This time of year, when plants in the ground are showing the effects of the summer heat, some gardeners find that container gardening can add instant color to their outdoor space.
"Gardening in containers is a rewarding way to garden when you no longer physically can garden," said Jacque Rees, a master gardener in Georgia and South Carolina. "They are great in small spaces, make great vegetable containers for patios and add that splash of color when and where it's needed."
Rees said a benefit of container gardening is if it's getting too much sun in one area, it's easy to move it to a suitable location.
"And, you are not tied down to that color combination or style," she said. "It also doesn't cost as much to fill a container as it does a garden bed, so try out some new plants, experiment with hot new colors, textures and growth habits that work together. When a plant doesn't perform, pull it out and replace it. Don't be afraid to try new ideas."
When planning a container garden, Rees said it's easy to think in terms of thrillers, fillers and spillers. She defines the thrillers as the tall plants that have dramatic color, shocking leaves or unusual growth habits.
"The point here is that thrillers are taller than surrounding plants and will grab attention," she said.
Fillers are used to fill in the space between the thrillers and spillers. Fillers can be more than one variety, tend to have a tight growth habit or big, bold leaves.
The spillers are the plants that trail over the rim of the container and "spill" into the garden or walk way.
"Vines come to mind when thinking about these, but don't forget plants that arch and then spill like Liriope," she said.
For example, Rees might complete a container garden using Kimberly Queen fern as her thriller, Caladium and begonias as fillers and variegated Liriope and impatiens as spillers.
When planting in containers, Rees said it's important to follow the same rule of thumb for garden beds: Put plants with similar needs -- sun, shade, water and fertilization -- together.
"It wouldn't work to have a hosta in a container with sedum," she said. "Their needs are different."
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