Whether you’re putting together a mixed container for outdoors or an indoor dish garden, the design principles are the same. Mixed plant pots are beautiful on decks and porches, in a window as fall turns into winter, and to give as gifts for the upcoming holiday season. If you use these guidelines you’ll put together a beautiful combination.
- Choose plants that will do well with the same growing conditions. In other words, if all the plants do well in part-sun or full sun, they should combine nicely, or if all your selections appreciate regular watering they will all thrive. Many plants will thrive with either a bit more or less light or water, so you don’t have to be too strict about matching the growing conditions listed on the labels, but avoid combining plants on opposite ends of the scales. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a cactus in with an aquatic plant.
- Look for different shapes and textures of leaves. A big leave contrasts well with finer foliage.
- Look for foliage that has different colors or shades of green. There are so many plants with yellow, bluish, purple and even pink foliage now that when you’re in a garden center it’s easy to find several great possibilities!
- Think of variegated plants as being the distinctive spice in the recipe…a little is usually all you need, and too many distinctive flavors don’t necessarily harmonize well. Use variegated plants judiciously.
- Use plants that will grow in different directions or habits: one tall and straight, some mounding, and some that will spill over the side of the container.
- Be sure to look where the small houseplants are sold in your garden center: there are many varieties of great foliage colors and textures that are sold in 4″ pots for use indoors.
In the container I show above the plants all thrived together and none of them out-performed or overtook the others. Often when we combine plants, however, a few varieties will grow better than some of the others and at the end of the season we find that one or two plants have disappeared. This is a natural part of creating a mixed container, so be willing to say, “OK, may the best plants win! When you use assorted plants we commonly think of as house plants in outdoor containers you can bring it inside as is, or dig them out and pot them up individually to keep over the winter indoors.