Potscapes with Pizzazz – Bonnie Helander

The hint of spring is in the air, and it’s time to spruce up your outside space! A quick and rewarding way to add the “wow” factor to your garden is to create potscapes, landscaping with containers, by strategically placing pots where they can be enjoyed and make the biggest impact. Containers give you the freedom to expand your garden by adding interest where needed. Place pots in a bare spot where nothing will grow or to hide an unsightly feature. Since pots are portable, you can place them wherever you need a focal point or spot of color. Here are some tips to become a professional “potscaper” and make your garden pop this spring.


Choose great containers:

Containers come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, colors and styles. Pots have their own character and are important elements in good garden design. A great container will make a statement even without any plants added.

View containers as works of art (focal points) and invest in the best containers you can afford. They will reward you for years to come! Choose formal urns for a formal garden and colorful ceramic for a more informal space.

This spring, Proven Winners is introducing a new line of upscale, ceramic, self-watering containers, called AquaPots which not only look great but will keep your plants hydrated for a week! Ask your local plant nursery about AquaPots. And remember – the bigger the container, the bigger the impact.


Vary the heights:

Pots add interest when they are seen at various heights, not just on the ground. Stagger the viewing level of your pots by placing them on pedestals or utilizing hanging baskets and window boxes. If you are cutting down trees, leave a portion of the trunk as the perfect pedestal for a pot.


Repeat the design:

Repetition is an important design principle used to bring the garden together as one composition. It helps those viewing your garden to easily navigate the space from one area to the next. Portable potscapes allow you to connect all your garden areas into one cohesive space by echoing the same colors, container style, or plant materials. Keep your color combinations simple. A good rule is to use three colors in your containers and repeat them throughout the garden. A popular spring/summer color combination is chartreuse, purple, and yellow. For a more soothing combination, use shades of green, white and blue.


Select plants with multiple purposes:

Use a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs/edibles, shrubs and even small trees in your containers in the color combination you have chosen. For added drama, pick plants of different heights, textures, and shapes. Use the tried-and-true method of planting a “thriller” (tall plant that draws the eye), “filler” (blooming plants that fill in the middle) and a “spiller” (cascading plants that spill over the side) in each container.

Fragrant plants and plants that attract pollinators are an additional bonus! To ensure season-long color, select annuals that are continual bloomers like Surefire® rose begonia, SunPatiens® impatiens, and Supertunia® Vista petunias. Or look for plants with colorful foliage. The brilliant leaves of a coleus are as spectacular as flowers!

Distinctive containers reflect all the seasons. Don’t forget to refresh your pots after the long, hot summer with fall-blooming plants. To minimize cost, keep an evergreen shrub, like a boxwood or rosemary, in your containers as a “base” plant that can be used all year. Then add plants around it that reflect the season.


Take care of your potscapes:

Before planting, determine where your containers will go. Notice the amount of sun or shade. The light exposure will determine what plants you select for your containers.

Use a good container mix or “soilless mix” in your pots. Look for mixes that contain slow release fertilizer and water-retaining crystals for easier maintenance. Do not use heavy garden soil.

Make sure you have at least one or two drainage holes in each pot. To keep the mix from seeping out of the bottom, cover the drainage holes with a piece of screen or a coffee filter.

Fill about half the container with your mix and dampen with water. If you have a large and tall planter, you can place packing materials (bubble wrap) at the bottom so you don’t have to use so much of the soil mixture.

After loosening up the roots, arrange your plants, using a vertical plant in the back, some colorful filler plants in the middle and some trailing plants to drape over the sides.

If you are using annuals (plants that last for just one season) pack them close together for a finished look.

If your mix does not come with fertilizer, sprinkle a slow release fertilizer into the mix as you plant. Gently pack more mix around your plants to avoid air pockets and leave at least an inch of space at the top of the container so the mix does not leak out when you water.

Water well and do not let the containers ever completely dry out in the hot sun.

For continual blooms, use a water soluble fertilizer every ten days to two weeks and deadhead (remove) dying blooms to encourage new growth.


  1. Echo your design throughout the garden. Here the matching pots and plantings give cohesion to the space.
  2. A distinctive container should be able to stand alone as a focal point in the garden. The bigger the pot, the bigger the impact!
  3. Placing a formal urn on a pedestal allows you to view your container at a different height.
  4. These contemporary pots mimic the geometric corners of the pool area.
  5. This ceramic container not only serves as a focal point but allows the eye to rest and savor the subtle green and white in this shade garden.
  6. Window box containers, placed on the fence, help to deflect attention away from the air conditioner units behind the fencing.
  7. When designing your containers, choose three colors, and repeat them throughout the garden for a pulled-together look.
  8. Containers can be placed strategically in the garden where you need a spot of color or a focal point.



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