Use interior-design principles to create container landscapes

Use interior-design principles to create container landscapes

Expand your potting repertoire by creating a landscape in a container.


A pleasing vignette in a pot balances color, texture and density, says Marylee Pangman, who recently sold her Contained Gardener business to Sonoran Gardens Inc.

She suggests simplicity so that a potted landscape doesn't look busy. A good rule of thumb is to apply the principles of interior decorating to floral combinations.

"You want two or three colors or a myriad of shades within a color," Pangman says as an example.

When choosing plants for color, avoid getting many different plants that happen to be the same hue.

For instance, if your pot can hold 12 plants and you use three colors, don't get 12 different varieties or species of plants. "You get three kinds of plants that represent those colors," Pangman advises.

When choosing for texture, consider leaf size. Get plants with varying leaf sizes, she says, and avoid similarly sized leaves of varying shapes.

Annuals can be planted as closely as an inch apart.


Cactus, agave and other succulents "have very strong structural frameworks" that will provide textural interest, says Colleen LaFleur, owner of LaFleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora.

Consider shapes and colors that complement one another, she suggests.

For instance, one vignette might combine thin-stemmed sticks on fire (Euphorbia tirucalli), a columnar blue flame cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans), a tree aeonium rosette and a leafy-like variegated creeping crassula.

If focusing on color, you can try putting together a gray agave, burgundy succulent and bright green lady slipper.

Watering can be a little tricky if you combine cactus with other succulents that need more irrigation. LaFleur separates the two with something with moderate watering needs. Then she can water the other succulents without over-watering the cactus.

Since you'll likely keep a potted succulent landscape for much longer than one of annuals, occasional pruning will be necessary, as well as removal of pups, which are offsets of a mature plant.

"You don't want to crowd them," says LaFleur.

Before You Buy

• Determine what plants have similar watering and sun-exposure needs.

• Plan to terrace or layer plants in one pot similar to the technique used for flowers in vases. Have something tall, something medium height and something short or trailing.

• Understand how large or spread out the plants you want to pot will grow, then select ones that won't overcrowd the space or each other. Plant tags may provide that information.

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at

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