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5 tips for choosing container companions

Presented by Proven Winners

You’ve seen gorgeous container recipes in pictures, but how do you get that look? It takes some time to learn how to design container combinations like a pro, but we have a few key tips that will prompt a successful start. Let’s take a look at five guidelines for choosing container companions.

Combine plants that prefer similar growing conditions.

Rule #1 in gardening is to choose the right plant for the right place. Before you shop, decide whether your container will sit in the sun or shade.

Many garden centers separate their displays based on sun and shade requirements. Read the labels carefully to make sure you are choosing varieties that all enjoy a similar amount of sunlight.

While you're at it, see how much water each plant prefers and pair those with like needs. Be realistic. If you don't plan to water often, choose all drought tolerant varieties.

Choose plants with similar growth rates.

To make sure one plant won't overtake the others in your container, choose varieties with similar growth rates. One easy way to accomplish this is by pairing different colors of one plant together in the same planter - for example, three varieties of Superbells®.

Look for clues in the plant's description. If it describes a "vigorous" plant that "grows quickly", you'll know it needs to be paired with other vigorous varieties that can keep up instead of those labeled "compact."

If one plant in your container recipe starts to overtake the others, don't be afraid to trim its stems to keep the recipe in balance. The more you grow plants in containers, the better feel you'll get for which ones make the best companions.

Use a variety of textures, shapes and sizes in your recipe.

It's time to mix things up! Contrast is the key to designing a striking container recipe. Achieve it by choosing plants with a variety of leaf and flower shapes, being sure to include some with bolder leaves or flowers and others that have a more delicate texture. Use a mix of thrillers, fillers and spillers to give some dimension to your container planting. Just be sure to follow guidelines 1 and 2 first when selecting plants.

Purchase the right number of plants for your container.

How many plants you need to fill your container depends on several factors. How large is your container? Do you prefer the instant impact of a full arrangement, or do you enjoy watching your plants fill out over time? Will you be feeding them so they grow larger? Generally, a " container can hold as few as four " potted plants or as many as six or seven. If you start with smaller or larger plants, adjust the quantity accordingly.

A good place to start is with one larger plant that will serve as a focal point. If the container will be set up against a wall, position the thriller in the back of the pot. If it will be seen from all sides, place the thriller in the middle. Then, fill in with smaller plants around your focal point.

If you want your containers to look full quickly, perhaps for an upcoming event, start with larger-sized plants or use more than you would typically. Keep in mind that some editing may be needed as the plants mature through the season. If you are comfortable with waiting or are on a budget, start with fewer plants.

Copy someone else's great idea.

Overwhelmed by options? Start by copying an idea you've seen and loved in our newsletter or from someone you follow on social. (Hint: flip the page to see a few we know you'll love!) Your inspiration photo might be a simple mixed planter of Supertunia® petunias. Make it your own by choosing colors that complement your patio décor or use the hues that inspire you most.

One helpful idea source is our Container Gardening Recipe Search tool. Use it to sort by color scheme, container style, sun/shade requirements and more to find your favorite new recipes. Each one includes the plant list, how many of each plant you'll need, and how to arrange them in the container. Save or print the recipe to bring with you when you shop.