Containers allow you to grow plants that dislike your garden conditions.
For example, if you have alkaline soil but would like shrubs that need
acidic soil, such as azaleas and pieris, they will thrive in pots of
ericaceous potting mix. If your soil is dry, you can keep astilbes and
hostas moist. Tender plants, such as agaves, which prefer dry,
well-drained sites and are not reliably hardy in most areas, can be
grown in pots even in gardens with wet or waterlogged soil, and moved
under cover in winter. And plants with different soil needs can be
grouped together in individual pots to create combinations that would be
impossible in the open ground.
Where to Place Containers
Container plants perform best in a sheltered spot, so patios and
terraces are ideal locations. In exposed sites, pots dry out quickly and
may blow over. Just as in the open ground, it is important to put
container plants in the right place, grouping those that like similar
conditions to achieve healthy displays.
Displays are simple to create and change. Large pots can be used as
focal points; pairs of identical pots with matched plantings are ideal
on either side of paths, and if placed to each side of a doorway can
emphasize architectural features. Conversely, containers can hide
eyesores, such as utility covers or drains.
Fill seasonal gaps in the border with potted lilies or tulips, which
bloom spectacularly, but only for a limited period. Once their flowers
fade, the pots can be lifted and replaced. A group of containers holding
ferns, hostas, and other shade-tolerant plants should survive
underneath established trees, where the ground is typically dry, poor,
filled with roots, and difficult to cultivate.
If your outdoor space is paved, containers are ideal. Some climbers,
such as jasmine and certain clematis, grow well in pots, so even on a
paved area they can be trained to scramble up walls. Even with no yard,
you can grow plants in containers.
Site window boxes on wide window ledges, or hang them from the wall on brackets. Hanging baskets can be placed in a sheltered spot where they are accessible for maintenance and watering. Wall-mounted pots can brighten a bare wall, although they only hold a small amount of potting mix, so they require copious watering in summer. For these containers, robust mounting hardware is vital. Use plants with strong shapes, such as cordylines, to create an instant focal point. Grown in containers that can easily be moved, they offer a quick way to change the emphasis.