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Mixed Container Plants Stretch Garden Season
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Never before have garden centers had such healthy, richly-colored bedding plants for planting glorious mixed containers. Gardening season is not over yet!
These mixed containers can liven up the porch, patio or deck all winter long. But what is exciting are some of the newest, hottest plants available to choose from.
For instance, try the Purple Rain pansy. This pansy came out last year and disappeared from our markets faster than a snow in May. They are back but still not in the quantities I would like to see. Purple Rain is a mounding, cascading-type pansy that is extremely cold hardy.
They have done well in Mississippi and have performed very well in University of Georgia trials. They are awesome in beds but are ideal for the mixed containers where you can tuck them in between greenery and allow them to spill over the edge.
Another cascading plant that is available but going fast is a group of trailing snapdragons called the Chandelier series. A trailing snapdragon may not sound enticing, but when you see a basketful or use them in a mixed container, you will fall in love with the plant. Friends in South Carolina who have been growing these report they have bloomed well into the hot temperatures of late spring and early summer.
Other plants that have really caught my eye at the garden centers are the Penny citrus blend violas. You may be familiar with pastels or purple and yellow violas, but when you see these miniature flowers looking as delectable as orange slices, you will want to try them.
I had the opportunity to go to the California Pack trials last spring and was overwhelmed by all the new plants coming out. It is a great time to be a gardener. At the trials, I saw thousands of pansies, among them Purple Rain and another group that caught my eye called the Fama series.
I figured the Fama series had as much chance of cracking the pansy market as the Saints do at winning the Super Bowl, but I guess their odds must have been better than that because I have seen them at some garden centers. The Fama orange really caught my attention with its deep saturated color which has great landscape appeal as well as use in containers.
Don't forget about the Panola, which is a cross between the pansy and the viola. When I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago there were few in the market, but your demand has already paid dividends as garden centers have started locating some sources for these flowers.
In addition to these great new flowering plants, there are some new green plants that need a spot in these mixed containers. The first one to catch my attention is the Red Giant mustard. This is perfect for a large planter or the landscape, and you eat it like you do other greens.
Other new green plants to add to these planters are sages and grasses like the sedges, flowering kale, cabbage and asparagus ferns. Don't forget standard flowers like the Sonnet and Liberty snapdragons, dianthus.
Be sure to choose a container large enough to hold a variety of plants. Probably one of the most critical choices comes in your selection of potting soil, which should be a light, well-drained mixture. Bargain specials are not a good buy for this container.
Place your largest plants in first and then fill in around the perimeter with smaller ones. Watch the moisture in your container. Even though temperatures are cooler, your planter will need to be watered and fertilized from time to time. Feed with a dilute, water-soluble, balanced fertilizer once a month to keep flowers producing.
The gorgeous flowers of fall and winter don't have to be limited to the yard or landscape. We can bring out our Monet-like talent hiding deep within and create quite a show with a decorative planter on the porch to welcome family and friends.