10 Tips for Creating Successful Patio Pot Combinations

Here at the farm, we have created plant combinations for plenty of patio pots over the years. Here are some of our staff’s top tips to help you plant yours:

1. First, wait until all danger of frost has passed.

If you live in a region with a cool climate, wait until all danger of frost has passed before potting your containers with summer and fall favorites.

2. Corral your containers.

Take a few minutes to note the size, style, and color of each pot. Sometimes they are the best inspiration for which plants to put inside them.

3. Set each pot in the place it will be displayed & determine the sun exposure.

Once you have sited each pot, note the hours of direct sun it will receive per day. Is it in full sun (6+ hours of direct sunlight per day), part shade (3-4 hours of direct sunlight), or full shade (reflected light only with little to no direct sun)? Knowing each pot’s exposure is key to selecting plants that will thrive in it.

4. Survey each pot’s surroundings.

Observe what is around and behind each container. If it’s in front of a structure such as a house, garage, or fence, what style and color is the structure? If it’s on a terrace, what color are the shrubs and trees behind it? These considerations may help you choose a color palette and style for each combination you create. Also note the angles from which your container will be viewed. Will the pot and its plants be seen from all sides or just one or two vantage points?

5. Consider the formula of 3.

Many successful container combos are created using 3 types of plants:

  • The thriller will be the tallest or showiest plant in the mix
  • The filler will ‘fill’ the middle space
  • The spiller will cascade over the side of the pot, softening its lines and adding another dimension to your display

(Not all combos must adhere to the formula of 3, but it’s generally a helpful starting place.)

6. Choose a style & color palette for each combo.

Keeping in mind the styles and colors of your containers, your house, and/or other background elements, aim for a planting style and select your plant color palette.

  • Will you choose a style that is classic or minimalist? Formal or bohemian? Meadow or cottage garden?
  • When it comes to colors, do you prefer pastels, hot hues, two-tone schemes (such as green and white), or a mix?

7. Don’t forget foliage.

Flowering plants tend to get the most attention, but of equal importance are the foliage plants that provide solid colors, beguiling patterns, and/or superb texture. These plants generally flatter and support their flowering fellows, but foliage plants can also achieve star status. Some of our favorites include: Canna Lilies, Begonias (such as ‘Gryphon,’ shown above on the left), Coleus (a red variety shown above on the right), Grasses, and Sedums.

8. Fill your containers with potting mix.

At the farm, we fill our containers with a blend of 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 compost. (You can pour both directly into a pot and mix them up or use a wheelbarrow or large trug as a mixing bowl to create a bigger batch.) If a container is especially large, we might put a few inches of mulch in the bottom. This helps promote drainage and requires less potting soil.

9. Don’t overcrowd your plants.

As you’re selecting plants for each container, keep in mind that they need room to grow and spread over the course of the season. Give each plant some elbow room so it can size up and put on its best performance.

10. Take care of your container combos.

  • Watering: Check your pots regularly to ensure adequate moisture. Keep in mind that some containers, such as terracotta pots, are porous and water will evaporate more quickly, requiring more frequent watering.
  • Fertilizing: Feed most annuals and ornamentals periodically with a blossom-booster such as our All-Bloom Fertilizer.
  • Pinching: Trim or pinch back plants to keep them in proportion to their pot mates.

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Need help or inspiration? Our customer service staff is always happy to help with plant suggestions. You can find them at [email protected]. Many of our customers also rely on our Annual Container Garden Designs (which do the design and horticultural homework for you).

Happy Spring! And Happy Potting!