plant arrangement - Knowledgebase Question

upland, Ca
Question by dpeacegirl
April 28, 2010
I have three large planters that I am planting for the 5th time now, 10ft X 3ft. I really want this to be the last time! I have chose the plants I like and they are condusive to all conditions. (Daylillies, Cordyline, Fire powers Nandina). My problem is, I have no idea how to properly arrange them in the planter. Is there a plot or rule of thumb on how to arrange them in the planters?

Answer from NGA
April 28, 2010


Firepower Nandina is a dwarf shrub, growing 2-3' tall and wide; Cordyline can grow from 2-4 feet tall and wide; daylilies can grow anywhere from 8 inches to 3' tall so the size of your plants will depend upon the cultivars you've purchased.

The general rule of thumb for planting is to put the highest plants in the back and the shortest in the front if a planter is against a wall. If it is free standing and you can view it from all sides, plant the tallest in the center, the next tallest on either side of the center plants and the smallest along the edge of the planter all the way around.

Another design rule is that you want to plant in groups rather than plant them in a line like soldiers. An odd number (3,5,7) makes the most pleasing display.

So, for a 10' long by 3' deep planter, you'll want to offset your plants since they will all grow large enough to take up the entire depth of the planter. A checkerboard style of planting will allow each plant to have enough elbow room for growth, plus good air circulation. Since the cordyline are more upright than the rest of your plants, they will be the first thing you notice when you look at the planter. If your planter is against a wall, plant them in the back. In front of them, plant your daylilies and in front of them plant your nandina. You can add more drama by choosing some annuals or perennials with a grayish foliage to contrast with the red foliage of your cordyline and nandina. Silvermound artemisia or trailing licorise plant (Helichrysum petiolare) would make nice companions stuffed in between your perennials, in groups of 3.

The nice thing about your project is that you can set the nursery pots on top of the soil in your planter and move the pots around until you get just the look you want. Whatever arrangement you make, I know you'll enjoy your new planters.

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