Flowering Container Notes, Summer 2012

I have a lot of containers filled with flowers. I did not plan for that to happen. The thing is, the containers that came with the bigger plants I’ve purchased were usually not recyclable. And it seemed wrong to just throw them away. So the logical solution was to keep them and use them as planters.

Zinnias, orange cosmos, ornamental millet, Lantana, sweet alyssum

Of course, eventually Judy pointed out to me that these containers were really ugly. And she was right. But by now we were used to having flowers in containers on the front and back steps and elsewhere. So I bought replacement containers, mostly at Lowe’s. Then I threw the old containers away. So you see, in our consumer society, even an honest attempt to reduce waste eventually results in buying more stuff. (I still have a few of the sturdier and marginally less ugly containers that came with plants from the nursery.)

But what’s done is done. The question is, how are those containers doing? Let’s start with the front yard containers in sun.

Tropical milkweed, orange cosmos, star flower, ivy geranium, zinnias, sweet alyssum, lobelia, ageratum.

Spring containers are always easy for me: just fill everything with pansies. Summer is the challenge. I still have a few pansies languishing in wait for the cooler fall weather, but most have been replaced with the following:

  • Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus). First time in my containers, and they are winners. Orange cosmos actually come in either red, clear  orange or red streaked with orange. They definitely get your attention from a distance. Very good for filling in, but they also have more height than I expected. They’re easy to grow from seed. Will definitely use next year.
  • Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias currasavica): These definitely have height, but otherwise I’m not too impressed. They are kind of gangly, and the orange-red flowers are nice but rather sparse. Won’t use again.
  • Zinnias (Zinnia ‘zahara’): How can you not love zinnias? Only thing is, I was counting on them for a vertical element, and this year at least ‘zahara’ just isn’t that tall, the flowers are about the same height as the cosmos. May use a different variety next year.
  • Star Flower (Penta lanceolata): Another first timer for me. Clusters of cherry red star-shaped flowers. Gets moderately tall. Very nice. Only thing, when they say full sun on this one they really mean full sun.  I tried part sun on one plant and got zero blooms. Will use again next year.
  • Ornamental Millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Jade Princess’): I really like this ornamental millet. I bought it on sale later in the season (just $2 for a 4″ pot at Anton’s). It’s supposed to grow 3+ feet, but mine seems to top out at about 2 feet. Will use again next year.
  • Other Plants: I tried ivy geranium (Pelargonium peltatum) as a spiller, but so far it hasn’t spilled very much. Maybe it will with time. I used sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and annual blue lobelia (Lobelia erinus) as fillers. I love sweet alyssum for the fragrance. If you place it right, it’ll do a good job of spilling over the edge of containers. Doesn’t love this really hot weather, but it’s hanging on and will have a resurgence in fall. On the other hand, blue lobelia just gets fried in this kind of summer, and adequate water doesn’t help. Too bad, because I love the color.

I’ll try to write about the backyard containers later. What have your container successes and disappointments been this year?

21 Comments on “Flowering Container Notes, Summer 2012

    • I should try purple basil. Portulaca doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. Maybe because it looks like it should be growing in a desert.

  1. Hard to keep the containers wet enough. But save your millet seed heads! They germinate easily and grow quickly, and come fairly true from seed (save the darker plantlings!

    • Yeah, I have to water the containers in sun every 1-2 days. Will try that with the millet seed.

  2. love your containers! so much color. my kind of plantings. I’ve rooted a daylily from one I just pulled up and got no roots. Just did it in water. Used the stamens to pollinate one of my other daylilies and collected the seeds today. They will be in the fridge until Sept. when I will plant them. In about 2 years, I’ll have a crop of my own daylily seedlings. Fun!

  3. My favorite is Caladium, surrounded by Impatiens. And I always mix Impatiens and several different varieties of Coleus–they both provide pops of color and they thrive in shade. Your containers look great!

    • Thanks. I also love caladiums, I have a couple in the shady backyard, along with lots of impatiens and some other things.

  4. Your containers look great! You’ve balanced the colors really well. The past two years I’ve grown Tropical Milkweed also and have been pretty disappointed. It hasn’t seemed to attract many insects, let alone Monarchs. Aphids love it though. Container gardening for me this year has been about herbs, particulary the aggessive ones that I wouldn’t dare put in the ground like mints and lemon balm. I love having them close to the door so I can grab some while I’m cooking or mixing drinks.

    • My herbs are in the small vegetable garden, although I also have mint in a container. Fortunately the garden is just a few feet from the front door.

  5. Jason I’m in love with that millet! And I love your containers too. I wish I could have some mixed containers like yours too. They’re such a job to water and keep alive in full sun in summer that I quit before I have started. I like your choice, orange is such a bold and somehow difficult colour, but your containers looks very pretty.

    • I am getting a little weary of constantly watering all the containers, so your decision may be a wise one. I really do like orange, especially mixed with red, yellow, or blue.

  6. Love your containers. I didn’t get around to planting mine this year and am really missing them now that everything in the garden is almost finished for the year. By the way, you can recycle those black plastic pots at many nurseries.

    • You know, I asked at one of the local nurseries about that and they had no interest, basically said if I returned the container they’d just throw it away. Do you know if Chalet recycles their containers?

  7. Hi Jason, those are some beautiful containers, full of really bright cheery vibrant colour. Despite my best efforts I’ve ended up with several containers full of plants all crowded together in a big group on the patio. It’s the watering that bothers me. It takes so much time if you don’t have a pipe-irrigation system. Granted, the watering hasn’t really been a problem this year, but it usually is, honest!

    • Yes, the watering gets to be tiresome. But I don’t think about that when you plant the containers, and later on I can’t stand to let them shrivel up.

  8. Your containers are great. I absolutely love the orange cosmos. I find geraniums sometimes take ages to get going, not sure why. I buy them as plug plants (never manage to overwinter them here) and they are really only just starting to flower.

    I am addicted to containers, not sure why! Perhaps it gives me a Mediterranean feel. Favourite plants for pots: geraniums, various species of lavender, hostas (easier to protect from slugs in pots), senettis or anything really!

  9. Intersting choices. Never thought of lavender. Hostas in a container, really? Do you use smaller varieties? And I never heard of senettis, I’ll have to look that up.

    • I guess the size of the hosta depends on how big a pot you buy! Lavender in containers is very popular over here, especially as window boxes. I think it does quite well because it tolerates a dry environment. Senettis are to die for, here’s a link http://senetti.com/gardeners/. Mine have not done that well in my north facing garden this year, they did much better when I put them on a south facing windowsill. If you can get them going they flower all summer. They need to overwinter in a heated greenhouse though. I just cave in and splurge on new ones every spring.

  10. I found your beautiful containers looking for ideas on adding more color to my milkweed planters. The caterpillars leave the stems bare and I wanted to find a filler to help keep it looking alive while the leaves grow back. I like your cosmos, those don’t grow as tall as the ones i tried in the spring. Will definitely look for tat variety now! Lowe’s will take your black plastic pots, trays and plant tags to recycle.

    • Thanks for the tip about Lowe’s. The shorter cosmos are nice, just a warning that they tend to fade away starting in late August – especially after a hot summer.

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