In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
August, 2012
Regional Report

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Black-eyed Susans combine well with annuals and the perennial groundcover moneywort.

Expand Your Container Planting Horizons

It may not seem like the usual recommendation for the Midwest, but I'm going to encourage you to put perennials, trees, and shrubs in containers. Not for good, but for accent. It's a great way to add to your landscape and to get the enjoyment out of them as a focal point on your patio or deck for the summer.

Save Money and Experiment
I've been planting perennial plants in containers for years, partially because it seems such a waste to spend the money on lots of annuals every year, but also because it lets me experiment with different plants and combinations. I've had great success and hope to continue it year after year.

Plan to Plant in the Ground in Fall
The only word of caution that I will offer is that you have to be ready to remove the plants and plant them in the ground in early fall. The garden is usually winding down at that time, and hopefully the cool air will bring you a burst of energy for this perfect planting time. When you haunt the garden centers at the beginning of the season, choose with not only your container, but also with your landscape in mind. If you've made your choice carefully, you will know exactly where that plant needs to be planted when the time comes in fall.

Successful Combinations
One successful combination that I've used for two years now is an upright blue juniper in a large terra cotta pot. This gives an incredible Mediterranean feel to the deck. Since the juniper is branched to the bottom, I use groundcovers to spill out of the pot. Purple ajuga has looked the best, although small-leaved sedums look good as well and do perfectly in full sun, which the junipers must have. I now have two junipers in my perennial border that were added at the end of the season last year, and they await their companions when this year's container plants come out of their pots this year.

Landscape Roses and Lavender
Landscape roses, the knee-high ones that bloom all summer, do wonderfully in pots as well. They look great when combined with lavender or other gray-leaved herbs, just as they do in the landscape. I can then take the entire pot and plant it, rose and herbs together, to make a beautiful display.

Shrubs, Perennials, and Groundcovers
Other woody plants that you can grow successfully in containers for a season include viburnum, weigela, daphne, and boxwood. You can also use perennials such as hosta, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, obedience plant, phlox and a myriad of other beautiful flowers. Try combining them with annuals or even vegetables and herbs for a gorgeous mixed container. I also dig existing groundcovers to use in the pots and then return them to the landscape after their task of spilling out of a container is done. This works well with lamium, ajuga, moneywort, barren strawberry, and vinca.

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