Further Thoughts on Flowering Containers

Now that we’re heading into the fall season I’m rethinking my preferred plants for next year’s containers. A few conclusions I’ve drawn:

  • Big Thumbs Up for Pentas. I was very happy with the Star Flowers (Pentas lanceolata) in my containers for sun. They bloom enthusiastically and can take the heat. Plus, they are great for hummingbirds. In August I regularly came to the front door on my way out and saw hummingbirds on the porch nectaring at the Pentas – they had never appeared on the front porch before this. While the red clusters of small star-shaped flowers are unique when viewed up close, from a distance they look like zonal geranium flowers.
Pentas (left) with Canna.
  • Orange Cosmos v. Orange ‘Profusion’ Zinnias. Earlier this year I was enthusiastic about my orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), which I used as a filler in containers. However, in late summer the cosmos tended to get ragged and bloom sparsely, no matter how conscientiously I deadheaded. I think next year I would use orange ‘Profusion’ Zinnias instead. I used them in one of my sunny beds, and  they are more reliable for flowering throughout the growing season. Even when I don’t deadhead them, they bloom, well, profusely.
  • Cannas are Really a Foliage Plant. This is the first year I had more than one Canna, and I realized that this should really be grown as a foliage plant. I wouldn’t go as far as Garden Walk Garden Talk, who removes the flower buds before they bloom. I like Canna flowers, but they are too few and far between to be the main selling point of this plant. The foliage is really something, though, and in the future I will make interesting foliage my first criteria when picking Canna varieties. I’ve found that they do make good container plants, though I haven’t tried the really gigantic ones.
Cannas with flowers on the back porch – green and purple foliage
  • Prune those Lantanas. My ‘New Gold’ Lantanas did not bloom as freely as I expected this summer. Only after I pruned them back did they start flowering as I had hoped. I conclude that deadheading is not enough, these plants really need to be cut back at least a couple times over the summer.
  • Bacopa Has Staying Power. I expected the annual lobelia (Lobelia erinus) to sulk during the summer months and then bounce back in fall. However, this summer’s extreme heat just wiped these guys out. In the future, I’ll be inclined to use Bacopa (Supera cordata) as a trailing plant with blue flowers. It’s not as eye-catching as annual lobelia, but it does have staying power.
We inherited this old wheelbarrow from the former owners. It was already rusting, so I turned it into a planter for the remainder of its days.

11 Comments on “Further Thoughts on Flowering Containers

  1. I laughed at your statement, “Cannas are really a foliage plant.” I agree, up here they take too long to flower, but they do add nice structure and form to containers or beds. Love your wheelbarrow.

    • In a sense they do not fit in with the theme of my front yard, which is part cottage garden and part prairie. But I like them anyway. The darker foliage varieties make a real statement from a distance. Plus, I kind of like combining things that aren’t normally combined.

  2. I didn’t find any Pentas for my containers this summer, but in previous summers, they have indeed made the hummingbirds very happy! The hummers are now really enjoying my morning glories and the rose of Sharon.

    Cannas are great for making a big impact and giving your space a tropical feel. I like your pairing of them with the impatiens.

    It never occurred to me to prune my lantana back. I also just deadhead. I’ve not been unhappy with how it blooms, but perhaps it could be better, eh? Next year! (I also want to try to grow a lantana standard, having first seen them this summer at the Herrenhausen Gardens in Germany. We’ll have to see how that experiment goes!)

    • Another possibility that occurred to me was that the Lantanas didn’t like the excessive heat, and were flowering more now that the weather had cooled off. But these are tropical plants, so that doesn’t really make sense.

  3. Hmmmm… I will have to try the Pentas! It would be fun to have more hummingbirds flitting about. Thanks for the tips on the Lantanas because I’m planning to plant them next year. Love ’em! This would be a good post to link in to the “Lessons Learned” meme on my blog. Also, I’d enjoy having your thoughts and participation in the Italy Garden Tours survey! Thanks for all the info about container annuals–you’ve given me several ideas for next summer!

  4. I’ll look at your survey, but couldn’t you work on a Garden Tour in France? Glad you liked the post, I’m just experimenting as you can see.

  5. I love the wheelbarrow, it looks so lovely. You could add to it with old chimney tops (not sure what you call them), those are pretty popular as repurposed pots, especially for deeper rooted plants

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