Container NEWbie

miss_bethAugust 15, 2011

OK, I've never been much of a yard or flower person. I think they are lovely, but I haven't ever done any of it.

Now I've found myself with a huge jungle to deal with - a home that's been vacant for several years, vines higher than the house, a million mulberry trees, mess, mess, mess.

I've trimmed and chopped and decided to make things as easy easy low maintenance as possible.

A good deal of the back yard will be mulched. I've already prepped the ground and the mulch is coming this week. I want very, very low maintenance container only plants placed casually throughout the various rocks and other cool items I've collected to display in the mulched areas.

Now, I need to know what to put in the containers. I want cheap & easy. I really love greenery .... hostas and ivy are my favorites. Do they do well in containers? Do I have to bring them in for the winter? That's not really an option ....

Please help, I don't need a lot of variety, just a few hardy things I can plant in pots and either leave out for the winter and expect to see them the following spring OR some cheap annuals that I can spend a day each spring replanting.

Nothing in the ground - containers ONLY. Remember, I'm lazy .... okay, not really, but have zero time to spend tending and fussing over things. I just want a back yard I'm not embarrassed to bring company in to. Sometime natural, not fussy.

Suggestions??

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Hi Beth. Welcome to gardening, but be warned. Nobody starts out with the intention of doing a lot of hard work but when the gardening bug bites you, the desired results often make the required labor seem worthwhile. As long as you start slowly, you should be able to learn fast enough to keep things how you like them and avoid feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

I feel the same way about the "cheap" part. Also, I prefer beautiful foliage over flowers for containers. The leaves always looks interesting, no waiting for flowers, no need to worry about staking floppy tall flowers, and with a minor effort, most of them can be "saved" for next year. They look great from the day you buy them until you bring them inside or frost kills them.

Containers are actually more difficult to maintain in many ways than in-ground plantings. There is very little leeway for errors in soil composition, and the plants are completely dependent upon you for nutrition and moisture. They usually need water at least every-other day in hot weather. Some quickly get big enough to need water twice a day. If that sounds like fussing to you, having a lot of containers might not be the carefree type of gardening you have envisioned. If that's the case, pots of light-colored foliage (coleus, caladium, persian shield) that are happy in the shade might work better for you. As you consider what you might enjoy, just remember as a general rule-of-thumb, more sun = needs more water. One benefit of containers vs. growing in the ground is rearranging. You can move pots around if something is taller than you thought it would be, needs more sun, etc... Lots of food for thought.

Coleus can be saved by putting cuttings in bottles or glasses of water. Comes in almost any color, grows quickly, and most are equally as happy in the shade or sun. There are also alternantheras which behave similarly. By the end of the year, you can have several plants by using the "mama" plant you bought to take cuttings.

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) is another favorite fast-growing shade lover with large purple leaves. You can bring the whole pot inside or save cuttings in water like coleus.

Caladiums and elephant ears are interesting foliage plants that have bulbs or tubers that can be dug up and stored in your basement over winter. These are also pretty happy in mostly shade.

Flowers that have bulbs or tubers that you can save over winter include 4'o'clocks (mirabilis jalapa - which also make seeds which will produce blooms the next year,) gladiolus, calla lilies, cannas, dahlias. These would need to be in lots of sun.

In the spring, if you buy a little chartreuse sweet potato vine, it will soon make a ton of shoots which you can break off and stick in the dirt anywhere you want new plants. You can turn 1 hanging basket into a dozen within a month, or have pretty light green leaves trailing out of containers with other more upright plants. Happy...

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 3:02PM
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