Garden Column: Perfect Planters

by Valerie Loseth
The Wheelbarrow Gardener

Planter gardens are becoming very trendy for both homes and businesses. With the building of bigger houses and less yard space, planter gardens are a great way to add interest and colour to your yard where it’s just not feasible to have a regular style garden or to provide additional growing space in preferred areas.

Whether it is a beautiful statement planter that welcomes guests at your front door, a flower basket full of gorgeous blooms surrounding the deck, or a herb planter just outside the kitchen door, there are plenty of great ways to add planters gardens around your space. An advantage of these gardens is that you can put them where you want and change them seasonally which adds to the value and visual interest throughout the year.

Whether you are growing flowers veggies or herbs there are some things to consider before you get started. Here are a few tips to help you create that perfect planter garden, one that you will be proud to show off and one that would be the envy of all your neighbours.


The size of your planter pot versus the area in which you are going to display it must be in proportion to one another. A small pot on a big staircase at the entrance to a large home is not going to give you the visual impact that you desire.

For statement planters especially at your entrance, the planter pot should be big enough provide visual weight against the size of your door and vestibule and have enough planting area to hold several medium sized plants or one big plant or shrub or a combination of both.

If you have tall vertical lines to the design of your home like a two story, choose planters that are at least 36 inches tall. If your house is a long low bungalow a shorter pot will do but make sure the diameter of the planting area is at least 14 to 21 inches.

If your planter is shorter and you need more height, you can add height by adding in tall or climbing plants, branches, trellis, or decor elements. So don’t feel that you have to go and buy a new planter if you don’t have something tall to start with.

With planters in other areas of your yard, you will want to consider what’s growing in them and how much watering will they need. Larger planters require less watering but more soil and plants to fill it. If you’re grouping planters, then you will want several different sizes to get the impact you desire.


Knowing what kind of environmental conditions your planter will be exposed to during an average day is a must in order to make good choices on what type of planter pot you purchase and what kind of plant material you’re going to put in it.

Observing the conditions in the area several times a day and at several points throughout the year will help you in the decision-making.

Keep in mind other important factors such as how much rain does it receive, is it located under an overhang or is it in a wide open area. Is it in a windy location, will you have to support delicate plants that easily break. Will you need to move it to look after it and how much time are you willing to spend to keep it looking good.


You may not be a designer but if you follow a few basic principals, choosing your plants to create a beautiful design will be easy.

Think of your planter in thirds vertically. You will need tall, medium and short plants to fill the vertical space. Don’t confine yourself to just annuals, perennials and shrubs are great for adding texture, colour, and longevity.
You will want to find a balance between, strong heavy leaves or flowers and delicate, airy ones both in texture and in colour. Consider the colour of the leaf just as much as the colour of the flower. Flowers fade, the leaves last all season.

Again thinking in threes, you will want to choose these types of plants. A thriller, something that will be a strong focal point, it will hold a prominent spot in the planter. A Spiller, a plant that can soften the edges by trailing or spilling over the sides, and finally a filler, a plant that is subtle but will fill in the spaces and carry colour throughout the planter.


You must take into consideration how much time you’re willing to spend looking after the planter. Watering is the most important factor. Make sure you are aware of the watering requirements of the plants that you choose; you want them all to be similar. Choosing a lightweight potting soil that has a water retention element will help keep the soil moist, and topping the soil with bark mulch or moss will help reduce moisture loss due to evaporation.

If you want to use a lot of annuals, keep in mind that you will have to dead head most to keep them blooming. Even though annuals can bloom for the whole season, perennials can add beautiful texture and can withstand drought conditions a little better. If you have chosen to plant grasses or shrubs, you may have to do some occasional pruning to keep the wayward branches trimmed and the plant tidy. Finally, it is imperative that planters are fertilized on a regular basis. With all the plants that are cramped into such a small space, the soil quickly becomes depleted. I recommend a balanced water soluble fertilizer that is added on a weekly watering schedule.

If you would like more information on any of my recommendations, or perhaps you would like either a consult on what plants to put in your planters or you would like me to custom design something for you. You can email me at or visit my website for more ideas.

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