will your container be viewed? If it’s from all sides, center the tallest element in the middle and surround it with clusters of chrysanthemums, then fill in with pockets of spillers.
If the container will be on a porch or viewed from one direction, begin with the tallest plants in the back and make a semi-circle of mums, varying the colors for vibrancy. Choose spillers like heuchera, loropetalum or sweet potato vine to place in pockets along the edge.
For maximum impact, group coordinating containers with similar plantings. The ones seen here are containers from the Grenoble line by Ravenna. The companion plants are brown-eyed Susans, purple fountain grass, croton and heuchera. A front stoop or porch steps filled with mums makes for a welcoming entrance.
Keep your display fresh:
- Position it in light shade and sun, such as on the edge of a sheltered front porch.
- Check the moisture level in the soil daily. Mums like soil that’s a bit on the dry side.
- Trim spent flowers.
- Cover the planters or move them inside when the nights dip close to freezing.
- Keep in mind that in fall, days are shorter and plant growth is slowed. Unlike planting containers in early spring, in the fall, pack the planter full to get a lush look.