Container Combos: Cute or Kooky?

I received a free box of annuals from Ball Hort a few weeks ago. (Every year, Ball and other growers send samples of their newest varieties to garden writers and editors for feedback and possible publicity.)

I decided to mix them up in containers for our front walkway/doorsteps.

I can’t complain about free plants, but if I could, I would complain that the colors aren’t really what I would pick out if I were shopping for mixed container plantings . . .  to go with each other and especially to go with our purple door. I found it challenging to combine the plants keeping in mind both their looks and their light/water requirements.

At first I was excited because shopping the toddler-girl departments at Kohl’s and Target has given me the idea (er, delusion) that no colors truly clash. Orange and pink? Pink and red? It’s all good!

Post-planting, I’m not so sure burgundy/pink/yellow/coral/lime/purple “works” as well on plants as it does on a 19-month-old.

I also had a limited number of pots in the shed, mostly in smallish sizes, and being cheap and pressed for time, I opted to just squeeze everybody on board. (I did buy one great large terra-cotta planter deep discounted at TJMaxx but haven’t planted it up yet.) In a few weeks I think we’ll see a real “muffin-top” effect—which is also cute on a tot but less-than-comfortable/healthy for most plants.

Standing back and looking at everything, I can see what I might have done differently, but I can’t spend time redoing it. Over the summer I’ll let you know how these plants fare. Would love to hear any thoughts on how it all looks, good or bad. And what are your favorite color combos for containers in your garden? Anything you’ve regretted pairing?

Below, on the steps, from top: Wasabi coleus and Patchwork Lavender impatiens; Wasabi coleus and Pink Lemonade Suncatcher petunia.

















Below, lower step, from top: Rose Star Can-Can calibrachoa and Pink Lemonade Suncatcher petunia; 3D Purple osteospermum and Burgundy Aztec verbena. (This is my most “eek” pot and the osteospermum is only barely blooming yet.) I just now thought of trying to paint these plastic pots with leftover paint from the door. I don’t think it would look great with the calibrachoa or verbena this year, but maybe for next year. It would help pull the whole doorstep area together.

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18 thoughts on “Container Combos: Cute or Kooky?

  1. I think the colors are fine together. Some tall spiky plants like dracenea or purple fountain grass would add some interest. The purple grass with the magenta verbena would repeat the color as well. I have had good luck with painting plastic pots, but I get the spray on kind made for plastic. Some of those plants should trail a bit as they grow, and that will add interest and cover the mismatched pots.

  2. They look “normal” to me — at least better than average. This year, I was tired of my standard window box combo and decided to plant at least one thing of every color in that box. I chose orange calibrachoa, blue scaevola, blue convovulus (previously unknown to me), lime sweet potato vine, red and white verbena, purple wave petunia and yellow marigolds and just plopped them all in. It’s shaping up to look good and no colors really jar against the others. There’s a place for perfection, but nature typically isn’t perfect and provides many combinations I’d never think of. PS: I didn’t notice the containers at all, except the white one. Guess I don’t have a designer’s eye like one of the respondents — but designers can produce more beautiful things than I typically can.

    • Hello, Anne — I will take “normal” — thank you! I think your window box sounds exciting. A few of my newer in-ground plantings started to bloom yesterday and surprised me with their colors — was not quite what I had planned but I love it! I’m starting to think I’m better off the less I think about what goes with what.

  3. One thought no one else has touched on. Look at mother nature – what we might consider some very garrish color combos do grow together in the wild. Things like orange and lavender or orange and magenta. If plants naturally bloom at the same time then the color combos must not be bad. We have been conditioned to think they are bad. My background is an AA degree in Art with a progression into quilting. Many quilters complain about having difficulty choosing/putting colors together but I just do it. I think I don’t have a problem because I have no pre-concieved idea of what goes together or not. Consider lines of fabric from a single manufacturer – especially lines for halloween. Orange-lavender-purple-lime green-yellow with black. Grouped together the colors are interesting. The real trick is combining light-dark-dull-bright — contrast. The bright or dull can be also be dark or light at the same time. It is a matter of how one reads against another. Light pink and dark magenta contrast with each other. Just a touch of lavender adds spark and keeps the combo from being dull and boring.

    • Hi Laurel — I love this comment. I bet your quilter’s eye translates into a gorgeous garden. Do you ever use a kaleidoscope when planning a quilt? I heard or read that tip somewhere — my mom is a quilter. I think the idea is that the kaleidoscope can give you inspiration for colors to put next to each other, that maybe you wouldn’t see or try normally. Had not thought of trying it when planning garden combos until now.

  4. I love planting containers, and one thing I stick to is to take a good look at a group of planters from 15 ft away, or the way you’ll usually view them; this gives you a good idea of the way they read ‘as a group’; the colors should harmonize. This year peachy-orangy appeals with maybe a little purple for contrast.
    I use a lot of green, and I like draping plants on edges to make the planting look fuller.
    Here in upstate New York, deer are another serious consideration!

    • Hi Chris — mmm I think especially with containers it’s easy to get stuck in that close-up view while planning/planting. I know it happens to me at least. Good tip to remember to back up and assess. Thanks for commenting & have a great day.

  5. Sorry, but it looks mish-mash to me.

    I don’t usually set out to do so, but end up buying plants that both please me and enhance each other. I try them next to each other and combine them with some sort of common denominator. I tend to use red clay or neutral grey-green colored glazed pots. That way almost anything I choose is at least tied together by pot color. I usually choose a purplish-blue to tie plantings together, ‘Bluebird’ nemesia and ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia are easy to find, long-blooming and inexpensive.

  6. Hey Meghan, seems I got the purple plants you needed! I was one of the Nest in Style winners, and received several purple Proven Winners plants that would have looked great with your door. I am waiting for them to “settle in” their pots, and will send photos shortly.

  7. Hi Donna,

    They look fine, as long as you enjoy them that’s what matters. I stuff all sorts of different plants in my front containers. My only suggestion is to have them all on the steps going down and in the bigger pots plant taller annuals. You can mix any color in any pot they all go and it’s just for you it’s not for a client so just have fun and experiment. I sometimes just put all the coleus together in one pot.

  8. I am sorry but I think the use of the different colored pots is jaring. I see the pots first then the plants. I am an Interior Designer so maybe I am just picky. I think you can use any color together as long as you use purple, it is the common color denominator and will make Pink and Red, Orange and Yellow or all of the above work together.

    • Hi, Donna! No need to apologize! I appreciate your thoughts and I see your point. Just happened to have these pots lying around in the shed — they’ve held various houseplants. (Except the gray one, which was a hanging basket last year.) Most of the plants are trailers, so I can hope that they obscure the pots a bit as summer progresses. Next year I plan to paint the plastic pots (on the lower step) if I use them in the same location. Personally I think the two glazed pots on the top steps look OK…one is brown and the other, green — rather neutral, I think. Thanks for the tips!

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