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A Cooler Container

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


(clockwise from top left) ‘Purple Daydream’ dwarf loropetalum, ‘Magic White Flame' mimulus, ‘Sunshine’ ligustrum, ‘Blushing Princess’ alyssum, and ‘Eversheen’ carex; photographs courtesy of (loropetalum) Southern Living Plant Collection, (mimulus) Les Serres Fortier, (ligustrum) Atlantic Avenue Orchid & Garden, & (alyssum) Proven Winners

October 19, 2016

A Cooler Container
This autumn, plant a striking display mixing evergreens and colorful annuals


written by Joan McDonald

We’ve all done it when autumn arrives: grabbed a couple mums, nestled them into pots by the front door, maybe added a pumpkin or two, and called our fall display complete. And there’s nothing wrong with going that easy, cheery route. However, if you’re willing to devote a little more energy to the project this season, you can design a planter for full sun that combines evergreens with annuals for beauty that lasts.

Start by selecting a container—about 14 inches high and 16 inches in diameter—that works with your home’s exterior. Add into it the bright yellow-leaved ‘Sunshine’ ligustrum (buy a one-gallon size). This noninvasive cultivar won’t reseed, and you can easily prune the evergreen branches into geometric shapes (like a cube, cone, or pyramid) if you’d like a more formal appearance.

To create a pleasing color contrast, look to the dark maroon foliage of ‘Purple Daydream’ dwarf loropetalum (select a one-gallon size). The compact, drought-tolerant shrub will set bright pink blooms in the spring. Then mix in the chartreuse-striped ‘Eversheen’ carex (a four-inch size) for a variation of texture and leaf pattern. It forms a tidy mound that requires very little maintenance but provides big visual impact.

Underplant this trifecta with coordinating annuals (four-inch sizes), letting the pot spill with the vigorous purple ‘Blushing Princess’ alyssum and ‘Magic White Flame’ mimulus. Look forward to choosing a new duo for spring.

When your evergreens outgrow the container (circa 2019), simply transplant them into the landscape, where you can enjoy them for years to come.

For more gardening tips and tricks, click here.