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Summer container makeover

By: Jennifer Howell
After some accidental over-watering, our containers needed rearranging. Check out our tips for revamping a dull container with house plants and late-season perennials.

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Toward the end of summer, containers you planted up in spring may need a refreshing makeover like this one from our test garden. One weekend when this container got too dry, I overcompensated and watered too much for several days. While the gaura and New Zealand sedge didn’t mind, other plants suffered from the attention. So I pulled out the angelonia, phlox, celosia and licorice plant that struggled, along with some of the potting mix that was too soggy. The sedge and gaura remained, and because they are very fine-leafed plants, the new plants needed substance.

Add unique and dependable plants

To get your money's worth on these late additions, use plants that will continue to bloom late into the season as well as plants that can be brought indoors as house plants. For broad, vivid foliage, I added prayer plant and iresine. The red stems of iresine pull your eye up and echo gaura’s pink spikes, while red lines in the prayer plant leaves accent the pop of color from the late-summer-blooming ornamental pepper and red snapdragon. To keep the snapdragon blooming and the container looking fresh, don't forget to do some deadheading.

Bring the house plants indoors

The added perk is that iresine or coleus can be treated like house plants and brought inside for winter. They’ll get leggy in low indoor light, so pinch stems back to keep them bushy. Or take cuttings 4 to 6 in. long, strip off the lowest two or three leaves, then place them in water with the leaf nodes below the surface and they’ll root in a few weeks.

Come spring, you can plant them outdoors again. Before planting outdoors, put them in a shady spot and gradually give them more sun each day to keep them from getting shocked from a sudden transition to bright sunlight. Plant a house plant directly in the potting mix, or simply tuck pot and all in the container with the rest of the annuals planted around for an easy way to remove it at the end of the season. Just be sure to water carefully as it may dry out faster than the rest of the container. When temps dip into the 40s F, dig up the house plant and replant into a new container (if it is not already in its own pot). Shower the foliage to splash off any insect stowaways before setting it in a bright spot indoors.

Scroll down for more information about how to grow these container plants!

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Container recipe

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A) Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’)
Type Perennial Blooms Red buds that open to pink in summer Light Full sun Size 24 to 30 in. tall, 24 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in AHS zones 5 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

B) New Zealand sedge (Carex testacea Prairie Fire™)
Type Perennial Blooms Green foliage brushed with gold Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in AHS zones 6 to 10, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 12 to 1

C) Iresine (Iresine lindenii ‘Formosa’)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Bright green and white variegated foliage and pink stems, insignificant flowers Light Full sun to part shade Size 1 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in AHS zones 10 to 12, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 12 to 1

D) Ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Sangria’)
Type Annual Blooms 2 to 3 in. red and purple fruits Light Full sun Size 10 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Annual, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 12 to 1

E) Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura)
Type Annual Blooms Colorful, variegated leaves, insignificant flowers Light Part to full shade Size 6 to 12 in. tall and wide Hardiness Annual, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 11 to 12

F) Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus Snaptastic™ Red)
Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Deep red in spring to fall Light Full sun Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in AHS zones 8 to 11, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 12 to 1


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