Container Gardening

Coleus Containers: A Durable Addition to Your Patio

By Jean Starr


It’s a lot to ask that mixed containers you plant in early May still look great in August. But if you combine plants that play well together, they not only can still look good—they can look even better. I create more than a dozen containers each year, using plants that capture my fancy at garden centers or online. Here are three that transitioned through the months to still look good or even better by mid-August.

1. Spotlights in the Shade: This 16” diameter pot receives just two to three hours of direct sun in the afternoon. Each of the following plants made a colorful planter, even though only one is meant to bloom. The container holds one of each of the following:

  • Coleus Color Blaze ‘Lime Time’: This coleus is labeled for sun or shade and will grow as tall as 36”. One of its advantages, besides its outstanding chartreuse coloring, is its reluctance to bloom. I prefer my coleus to remain foliage plants throughout the summer, although many varieties will sport ho-hum flowers late in the season. ‘Lime Time’ never bloomed, so its strength went toward its amazing color instead.
  • Dorotheanthus ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’: This South African succulent, also known as Livingstone Daisy, is grown mostly for its foliage, which is bright green with white edges on each leaf. It holds its color well even in partial shade.
  • Aphelandra squarrosa ‘Louisae’ (zebra plant): Aphelandra squarrosa plants have glossy green leaves with bold white leaf veins. The dramatic leaves are ovate to elliptic growing up to 23cm (9 inch) long and 5cm (2 inch) wide within the center of the leaf and they have pointed tips.
  • Aglaonema Red: Technically a “houseplant,” this beauty can be put to good use outdoors in a shady spot. While its leaves wear more than one color, it’s not a distinct bicolor like the zebra plant, but more like a blended red and green. I think this is why it can be used with other bicolor plants.
  • Begonia ‘Doublet White’: This begonia’s flowers positively glow against its bronze foliage. The gumball-sized blooms come at a good pace, dropping on their own to make room for more, so this plant doesn’t require deadheading.

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