Our experts at Cox Farms design our popular “combo pots” with both form and function in mind. Of course, they must feature a stunning mix of plants, striking contrasts of color, height and texture. But combos also must include plants that will “get along” together in close quarters for the rest of the growing season. Growth habit is a key factor, since particularly aggressive plants may overpower or hide other plants in the combination. Also, pay close attention to the sun exposure needs of the component plants: consider the space where the planter will live, and be sure the plants used in your combination planter will thrive in that environment.
If you plant your own combo, start at the beginning: the pot. The container you use matters. Size is important; keep in mind that your plants will grow, so you want to allow room rather than cramming in the plants too tightly… if you envision a mix of many different plants, you’ll need a large container (and a LOT of soil).
In terms of aesthetics, you can choose a striking, attractive pot that sets the tone for your container garden, or you can choose something subtle that will blend in and make the plants the stars of the show. Or maybe, it doesn’t have to be a pot at all. It could be a basket, a wheel barrow, a galvanized steel bucket…just think outside the pot! Whatever you choice, make sure the container has adequate drainage holes in the bottom. Many people like to put a layer of something (sand, gravel, pebbles, broken pottery shards, etc.) at the bottom of the pot; studies have shown that this practice does not improve the drainage, but some recommend it to prevent soil from clogging the drain hole.
Next crucial decision: dirt. Be sure to choose a high-quality potting soil. We make our own mix for our planters, and while you can certainly attempt this yourself, there are several commercially-available mixes that produce great results. MiracleGro potting mixes feature a (conventional or organic) time-release fertilizer mixed into the soil, which provides slow and steady fertilizer to your planter for the first few months of the season. MiracleGro’s Moisture Control mix includes a component that absorbs water and releases it into the soil as needed, stabilizing the soil environment and giving your plants a protective buffer from over- and under-watering. These “enhanced” potting mixes are not necessary, but they can certainly give your planters a boost, especially if you’re a gardener prone to neglect.
Combo 101: Thriller, Filler, Spiller
When planning your own combinations, you can’t go wrong following the simple “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” recipe. (See photo above.) You can read in detail about this method here, but here’s the recipe: first, choose a dazzling “thriller” to be the center of attention, then a “filler” or two to fill out the pot, complementing the thriller and adding texture, mass, and color to your planter, and finally round out your combination with a “spiller” to hang over the side of the pot.
Of course, if you prefer combo pot anarchy, throw our rules out the window and follow your heart!
For more combination planter idea, check out our Container Combos board on Pinterest!