A green space for urban gardeners

The long and short of it: stagger heights for lush containers

The sweet potato vine is a nice trailing plant for containers.

The sweet potato vine with its big heart-shaped leaves is a nice trailing plant for containers.

You must remember this: the rules of an in-ground garden don’t necessarily apply to your containers. One of the things I’ve learned from studying O.P.P. (Other People’s Planters) is that you really need to pack the plants in somewhat densely to achieve maximum effect.

When I set out my very first flower planter on my balcony some years back I had approximately six small cell packs of marigold spaced over the length of a 36-inch planter.

That’s fine if you’re cultivating a garden in your backyard of perennials and plants that will return each year and fill in over time. But for a container garden with the clock ticking and where you’re looking to get a big bang for your efforts, it was, shall we say, a little sparse.

I’ve since learned to put in tight groupings of my selected colors and mix in plants with varying growth habits, so that if you put a tall spiky plant in back, you can stack a compact one in front of it and then a trailing one in front of that for lushness and an added stair-step dimension.

Nasturtium and sweet potato vine (which is in the foreground of the above photo) are hearty and fast-growing trailers for containers. In the past, salvia has been a favorite of mine for height (the blue spikes in the background of the picture). This year I planted bells of Ireland seeds, and if all goes as planned, they will join the salvia plantlets I’ve ordered as the “high boys” holding center stage in my containers.

[Note: Make sure you get nasturtium seed packets or plantlets that are specifically designated as having a “trailing” growth habit.]

[Thanks for visiting City Diggity, please check out my archives for previous posts that you can take into your garden. And don’t forget to leave a comment; I want to know how your garden grows.]


  Stephanie wrote @

Hi Avis, how are you? Great post! Now I get some tips on how to grow a combo planter. I have limited gardening space too. This information is good for me to maximise use of my garden space. Have fantastic week!

  Lynne wrote @

This is all so exciting! Though I must admit discouragement by viewing my porch neighbors assorted collection of furniture odds & ends… I will try to remember the idea you gave me about building a small barrier, then a trellis with flowers that will climb to obscure my view – of them… Can you do a post about climbing vines as well as the trailing ones? Or are they the same plants and depends on how you “lead” the vines?

  Avis Weathersbee wrote @

The climber I use is morning glory. It grows quickly. Also, moonflower, which is much like MG, except it blooms at night and the blossoms are HUGE and have a light, wonderful fragrance. I’ll probably write more about them later. I mix MG and MF so them intertwine.

  Martyn Cox wrote @

I love moonflower as well – I grew it up an obelisk in a pot last year. The trick to success with it in the UK is to start the seeds off really early under cover.

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