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Try Houseplants in Your Garden Planters

By: Shayna Courtney
Use indoor houseplants to create striking garden planters for outdoors and you’ll have beautiful accents all summer.

summer-container-detail: The bloom of scarlet star and other bromeliads will last for months.

Double duty houseplants

It only takes one look to realize these containers have a twist! Plants you might normally keep indoors are pulling double duty, adding unique color, shape and texture to each combo. In fact, they’re the structural stars of these containers. The foliage was chosen first, and the surrounding plants and flowers actually came next.

Using a few of the helpful tips here, you can bring houseplants outside and give your containers a whole new look, too. Plus overwintering both them and tender perennials indoors saves you money next year. Houseplants, such as scarlet star, cordyline and mother-in-law’s tongue, are actually extremely easy to care for — another reason why they’re the perfect foundation to start with when planning containers.

Keeping houseplants happy outside

These houseplants will really thrive outside with a little bit of planning. Accommodate their needs, such as less water or more sun, when you plant them in separate containers before adding them to a larger pot. And this way, if the plant starts to struggle, you can insert something else in that hole to keep your combos bright, lush and healthy. Now let’s get started planting!

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fantastic-foliage-container: A mix of foliage color, variegations and texture provides interest even with few flowers.

Fantastic foliage

Scarlet star, an easy-to-find bromeliad, is quite an eye-catching thriller in this combo. The strong spike is a great contrast to the trailing Algerian ivy and variegated airplane plant, too. If water catches and sits in the base of scarlet star’s arching foliage, though, the plant will struggle. Keep this dry-loving tropical healthy, even in a combo that likes to stay moist, by leaving scarlet star in its own nursery pot. This way, it’s easy to pull out and dump excess water from the cup of the plant's foliage, then tuck back into the larger container after you water. You can also remove scarlet star before fertilizing because it won’t need regular feeding.

Container care tips

  • Part shade
  • Feed once a week with water-soluble fertilizer
  • For even faster drainage, sprinkle turkey grit or pea gravel in the bottom of the hole before setting it inside the main planter


Plant list (number to plant)

A) Scarlet star Guzmania lingulata (1)
B) Australian tree fern Cyathea cooperi (1)
C) Coleus Solenostemon Kong Red (3)
D) Variegated airplane plant Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’ (2)
E) Algerian ivy Hedera canariensis (1)
Container is 12 in. square

Bold purple summer container with Houseplant cordyline: Hardworking petunia and calibrachoa bloom profusely all summer.

Bold purple container

Keep the vigorous bloomers of this container, petunia and calibrachoa, performing their best with regular feeding. In early summer, start using a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. As the weather gets warmer, fertilize once a week. And if it’s hotter than average, you may even have to feed as often as every third or every other watering to keep their energy high. Wetting foliage with water-soluble fertilizer could burn leaves — be careful not to water during the hottest part of the day. Slow-growing cordyline won’t get much larger in a season, so buy a good-sized plant to begin with.

Container care tips

  • Full sun
  • Don’t remove ornamental peppers — they’ll turn from white to red as the season goes on
  • In early summer, start using a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. As the weather gets warmer, fertilize once a week


Plant list (number to plant)

A) Petunia Petunia Sanguna® Plum Vein (1)
B) Cordyline Cordyline australis ‘Torbay Dazzler’ (1)
C) Ornamental pepper Capsicum annuum ‘Shu’ (1)
D) Calibrachoa Calibrachoa Superbells® Grape Punch (3)
Container is 11 in. in diameter

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Summer-container-snake-plant: Ferns and mother-in-law's tongue are the perfect foliages for containers in shady spots.

Mix textures

From the sleek, upright mother-in-law’s tongue to the fine foliage of the mother fern, this container boasts tons of interesting texture. Remember the trick you used for the scarlet star earlier? You can do the same thing with the begonia and mother-in-law’s tongue in this combo to keep them from getting too wet—just keep them in their own nursery pots and sink them into the soil of the container. Plus, planting the two in their own separate containers first makes it mess-free to bring both inside.

Container care tips

  • Part sun
  • Don’t let impatiens dry out or they’ll have a hard time recovering
  • Avoid overwatering


Plant list (number to plant)

A) Mother-in-law's tongue Sansevieria trifasciata (1)
B) Fuchsia Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ (1)
C) Golden club moss Selaginella kraussiana (1)
D) Impatiens Impatiens Impreza® Cherry Splash (1)
E) Begonia Begonia x hiemalis 'Julie' (1)
F) Mother fern Asplenium bulbiferum (1)
Container is 14 in. in diameter

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Published: July 1, 2020

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