Do your summer containers need a refresh?
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 houseplants. 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.
Using houseplants in outdoor containers
Before planting outdoors, put houseplants, like the prayer plant in this makeover, 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 houseplant 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 houseplant and replant into a new container (if it is not already in its own pot). Shower the foliage to splash off any insect stowaways or spray with insecticidal soap before setting it in a bright spot indoors.
Overwinter plants indoors
In this container makeover, the added perk is that iresine (or you could use coleus this way, too) can be treated like a houseplant 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.
Summer container planting plan
Now check out the plants we used in the summer container makeover in the list below that correspond with the illustrated planting plan.
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 USDA zones 5 to 8
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 USDA zones 6 to 10
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 USDA zones 10 to 12
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
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
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 USDA zones 8 to 11