Simple but Stunning Containers

Ilona Erwin

Sometimes Less Really IS More

While a container recipe with a range of plant material can be amazingly beautiful, there are times we simply want the flower statement to be powerful and simple. This can give a stunning effect. Especially true when planters are viewed from afar -complicated detail and variation are lost visually. The answer to what form of container planter to use is within the purpose of the planting.

  • Do we want something to give close-up viewing in a small space?
  • Is this a container in the public view from the street?
  • Are we using the container within the larger plan of a flower bed?

For long views, and public spaces a simpler, more powerful visual impact will be more satisfying.

Big, bold, and beautiful is wanted.

Which Pots and Plants Give Impact

For pots, try bronzy, metallic or a textured stone surface. Large urn shapes, or huge dish forms work well, depending on the location and space allotted. As in all design, match the formality and style with the context of the home and garden.

An architecture of modern lines looks best with smooth clean lines, and interest from texture. A casual country place can have a wide variety of pots from oak barrels to classic urns. Colonial style homes with fluted wide shaped urns is traditional.

Try, also, to match up the flower type and color with that of the containers. If the color of your container is not what you wish, there are DIY tutorials a plenty for changing them more to your taste.

It seems to me that the more striking and simple the planting, the more important the container style and color becomes to the entire effect. Bring a cohesive look to your design.

Blue flowers in large urns

Artichoke and Calibrachoa photo by Lynn Karlin

Take a Page from Bonsai

NCArboretum Bonsai-27527-1.jpg
By Ken
(personal website of photographer), Public Domain, Link

Consider going all green, particularly if the container is seen in a space against a light backdrop. Use evergreen material in the planters that can later be planted out into the garden. Mimic nature scenes, or make a miniature environment. This works especially well when creating season-specific designs that are meant to last for only a month or two.

A low profile container that is adorned with a tasteful rock or two brings the spirit of Bonsai to this kind of design. Liberally use moss to fill in spaces between plants and rim.

How To Pot It Up

You may use less plant material choices, but this video gives the basic tutorial in choosing plants and putting together a large container (with a water feature!)

Plants to Use

Plants with lots of bloom that lasts the whole season are ideal. Petunias and geraniums, those old stand-bys, will give impact all from the last frost to the first. But most summer blooming annuals that withstand the heat of midsummer are good candidates as single or duo plantings in a big pot.


  • Petunias
  • Geraniums
  • Calibrachoa
  • Snapdragons
  • Angelonia
  • Lantana
  • Mandevilla
  • Hydrangeas
  • Cannas
  • Pentas
  • Plumbago auriculata
  • Thunbergia grandiflora


  • Coleus
  • Flowering Kale
  • Angel Wing Begonias
  • Yuccas
  • Agave
  • Bergenias
  • Boxwood
  • Heuchera spp.
  • Sedums
  • Bamboo
  • Ivy
containers of evergreens

containers of evergreens

Although finer texture plants may look bold en masse, there is something exciting about big bold leaves. Preferably with some refinement and color contrasts, but large size foliage is a statement in itself. Consider going that route when putting together entry plantings or porch accents.

If you are thinking that less is more when it comes to this years outdoor potted plants, draw from these pointers to create your own garden drama (of the good kind!). Container plantings with simplicity and drama have already been popular with indoor plants, and it seems time to take this minimal design impact outdoors.

large single hosta container

Single Hosta in pot

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.