Ask a Question forum→Help with new planters!

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Fremont, CA
Jun 10, 2020 12:06 AM CST
Check out our new planters in the pic!

We want very low maintainence, & a modern look. Were closing in with either some tall grass or aloe type plants, but with that white stone/rock on top.

This is key. We don't want soil on top. We have artificial turf and do not want soil spreading around the garden.

Please help with ideas. The more specific the better! (E.g. how to plan these planters for low maintenance, using porous landscaping fabric? How to layer? What stones to use on top, soil underneath? Stones only? Plants that would survive and look good?)

Were in the SF bay area. Many thanks!!
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Jun 10, 2020 12:32 AM CST
I'd be tempted to consider propping up already potted plants in their individual pots into the containers you've shown. That way they can grow in their required soil but be part of the whole look for your larger rectangular container. You can top dress each pot with small rocks or just sink the potted plants into the larger container filled with small rocks.
Watering would be less as you wouldn't be watering larger container filled with soil, just the individual pots.
Fremont, CA
Jun 10, 2020 12:19 PM CST
Thanks! What would you put in the large planter first, knowing we'd be putting smaller pots?
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
Jun 10, 2020 3:49 PM CST
I like webesemps suggestion
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California
Plant Identifier
Jun 10, 2020 6:16 PM CST
It would help to know the dimensions of the planters, and whether or they have drain holes...which are critical in any event.
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Jun 10, 2020 9:29 PM CST
Yes, Carol is right. Size of large container to determine what it can reasonably be filled with; Drain holes to allow water to drain out onto patio floor, deck wood or what if nothing is placed underneath...

Plants can be considered depending on location exposure, scale of display, amount of care, etc
Fremont, CA
Jun 10, 2020 10:21 PM CST
Thanks folks. Inside dimensions of each planter: 12 inch wide, 57 inch long, 15 inch depth.

It will get afternoon sun. We want minimal to no maintenance! Thanks
Southwest U.S. (Zone 7a)
Jun 11, 2020 7:45 AM CST
For truly minimal to no maintenance, I would suggest some of the very realistic and natural looking "faux" landscaping plants that are now available. They will need replacement every few years, otherwise won't need attention, won't need watering, and will stay free of pests and diseases.
Now if you want to get started with some REAL gardening, that's another story! Real plants need regular care and maintenance, they have real pests and diseases, they grow and die, flower and go to seed, and just generally become part of your life. You can't put them on autopilot. It's really very rewarding, good outdoor exercise, mentally engaging, politically neutral and generally good for the Earth.
I'm glad to see you on the Gardening Forum looking into it!
Name: Zoƫ
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
Bookworm Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Jun 11, 2020 10:27 AM CST
At the risk of being repetitive, let me echo MsDoe's message: "low maintenance" is not "no maintenance." Think of a plant less like buying a new lamp for your living room and more like adopting a's a living organism, will require care, and will occasionally make a mess. Even a goldfish needs feeding, fresh water and general nurturing. I think I understand the clean modernistic look you're trying to achieve, but those photos you've seen of artistic, edgy "no care" container plantings are a fantasy--they took hours of care and fussing to achieve that perfection for the photo shoot.

I recommend visiting nurseries (real ones, not big box garden centers, if you're able), seeing what they have and what appeals to you, and talking to the gardeners there. Your climate should give you many options, but even popping in mature plants in their nursery pots will require regular monitoring, watering and feeding, and they'll outgrow those pots quickly. Drive around and see if you can find houses with the look you want. In times past, I have knocked on strangers' doors to ask about plants in their yards; these days, maybe not a good idea, but if you dare, most gardeners are flattered and happy to share their knowledge.

Re-read MsDoe's post above and give it serious thought. Artificial plants might be your solution (or what about some interesting sculptures?), but those lovely planters are an opportunity to experiment with gardening on a small scale, and you might discover a new rewarding passion!
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
Fremont, CA
Jun 11, 2020 12:42 PM CST
Thanks folks. I like the nursery idea. We have one close by. Been to a couple of big box places to get ideas.

We've decided on real low maintainence plants. We have a small herb/chilli garden in the back ive started about 6 weeks ago. So we're not completely useless in the garden Smiling :)

Would love more ideas. Cheers
Southwest U.S. (Zone 7a)
Jun 12, 2020 3:52 PM CST
Happy to hear of your interest! The San Francisco Bay Area has a fabulous climate for all kinds of plants that won't grow here, I'm a little jealous. Browsing nurseries is a great idea, also looking around your neighborhood to see what grows well can be very helpful.
I'd also suggest visiting botanical and public gardens, there are some great ones in your area. I have family in the Bay Area, and when I visit I try to find a little horticultural sightseeing--Conservatory of Flowers, Filoli, UC Davis and UC Berkeley come to mind, there are lots of others, if things are open now of course.
Growing in pots inside the planter boxes sounds like a good idea to me. You can finish around and on top with the filler of your choice, and just change out pots if something's not working. It would also keep things a little neater.
Lockhart, Texas (Zone 8b)
Hydroponics Greenhouse Region: Texas
Jun 12, 2020 4:48 PM CST
We recently made as a gift two steel planters very similar in size, for my step-son's condo patio. I made cedar bench-like things that fit down inside for them to use to support containers. We had concerns about filling the planter with media because they would leak water and soil onto the patio. The planters allow them to try different plants and configurations and make it easier to use annuals. It's easy enough to set individual containers on booster of appropriate heights to make everything look right. And if they want to grow tomatoes, they can grow them and take the container away to redo it after the season.
Port d'Envaux, France (Zone 9a)
A Darwinian gardener
Jun 13, 2020 8:14 AM CST
When you say 'modern look' I think of ornamental grasses.
As others have said; not "NO" maintenance, but many are forgiving and pretty low maintenance. Depending on height there are many to look at - Isolepis cernua (fibre optic grass) for a shorter mounding grass (don't forget that if you plant a tall plant in a tall planter you are tall-times- two), or something like Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) for medium height. Some of the ornamental grasses are among the hardiest plants out there having survived plains and prairies; but pay attention to how much sun you receive and how their water requirements match with your desire to water them. Some will even survive on water from only the discarded ice cubes from your gin and tonics (or is that gins and tonic, or gins and tonics, but I digress) that I envision you enjoying in that space.
Planting in pots is good - but I think more root room is better if you are prone to ignoring the plants. I wonder if you might want to choose your plants, then substrate appropriate to the plants chosen, then plant through a piece of landscape cloth and top with your chosen pebble mulch. The cloth and pebbles will help prevent many weeds and maintain moisture.
Lots to research for a small starter project, non?
I find myself most amusing.
[Last edited by JBarstool - Jun 13, 2020 8:17 AM (+)]
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Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
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Jun 13, 2020 9:38 AM CST

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Check with Regan's nursery on Decoto Rd, they can give you suggestions based also on plants they have.
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