The Perfect Plant and Pot – 5 Simple but Exciting Container Garden Combos

June 23, 2023

It’s that time of year when spring has most definitely sprung.  The heat is starting to set in (and real hard-work gardening projects start to seem a little less exciting – who wants to sweat that much?). And then there is an end-of-school-year/kids’ home busyness that comes with children.  

I’m beginning to plan the annual migration of my tropical plants from my office and living room to their outdoor vacation spots on the patio and driveway.  Creating colorful container gardens is how I garden with plants that are harder to grow or that don’t fit in my increasingly low-maintenance native and naturalistic inground garden and landscape.  The containers are where I can bring new idea boards to life; I can play with different plants, and I constantly change things up for new and exciting designs and seasonal displays.  

Who needs to make things harder with a complicated flower pot design? My own attitude toward container gardening has evolved over the years. I no longer stress myself with mixed containers of disparate plants that have been combined only because they fit a rhyming theme (you know, the thriller filler spiller mantra ūüôĄ.

Instead, I work with a collection of potted plants that are easy to arrange and rearrange, swap out when they are not at their best, and generally have fun with all season and all year round.

If you have garden containers to fill and would love to have the cooling freshness that plants bring to any space (indoors or out) – you don’t need to make anything harder than it needs to be.

Keep it simple without sacrificing style with these container garden combos.

The trick is this: One Pot + One (type of ) Plant = Huge Designer Style.

Yes, this is just two elements (a plant and a pot), but it is a thoughtful combination that is magical. A lot can be accomplished if you don’t try too hard.  Let me know if you think these hit the mark…

Container Combination Ferns and Buckets

ferns and galvanized buckets container planting
A full and healthy fern will dress up the most mundane pot, and mixed with galvanized metal, it is a classic plant combination idea for easy container gardens.
ferns and black terracotta container planting
Swap out the galvanized metal for a dark container for more contrast Рblack pots are a great contrast and are a simple and perfect container.  Ferns generally will not want a full sun situation; in full sun, they will require consistently moist soil and a black pot will also increase their need for water. These pots are best in a partial shade area.  

Galvanized Ribbed Container From Rejuvenation

Black Terracotta Plant From Rejuvenation

Lush ferns are happy with a little dry shade.  (This means you won’t be as much a slave to them as to other, more needy plants.)  

One big fern can fill a shiny metal bucket or look super sexy adjacent to some black terracotta. (I am not sure which look I like better).  

Ferns tend to be cheap and plentiful, and they give you an opportunity to surround yourself with the fresh rainforest garden feel.  This look will work with nearly any house style or outdoor space and will give you a nice sense of enclosure and lushness. 

Ferns look better¬†(and are happier)¬†in a spot that doesn’t get baked by the sun all day¬†(patio,¬†front porch, flanking the garage, etc)¬†¬†– but most ferns can take at least a half day’s exposure.¬†

Sassy Grasses + Monochrome Planters = Chic Container Garden Combo

pink muhly grass and pink planter container garden
If you like lots of colors – that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a variety of plants, colorful foliage, or bright colors in the form of flowers.¬† You can use a colorful container and a plant that subtly matches or contrasts. ¬†Ornamental grasses are easy to grow in a larger container.¬† Besides Pink Muhly grass, you can explore some silver or blue-colored grasses, burgundy-hued grass, or one of my favorites is lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus, which is a tropical grass and herb) because you can make a great flavored syrup for cocktails or use it in fresh summer vegetable recipes.¬†

Modern Pink Planter from Burke Home

Pink is usually a soft garden color that makes me think of grandmas cottage.  But this contemporary pink container filled with Pink Muhly grass asserts a strong modern sensibility that is really the opposite of faded blowsy blossoms.  It is more of a standout feature that sets the scene.  (All about pink Muhly grass)

If you have a chic pool deck or maybe a cozy mid-century home, this monochromatic combination is an easy way to make a big design statement.  

If you aren’t into pink, maybe switch it up with a¬†purple grass¬†and¬†a plum container¬†or a¬†silvery grass¬†and¬†a grey container.)¬†

Flower Pot Combinations – Stately Castor Bean and Rustic Terracotta Flower Pot Design

castor bean and antique terracotta container planting
Castor Beans are great full-sun plants.  Their distinctively shaped dark purple leaves are able to make a bold statement, and because these are such tall plants and they have funky and unexpected red puffball flowers, they are an easy focal point.  Everyone will be asking you about these plants.  

Antique Terracotta Planter from Rejuvenation

I have an obsession with Ricinus (Castor Bean) – for me, it is a case of wanting the thing I can’t have¬†(or maybe shouldn’t have). ¬†

Here in New England, I’ve never once seen it in a nursery (I’ve always grown mine from seed). I know down on Long Island, there are lots of places where I can find this ‘dangerous’ but stately plant.  But, you know, — New Yorkers — and their fashionable ways. ūüėČ  

To keep an eye on this plant, you might want to grow castor beans in a pot Рit works well and quickly the plants will be quite tall. Ricinus are very ornamental plants that are easy to grow from seed (they are annuals, they grow very fast and achieve 5-6 ft heights in one growing season. 

This combo of exotic and exciting Castor Bean with the Moroccan Planter from Rejuvenation is a dangerous and sexy mix. 

Other less controversial plants that could be substituted here are amaranth, Quinoa, or maybe rhubarb, though I have read that many people struggle to keep this heavy feeder happy in a pot.  Alternatively, you can keep it simple and classic and enjoy easy red geraniums.  

Bright Fresh Blues with Modern Reclaimed Wood

reclaimed wood planter and brage container garden combo
It is worth noting that the pretty blue blooms on borage are edible flowers that can be added to summer salads. 

Wood and blue are a classic country garden chic combo that makes container gardens easy.  If you feel absolutely compelled to add in something else for a multi-plant combination planter, I would choose a grey of silver plant.

Try dusty miller (an upright option) or Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’ ¬†(a trailing plant). ¬†Both would be great companion plants to the borage (all are happy with bright sun and not needing excess water to perform well).¬†

Reclaimed Wood Planter from Greenery By Design

Clean, bright, and cheery, this combo is the Pollyanna of my little collection.  I can see this container nicely paired with perhaps another wooden vessel (of different sizes, shapes, or heights) similarly filled with white daisies or something fresh and clean.

Other options to extend the season of pretty blue flowers into the spring would be to grow leafy brunnera. I’d also like to try growing Anchusa Dropmore or amsonia in a pot like this.

Modern Container Garden Idea – Pair Unique Succulents with a Shapely Pot

parrots beak lotus and oiive oil urn planter combination

For an eye-catching Mediterranean look, try a combo of Lotus Golden Parrots Beak with a classic Olive Oil Urn From Ballard Design.   It gives Southern Italian or Moroccan plant pot vibes, and it is timeless and traffic-stopping. 

This is probably suited to a climate warmer than my own – a place where the Lotus would not have to be brought indoors in the winter to survive.  

An Olive urn planter is a unique shape that I think calls for an equally special plant partner. This type of container garden combo – where you are focussing on complimenting shapes – can yield artful results.  The Lotus is a draping plant that will send branches of silver over the side, topped off with flowers that kinda look like flames. 

So, which is your favorite?  Are you going to give any of these a try? 

Learn More about Growing A Collected Container Garden:

A drawing of flower pots in a frame.

Would you like to learn more about how to create successful container gardens?  Containers are great solutions for small spaces, urban areas, and even for growing vegetables (in the prettiest way possible). To learn how to create all-season collections of potted plants – Join me in my annual course ‚Äď Creating Containers ‚Äď A Year of Creating Collected Gardens in Pots with Rochelle Greayer.

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  1. That muhlenbergia made me catch my breath. I love the way you use color. Nothing boring about your suggested combos! Clever way of suggesting plant/pot pairings. Enjoyed your post, and your design aesthetic very much. I’ll be back.

  2. Robert Webber says:

    My goodness you have good taste and great style!
    Best Wishes

  3. Love your pairings! And I have a narrow-topped urn to plant that Lotus will be perfect for. And that Castor Bean/Moroccan combo is killer. Thanks!

  4. Katie says:

    SUPER idea: I enjoy gardens put together as you describe. It’s a way that gardeners without a lot of space can emulate a “real life garden” in real size.

    Also, the way you prepared your pics was super cool! Neat technique.

  5. andrea says:

    love the singular plant/container combinations – i often find that containers have too many things – too many different plant types – in them. a statement is so much louder when it is simply made!

  6. Pam/Digging says:

    Those are all pretty fantastic. I like the black bucket with the ferns, picking up the dark stem color. But my overall fave is the last image.

  7. Beautiful color pairings!

  8. Susan aka Miss R says:

    Rochelle you hit it out of the park. Single specimen containers are the thing right now and you showed hos to do it with panache!

  9. I love the way that you broke this down for us novices… good to keep it simple sometimes…

  10. Louise says:

    by far the most visually interesting post , R, Again thanks.

  11. Denise says:

    Really beautiful containers and wonderful to pair each one with just the perfect plant.

  12. I LOVE your take on this post! My favorite? The muhlenbergia for sure (maybe it’s because I just returned from a huge installation where we planted 15 of them!). I love your pairings – you’re an amazing designer as well as blogger!

  13. I love the one plant/one pot concept–simple yet striking! And, I would kill for the terra cotta olive oil urn–seriously, kill. Well, maybe just maim. Awesome post!

  14. Hi Rochelle,
    I like your “Serving suggestion” approach to container gardens. Very original, just like you. Always enjoy your wonderful taste.

    Shirley Bovshow

  15. rochelle says:

    thanks everyone — I am glad you all like the post!

  16. Germi says:

    Let’s see… the muhly … but wait…
    I also loved the fern in the bucket …
    but then there was the CASTOR BEAN!!!!

    DING DING DING!!! The winner!!! (for ME, that is!)

    LOVE IT, gonna TRY IT … whenever I can afford a pot like that!

  17. Love them all, but the parrots beak in the terracotta pot is genius! I do a lot of mediterranean gardens and am always looking for ways to stay within that theme but give them a bit of an unexpected twist (enough with the lavender already!) Will be stealing that one for sure.

  18. Scott says:

    To have to choose which of the combos is my favorite, just might cause a system overload, as they are all beautiful. I think for a traditional New Englander, the Felicia in the wooden container first grabs my attention, but I would love to have the Muhlenbergia as well. Great post!

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