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Focal Point Plants
Containers create a focal point for the garden and can be easily moved to change the emphasis. Choose plants with strong shapes such as cordylines.

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.

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