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Using Containers in Flowerbeds

Using Containers in Flowerbeds

Containers provide height, texture and different color accents to a flowerbed and work as focal points.

So many times, flowerbeds and container plants are separate entities of an overall landscape design: containers strategically placed on a porch or deck with lush flowerbeds scattered throughout the lawn. Containers make exceptional focal points, however, and can add irreplaceable design elements in flowerbeds when they complement other plantings and fixtures.
Using Containers
Before placing container plants in your flowerbeds, consider that:
Containers must have drainage holes in the bottom and be able to drain freely; otherwise, the plants may suffer damage.
Container plants require more frequent watering than their in-ground counterparts.
Not all plants do well in containers.
Container perennials need repotting as they grow to allow their roots enough space to grow.
Adding Height
One use for containers within a flower garden is to add height without planting a small tree or shrub in the ground. Tall containers or smaller ones placed on pedestals give you the opportunity to place plants higher.
In addition, using containers of tall plants can create a look different from tall plants in the ground. A planter of canna lilies (Canna spp.), which are winter-hardy in only U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, adds a tropical ambiance and really makes the plants the center of attention. Because of its height, a planter showcases not only canna lilies' large, colorful flowers but their massive, smooth foliage.
Adding Color
Many annual plants thrive in containers, and they are often used in decorative planters at plant nurseries and garden centers. Annuals have long been go-to plants for adding color to flowerbeds and typically are used as border or edge plants. Placing small containers strategically throughout your flowerbeds will raise annuals' flower colors a bit over their greenery and other plants, creating bursts of color where otherwise the annuals would be hidden.
Adding Texture
Although color takes center stage for most gardeners, texture is an equally important design element.
Using containers in your flowerbeds can allow you to add plants of different textures where you otherwise wouldn't see them. Plants that vine -- sometimes called trailers or spillers -- are candidates for adding texture. For example, the 'Silver Falls' cultivar of dichondra (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls') has silvery, fan-shaped foliage that will drape 3 to 4 feet over the side of a container, adding shimmery texture to the rest of its flowerbed. 'Silver Falls' is winter-hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12.
Mixing Plants
One of the most fundamental rules of flowerbed planning is keeping plants with like requirements together, particularly when it comes to water, soil and sun requirements. Although the sun exposure won't change from your flowerbed plants to a container in the same bed, you can adjust the soil and moisture levels in the container to include in it plants that have soil and moisture requirements different from the plants in the bed. With a container, you can add water-loving plants to a bed or rock garden that displays drought-resistant plants or add acidic soil-loving plants to a bed that otherwise features plants that need alkaline soil.
For example, many varieties of mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), which are hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, may have pink or blue blooms, depending on the pH level of their soil. If you want blue-flowering mopheads among a bed of pink ones, you're out of luck unless you use a container. Adjust the container's soil pH level to a more acidic level to get bluer flowers among your alkaline-loving pink-blooming hydrangeas.
Tip
For more container options, see Ideas for Flower Beds Along a House.

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