Pretty potted plants and flowers perk up your front porch or patio

Don’t fret if you’re without a yard to grow the flowers or fruit trees of your dreams. A wide variety of plants can thrive in containers that can perk up the appearance of your front porch, deck or patio.

As an increasing number of budding gardeners have found out, pretty pots can handle more than herbs. Mini, portable gardens, which may require less care and water and be moved under cover in harsh weather, can include a Pix Zee peach tree or a short Baby Cakes blackberry bush.

The experts at Al’s Garden & Home centers have always been big boosters of container gardening.

Each spring, Al’s hosts DIY Container Days at its garden centers in Gresham, Sherwood, Wilsonville and Woodburn.

This year’s free-to-attend event, April 15-19, will have people wearing masks and spreading out as they purchase a “thriller” for the center or back of their container, “spillers” for the edges and “fillers.” They will then put their compact gardens together, using soil and transplant fertilizer provided at no cost, at planting stations in the parking lot. Bring a pot or buy one.

Peter Eastman of Al’s Garden & Home says well-planned container gardens allow you to have year-round, seasonal color while you experiment with new-to-you varieties. Another perk to pots: “You can really cram plants in for that lush, full look,” he says.

To fill a window box or other outdoor containers, start with an “anchor” evergreen, like a 5-inch, locally grown lemon cypress, and rotate in seasonal annuals (a filler like cineraria) and perennials (like butterfly-attracting salvia) that are right for sun or shade, depending on the location.

Here are more tips to successfully growing and displaying plants in containers:

Select a small, medium and large container. Put a small tree or a tall plant in the biggest pot and set it behind two smaller pots to form a triangle, suggests Al’s Garden & Home. Put your favorite perennials in the two pots.

Large flowerpots often don’t have to be watered as often as smaller ones. Plastic and lightweight pots are easier to move around.

Terrain, an online shop with tasteful products for your indoor and outdoor living spaces, has planters you can search for by size (5 inches to more than 30 inches wide), shape (bowls, pots, urns and troughs), and material (basket , earthenware, stone, concrete). There are plant stands and trays, too.

The experts at Al’s Garden & Home recommend these trees for containers:

  • Acer palmatum varieties (Japanese maples) have upright or weeping growth, and the foliage can vary from green to deep purple.
  • Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood) are small to medium size and produce white or pink flowers in late spring and show off reds and purples in the fall.
  • Lagerstroemia indica var. (crape myrtle) can be a shrub or a tree that blooms July through fall.

Al’s Garden & Home suggests these flowers for containers:

  • Anemones have long stems to add height to the container or, when cut, in a flower arrangement.
  • Bellis ‘habanera Mix’ English daisies have pompom-shaped flowers in red, white and pink.
  • ‘Alpino Series’ Saxifraga is a mounding plant with short-stem blooms and tiny rosette-shaped foliage.

Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service, says beans, squash, radishes, strawberries, kale, chard and spinach grow well in containers.

  • If space is really tight, select miniature varieties like Thumbelina carrots.
  • Vine crops can be put in hanging baskets or grown in oak barrels or large pots and trained vertically on trellises, stakes or railings.
  • Root and leaf crops (beets, turnips, lettuce, cabbage, mustard greens) can tolerate light shade.
  • Tomatoes, green beans, peppers and others grown for their fruit must have from six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. The more sun the better.

>Read about soil and drainage for container gardens as well as gardening basics in OSU Extension’s publication Growing Your Own

Wayfair has outdoor containers on sale like a durable, decorative, 26-inch-tall resin flower pot ($55.99). But you can also start small and inside, in front of a window with a Triflora hanging planter ($59.63) with melamine pots for herbs, succulents and vine plants. Adjust the length of the ropes and slide them along a metal curtain rod to the desired sun location.

Are you ready to branch out? Check out Amazon’s best-selling container garden books.

Burpee offers free advice on the best locations for specific seeds and plants as well as gardening in pots on decks and patios. Suggestions:

  • Sunny spot: Plant long-blooming annual flowers and tropicals, or try a pot of herbs mixed with marigolds, striped-leaf cannas, or a combination of verbenas, nasturtiums, zinnias and lantanas.
  • Shade from walls or trees: Plant hostas, caladiums, impatiens or small hydrangeas.
  • A container with a trellis can support flowering vines.
  • Bring in fragrance with roses and plant milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), salvias, lantanas, and butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) to attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds

Here are containers in classic, traditional and modern styles:

  • Cost Plus World Market has planters to go with outdoor furniture in styles such as coast casual, riviera beach, Marrakech modern, Napa Valley chic, Pacific Coast picnic, Ojai ranch, Montauk summer, Savannah siesta, Sedona sunset and natural elegance.
  • Home Depot has a wide range of plant containers from a rustic walnut look to sleek ceramic.
  • Houzz has a gallery of photos of container plants dressing up home entrances. See pots for sale, from whimsical to weathered-looking.
  • Frontgate has lavender, aloe and other plants in containers, even a privacy-creating boxwood hedge, starting at $49.
  • Joss & Main has compact, attractive plant stands that are perfect for small spaces. A red bike (on sale at $170) holds plants in its basket and seat; the smaller version is also $48.
  • Lowe’s has an assortment of indoor-outdoor plant pots.
  • Serena + Lily offers free design advice for outfitting a patio or terrace with upscale outdoor sofas, sectionals, dining chairs, coffee and side tables plus pillows and rugs.
  • 2 Modern has modern outdoor furniture and contemporary planters on sale.
  • Walmart has outdoor planters and pots, including self-watering ones starting at $10.19.

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

yeastman@oregonian.com | @janeteastman

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