Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2005
Regional Report

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Miniature roses make beautiful hanging baskets.

Try Perennials, Ground Covers, and Shrubs in Containers

Have you ever considered using perennials, ground covers, and even shrubs in containers for summer interest? I've tried quite a few perennials in containers, always planting them in the garden after the gardening season was over. Unfortunately, in our Midwestern climates few perennials will make it through the winter in a pot. However, if you are willing to plant them in the ground at the end of the season, you can increase the palette of plants available to grow in containers.

There are endless ways to use containers filled with perennials and ground covers. Make use of them in an attractive pot in a spot where you have no garden bed, or even raise them up a couple of feet in a pot within an existing perennial or annual bed for drama.

Perennials and ground covers are a bit more expensive than annual plants, but you get the bonus of enjoying them in the containers and then increasing your ground covers in beds or perennials in the border. The expense is well worth it, especially because of the increased choices available. Here are a few perennials that will guarantee you success:

Try These
Sedums will give you many choices in color, size, and texture, from creeping ground covers to the stalwart upright Autumn Joy. There are varieties with blue, silver, and maroon leaves, and flowers in all shades of red, pink, coral, and white. They thrive in most conditions, especially the dry soil usually found in containers. Best of all, the upright varieties have lovely fresh leaves in early summer, the blossoms open in mid to late summer, and then they dry on the plant, giving fall interest as well.

Lavender is another plant valued for its lovely purple blossoms and silvery gray foliage. Again, these plants thrive in drier conditions so they are well suited to a container. One recommendation to help them survive the winter is to plant them -- pot and all -- in the garden in early fall. This helps them establish themselves better for winter.

Two lovely container companions are perennial asters and perennial salvias. The salvias will bloom in late spring and early summer, and the asters will, of course, bloom in fall. Combine them with a vining moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) that provides bright yellow blossoms in spring and fresh green draping foliage all summer, and you will have a lovely, unusual pot of color.

Coreopsis, with its mantle of golden yellow, will bloom all summer in a container. All you have to do is deadhead it regularly, and combine it with silvery lambs' ears or maroon-purple-leaved bugleweed, with its complement of pink or purple flowers, for a striking combination.

Roses, especially miniatures, make wonderful container plants. They tolerate dry conditions and will bloom for you in all shades and shapes throughout the summer. Their foliage is a lovely backdrop to other herbs and perennials, and the blossoms give you color and fragrance as well.

Once you begin thinking about using perennial plants in containers, the sky's the limit as to what you can use. Wander through the garden center with a whole different view of perennials and ground covers! Just remember that they must be planted in the ground to survive the winter.

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