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  • Grouping containers helps shield them from direct sunlight.
  • Large pots provide plenty of room for root growth.
  • Always place large pots behind smaller ones.
  • When growing succulents good drainage is crucial.
  • Use plants of various heights to create depth.
  • A stock tank can be used for growing herbs and vegetables.
  • Container groupings are great for adding interest to steps.

According to Margie Grace of Santa Barbara based Grace Design Associates, containers are great for adding height and color, plus they are fairly easy to maintain. However, the biggest challenge with containers is controlling the temperature of the pot. Containers have little to no insulation and on a hot or day the soil inside will heat up rapidly, sending plants into shock. Check out Grace's tips below on overcoming this challenge, selecting plants for pots and designing a beautiful container grouping.

Controlling Soil Temperatures

  • When it comes to containers bigger is always better. The roots of the plants will have more room to grow and the soil will not heat up as quickly.
  • When grouping containers, place tall ones in the back and short ones in the front. A layered effect creates interest and allows all of the plants to be viewed as a collective.
  • Arrange container groupings so that they shade each other. Shielding the base of a pot from direct sun exposure will help keep the soil at an amicable temperature.
  • Grow tall plants, or even trees in large pots to provide coverage for smaller containers. This will provide an overhead shade canopy that will help regulate temperatures.

Selecting Plants

  • Select plants that will grow up and out of the container as well as spill over its rim. Try combining Sticks on Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli) and a cascading succulent such as donkey's tail, string of pearls or string of buttons.
  • When growing succulents in pots make sure they have good drainage. The soil must be fast-draining and the container needs to have a hole at the bottom. Terra cotta pot feet can also be used to lift the pot up off the ground.

Container Garden Design Ideas

  • A light colored stucco wall provides the perfect backdrop for containers. Think of it as an art gallery, but for plants.
  • Sometimes an empty container can be as powerful as a planted one. A container with a unique shape or color can stand alone as a sculptural element.
  • Try using galvanized stock tanks as containers for herbs and edibles. They are inexpensive and will keep the gophers, rabbits and snails at bay.

Grace Design Associates
Santa Barbara, CA

Landscaping Network

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