PERENNIALS IN CONTAINERS
Container gardens can add colour and interest to any area of your outdoor space … you don’t even
need a garden. In order to make your attempt successful there are a few things to consider.
Although annuals are very colourful and long flowering they do have to be replaced every year.
Perennials can offer the same colour and long-flowering as well as being long-lived. The perennials
can be planted in the garden in the fall or with careful preparation remain in the pots over the winter
for a new start next spring.
There is a vast array of containers available today that can fit any style and budget. Be sure whatever
container you use has drain holes in the bottom. It is not recommended to add stone to the bottom of a
container without drain holes (the water can not escape and the plants may rot). Place a saucer under
your containers on decks or patios to catch unwanted drips. By placing some gravel in the saucer and
setting the container on top aids in drainage.
If you are going to overwinter the plants in the container avoid using clay, since these can easily crack
and break when the soil freezes. The containers should be at least 12 inches in diameter, and ideally
over 16 inches, and at least 12 inches deep, for successful overwintering.
Since your plants are going to be in the same container for a long time it is important to prepare the
soil properly. Ordinary garden soil is too heavy and poorly drained to use. Most commercial potting
soils are too light and dry out quickly. The best is a mix of 75% soil-less potting mix and 25% weed-
free commercial topsoil. Triple mix is a commercial soil containing coarse sand, soil, peat and
compost, and this mix works well in containers.
It is essential that the containers be fertilized regularly with either a slow-release product or a soluble
liquid fertilizer. Read and follow the label instructions.
Designing containers with perennials gives you an endless choice of flower and foliage colour, texture,
blooming times and even some winter interest. It is wise to include a few annuals in the mix for extra
First choose a perennial with long-season colour, such as Moonbeam Coreopsis. Next select a plant
with attractive foliage colour, such as a Hosta. The third plant selection should have an interesting
foliage texture with an attractive flower colour, such as a Sedum. The final plant selections are fillers,
such as trailing ivy and annuals.
If you plan to overwinter your perennials in the containers select hardy plants. According to the
hardiness zone map Orillia is in Zone 5, so select plants which are rated hardy in Zones 1 through 3.
A plant rated hardy in Zone 5 may not survive the winter in a container.
Overwinter your containers in an unheated shed or garage. Give your plants one last thorough
watering and then forget them until early spring, when you return the containers to the outdoors.
Remove any dead tops and water.
Some people are successful in overwintering containers by placing them in a sheltered, shady spot
outdoors … such as the north side of the house. Winter winds may dry out the soil, so it may be
necessary to water during winter thaws. Throughout the winter keep piling snow on top of the
containers for extra insulation.
Perennials That Like Container Life
Achillea – Yarrow
Campanula – Bellflower
Echinacea - Coneflower
Heuchera – Coral Bell
Lavandula – Lavender
Hemerocallis – Daylily
Perovskia – Russian Sage
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