by Phillip Oliver


Sun Container Photo

Sun Container

This container features a color combination of blue, pink and burgundy. These cool colors provide a respite from the heat of summer. The container is large and utilizes the "thriller, filler, spiller" concept. In this case, the "thriller" is purple fountain grass, a beautiful ornamental grass with graceful, nodding plumes and burgundy-tinted foliage. Planted at the back center of the pot, it will tower above its companion plants and provide a dramatic focal point. "Filler" plants include Butterfly series pentas. This multi-stemmed plant produces a multitude of flower clusters. The plant is sometimes referred to as Egyptian star flowers. Pentas attract butterflies and bees. The "spiller" plants are placed in the front of the container and cascade over the side. Scaevola 'Cajun Blue' is a fast-growing and heat-tolerant plant with blue fan-like flowers. On the opposite side is Petunia 'Suncatcher Pink Vein', a vibrant long-blooming spreading petunia that will last all summer long. Place this container in the corner of a patio, next to a pool or near a sunny pathway or sidewalk.

Tips For Success

Containers are easy to care for but they require more time and attention to keep them looking their best. Containers in the sun dry out fast, especially in hot weather. Mulch should be applied at planting time and regular watering is needed, often daily during the hot summer months. However, do not overwater. Always test the soil before watering. If it is moist to the touch, it is fine. Dry soil means water is needed. Pinching spent flowers will also keep them looking their best. The pentas and scaevola do not require much pinching but the petunia will. Fertilizing is a must. Plants in containers rely on you for their nutrients. Time-release granular fertilizer can be applied to the planting mix when planting the pot (unless you are using a potting medium that already contains fertilizers) and weekly liquid fertilizers (diluted to half strength) should be applied during the season. Always follow the directions on the fertilizer package before using.


    Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum')
    Pentas Butterfly series (Pentas lanceolata)
    Fan flower (Scaevola 'Cajun Blue')
    Petunia 'Suncatcher Pink Vein'



Shade Container

A color combination of burgundy, white and red provides a calming and elegant statement in this glazed container. A white caladium punctuates the arrangement and provides contrast with the colored companion plants below. Heuchera 'Amethyst Myst' has deep burgundy leaves with a splash of silver that complements the white of the caladium. Iresine 'Purple Lady' is a fast-growing ground cover that is used here for its cascading effect. The dark wine-colored leaves maintain their color even in hot summers. Two 'Torch' begonias are planted on each side to provide dramatic points of red. The plants in this container can tolerate partial sun.

Tips for Success

Shade containers are not as demanding as those in the sun because they don't require as much watering. Test the soil with your finger before watering. If the soil feels damp, do not water as this will promote fungal diseases and root rot. Fertilize by applying time-release granular fertilizer at the time of planting (unless you are using a potting medium that already contains fertilizers) and weekly liquid fertilizers (diluted to half strength) during the growing season. The plants in this container do not need pinching but always remove leaves that are dry or damaged to keep them looking their best.


    Caladium 'Candidum'
    Heuchera 'Amethyst Myst'
    Iresine 'Purple Lady'
    Begonia 'Torch'


Phillip Oliver is a Master Gardener in Florence, Alabama. He is an assistant professor/librarian at the University of North Alabama. He chronicles the progress of his own garden at


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Container Recipes for Sun and Shade
Barber Berry Farm
How to: Pruning Fruit Trees
Indoor Container Combinations
Upcoming Magazine - Highlights from September