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Choosing the right plants

Almost all kinds of plants can be planted into garden pots. You do not have to be curtailed by a lack of space to have trees and shrubs in your garden. However there are some plants that are particularly suited for container gardening. For a plant to do well, its growing requirements need to be met adequately when considering container gardening. You need to research the following before making your choices:

  • Measure the exact dimensions of your garden pots and note how much space the plant will have to grow into.
  • Monitor the amount of light the container garden will receive – direct sun, shade, etc.
  • Monitor other factors such as exposure to wind outdoors or on a balcony, etc. and air conditioning is indoors.

Small trees

Amongst trees that can successfully be grown in garden pots, palm trees are by far the most popular, followed closely by the Japanese trees which also lend itself to bonsai treatment very successfully. Following are the recommended trees that will make suitable container gardening:

  • Acer palmatum: – along with the other cultivars. The Japanese maple tree.
  • Chrysalidocarpus lutescens: – The yellow bamboo palm tree.
  • Cunonia capensis: – also known as the red alder.
  • Euphorbia ingens: – the common tree Euphorbia.
  • Ficus benjamini: – the weeping fig tree.
  • Halleria lucida: – the tree fuscia.
  • Livistona chinensis: – the Chinese fan palm tree.
  • Magnolia grandiflora: – the laurel magnolia.
  • Nuxia floribunda: – the forest elder.
  • Trachycarpus fortunei: – the Chinese windmill palm tree.

Fruit trees

Fruit trees, especially dwarf fruit trees make excellent pot plants that are not just a feast for the eye, but also for the mouth. Following are some of the best options that can be considered for container gardening:

  • Tropical fruits: – examples include avocado trees, banana trees, and pawpaw, pineapple and mango trees. These fruits will thrive in frost-free gardens, or in garden pots that are placed on warm, sheltered patios.
  • Citrus fruit: – examples are calamondin trees, grapefruit, orange trees, and the ever popular lemon tree, in fact most Citrus trees. These fruits will also thrive in frost-free gardens, or in garden pots that are placed on warm, sheltered patios.
  • Temperate fruit: – examples are apple trees, fig trees, strawberries, gooseberries, youngberries, stone fruit. These fruits will tolerate some frost.

Shrubs

Brunfelsia, nandina, camellias, conifers, cordyline, azaleas, fucsias, Gardenias, cypress, rosemary, Hibiscus, hydrangea, flax and lavender are all great pot plants. Further examples are:

  • Abelia grandiflora: – the "Francis Mason" as it is also known.
  • Anisodontea spp.: – the Lady's Pink.
  • Ardisia crispa: – the Coral berry tree.
  • Aucuba japonica: – the spotted laurel.
  • Beaucarnea recurvata: – the Pony-tail palm tree.
  • Cycas revulata: – the Sago palm tree.
  • Dracaena alteriformis: – the large-leaved dragon tree.
  • Encaphalartos spp.: – most cycads.
  • Myrtus communis: – the Myrtle.
  • Phoenix roebelenii: – the dwarf date palm tree.
  • Plumbago auriculata: – the blue plumbago.
  • Solanum rantonetti: – the blue potato bush.
  • Yucca flaccida: – Garland gold or Spanish Sword.

Climbers

Climbers like honeysuckle, bougainvillea, jasmine, mandevilla, stephanotis and dipladenia also do well in garden pots. The added advantage of using climbers in container gardening is that they are more controllable when planted in garden pots. Further examples of climbers you can use in container gardening are:

  • Clematis sp: – the Clematis brachiata with its white flowers.
  • Senecio macroglossus: – yellow flowers.
  • Thunbergia alata: – the Black-eyed Susan with its yellow or orange flowers.
  • Jasminum multipartitum: – has wonderfully fragrant white flowers.
  • Pelargonium peltatum: – a favorite with many gardeners.
  • Petalidium coccineum: – scandent, fast growing red flowers preferring semi-shade.
  • Littonia modesta: – the Christmas Bell with striking bell-shaped orange flowers.

Annuals

Most bedding plants do great in garden pots when planted as companions to trees and tall-growing shrubs. Small varieties of Begonia semperflorens, petunias, phlox, pansies, impatiens and marigolds can be used for this purpose.

Ground covers

Some ground covers with their cascading type of flowering will also act as living mulch in garden pots to taller plants. More examples are:

  • Othonna carnosa: – a rapid mat forming yellow flowered ground cover.
  • Plectranthus neochilus: – fast growing mauve to purple flowering ground cover.
  • Delosperma sp.: – mat-forming with flowers in a wide color range. Purple, yellow, pink, red, white.
  • Aptenia cordifolia: – a mat-forming red-flowering ground cover.

Bulbs

Flower bulbs do well in garden pots in the season that they bloom. You can afterwards replace these with annual seedlings to ensure a constant show of color every season in your container garden. Other flower bulbs suitable for container gardening includes:

  • Agapanthus sp – tufted with blue, white and purple flowers.
  • Albuca nelsonii – tufted with white flowers. Suitable for large containers.
  • Bulbine abyssinica – the tufted bulbine with yellow flowers.
  • Cyrthanthus sp – tufted clusters of flowers. Cyrthanthus elatus with red and pink flowers that prefers semi-shade or sun, Cyrthanthus obliquus with orange, green and yellow flowers, and Cyrthanthus sanguineus with red to pint flowers.
  • Eucomis autumnalis: – tufted yellowish-green flowers on erect stalks, the pineapple flower as it is also known. Eucomis bicolor has greenish-purple tinted flowers.
  • Gloriosa superba: – dormant in winter. Elongated stems that bears the strikingly orange and yellow flowers.
  • Sandersonia aurantiaca: – dormant in winter. Elongated stems with trumpet-shaped orange flowers.
  • Ornithogalum longibracteatum: – the Pregnant Onion. Tufted greenish-white flowers with large exposed green bulbs. Ornithogalum saundersiae (The Chinkerinchee) with tufts of white flowers on erect flower stalks.
  • Galtonia candicans: – white tufted flowers on an erect flower stalk.
  • Rhodohypoxis baurii: – small pink tufted red to pink flowers.
  • Zantedeschia jucunda: – strikingly beautiful spathe in yellow – the yellow Arum.

Succulents

Using succulents as pot plants are excellent in that it will tolerate a little drought and will not need watering as regularly as other plant types. In desert type climatic conditions these succulents will withstand the elements longer than other plant types.

  • Aloe sp: – Aloe ecklonis with orange-red flowers. Aloe aristata with tight red rosettes of small leaves and erect orange-red flowers on extended racemes.
  • Crassula perfoliata: – bright red flowers during mid-summer. Erect to spreading growth amongst the different species. Crassula coccinea has red, tubular flowers.
  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora: – large, reddish leaves with yellow flowers. Can grow up to 70 cm tall.
  • Kleinia galpinii: – bright orange-red flowers.
  • Architectural succulents such as Adenium swazicum: – beautiful pink flowers on stems. This particular plant should be kept dry during winter and
  • Aloe reitzii: – an ornamental aloe with orange red flowers.

Roses

You can maintain a container garden of roses. Roses do not have very extensive root systems, but do establish themselves quick enough. Good drainage is the key. Roses grown in garden pots need more care and attention than those growing in open garden soil.