In the Garden:
Lower South
December, 2011
Regional Report

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A foliage dish garden is easy to build and provides an attractive indoor display for your home.

Plant a Decorative Mixed Foliage Container for Indoors

Winter weather shuts down much of our outdoor gardening activities, even in the Lower South. I get rather stir-crazy when cold or rainy weather leaves me cooped up inside. Thank goodness for indoor gardening activities to keep a gardener busy and to add beauty to the inside of the home.

One of my favorite indoor gardening projects is building a mixed foliage container. There are a million variations on this project but it basically involves combining a variety of small foliage plants into a larger container. Even in winter you can find a variety of small foliage plants in garden centers for a reasonable cost.

Choose a variety of plants in 4-inch or slightly larger pots. I like to combine colors and foliage textures to add interest. The straight lines of dracaena, the broad foliage of pothos, and the fine texture of asparagus fern give some variation in texture. Many plants, including some dracaena and rubber tree cultivars, offer burgundy foliage. Others provide variegated or silvery foliage. These all add interest and break up the sea of green so common to most houseplants.

What to use for containers is limited only by your imagination. Among my favorites are baskets, large shallow terra cotta containers, and shallow galvanized oval containers. If the baskets don't come with a lining it is fast and easy to add one made of clear plastic attached with some hot glue. Toss in some charcoal in the bottom in case you accidentally overwater.

Fill the container halfway with potting soil and then arrange your plants in to create the most interesting effect. In general place taller plants in the center and trailing plants around the edges. When a container has a handle you may want to wind the trailing vines of an ivy over the handle to give the appearance that it grew that way.

After plants are positioned, add more potting soil to within an inch of the top, and then place some moss or other decorative material on the surface. This is a fast way to create a very attractive table piece or gift for a friend.

Water as needed to maintain moist soil but avoid overwatering. Provide the plant with as much light as you can during the day. The container can be moved to decorate a special location even with minimal light for a few days, but remember to move it back to a spot with lots of light to avoid weak spindly growth. If you use a bright window for providing some extra light remember to give the container a third of a turn each day to prevent the plants from all leaning one direction.

You can create a variety of interesting combinations using different plants and containers. Let your imagination run as you select containers for your project and choose various planting themes. I have used old watering cans, large shallow clear glass bowls, and large terra cotta bowls with upright wood branches secured to a block hidden beneath the growing media in the bottom to create some eye-catching indoor gardens.

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