Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2004
Regional Report

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The container color enhances the foliage of Aloe vanbalenii.

Matching Plants with Containers

Does a plant ever grab your eye at the nursery and you just have to take it home? Then, what to do with it? As an impulse buy, it may not work in your garden or landscape. I do this more often than I care to admit, but have been following the advice of a gardening friend to make good use of these plants. She has considerable knack for showcasing plants by selecting containers that enhance their features.

What first attracted you to the plant? Oftentimes, it is color. It might be flower color, but here in the Southwest, with all the interesting cacti and other succulents available, it is just as likely to be foliage color. Some of my favorite combinations play off spine or barbed teeth colors on cacti or aloe. Choose a pot that sets off the color that captured your interest. The container may be a similar shade, which harmoniously enhances the intensity of the plant's color. For example, Aloe vanbalenii turns a rusty shade in cool temperatures. This unusual foliage color is intensified by a rust-colored container.

The Hunt for the Perfect Container
Contrasting plant and container colors add energy to the overall effect and can be used to brighten up an area. Use two of the primary colors (red, yellow, or blue) or two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel (red/green, orange/blue or yellow/purple). For example, golden barrel cactus in a midnight blue saucer bowl adds zing to an otherwise dull corner of my concrete patio.

Also consider how container shape and style influence the "look." A tall, narrow container provides a contemporary feel and allows the sharply toothed edges of an aloe to drape naturally out of the way. A low, round container enhances the circular symmetry of many succulents, such as hens and chicks or rosette-shaped agaves.

Be on the lookout for containers that will enhance plant features. Stockpile a few in your potting area so that you will be ready next time you bring home an impulse plant! Rather than losing interesting plants in the garden, you'll be set to create an artistic focal point.

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