Grow Cool and Hot Container Gardens

Lynn Coulter
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windowbox flowers

Be careful when you plant a window box with bright pink and red flowers; those colors are hot enough to wake you up at night with their sizzle and pop! Maybe you’d rather grow a container garden of refreshing blues, greens and purples. Pots and planters can spice up your outdoor spaces with bold, vibrant color, or cool things off with quieter, calmer hues. It all depends on which flowers you choose.

For hot container gardens, play with a little fire in your blooms. Fiery Crocosmia, scarlet geraniums, Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia), and crimson begonias will heat up your outdoor living spaces. There are many other red flowers you can use, too, including salvia, Bee balm, globe amaranth, miniature roses, verbena and lantana.

Remember to read the tags on your plants so you’ll know how big they’ll be when they mature. You’ll need big containers for plants like cannas and daylilies.

 

container-flowers-SS-unsized 

Don’t be afraid to mix bold pink and in-your-face orange with your red flowers. It’s the vibrant color combination that makes the containers feel “hot.” For zesty pinks, try petunias, impatiens, snapdragons, geraniums, begonias, bougainvillea, fuchsias and mandevilla.

Orange flowers can range from the colors of a tropical sunset to bold tangerine. Look for Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia), zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, Blanket flower (Gaillardia) and daylilies. Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) form brilliant, showy pods.

Add jolts of bright yellow to your pots and planters with Black-eyed Susans, marigolds, hibiscus, coreopsis and cosmos. Of course, roses, daylilies, snapdragons and many other blooms come in sunny shades, too.

If outrageous colors aren’t your style, opt for flowers and foliage in soothing greens, purples and blues. While it’s hard to find a true blue in flowers, many shades of blue or purple, such as mauve, violet, lilac and plum, are easy on the eyes. 

Try petunias, nemesia, scabiosa, lavender, pansies, wishbone flower (Torenia), balloon flower, Love-In-A-Mist (Nigella damascena) and lobelia. Even a container planted with flowers in just one color, such as the ageratum shown below, cools the temperature — at least visually — on a patio or deck.

ageratum in container

To bring some green to your cool container plantings, tuck in some ‘Green Envy’ zinnias, coleus, heucheras, coral bells, hostas and even herbs. When the weather is cool in the spring or fall, plant chard or kale.

Tips for growing a container garden of hot and cool colors:

  • Use plants that have similiar light and watering requirements. Flowers that can tolerate some heat and drought, like lantanas, won’t be happy if you drench them when you’re watering thirstier pot-mates.
  • Fill your container with good quality potting soil that contains a slow-release fertilizer. Some potting soils also contain particles that retain moisture, so you won’t need to water as often.
  • Keep flowers deadheaded so the blooms keep coming. (Some flowers, such as impatiens, are self-cleaning, and don’t require much care. Others can be pinched or pruned back to encourage re-blooming.)
  • Aim for a mix of plants that bloom at different times, or flowers that have a long bloom period, so your container will stay colorful throughout the season. It’s fine to refresh your hot or cool container with new plants when your annuals begin to look tired or leggy.

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