I enjoy having a number of plants in pots on my patio each summer. Some are old friends that spend the winter in my basement. Several are newer plants, which I enjoy trying out each year; and others are smaller plants, being nurtured for a future spot in my garden.
My oldest friend might be my canna lily which provides colorful foliage. I’ve seen this in gardens growing six feet tall, but in a pot it doesn’t bloom. A friend recently gave me a couple of canna tubers for a shorter variety, which will bloom soon. At the end of the season I put the canna pots in the garage for a month to dry out, then off they go into the basement. In spring, I select a couple of heathy pieces for a new pot, and toss or give away the rest.
Oxalis is another old friend with an expanding family. Iron Cross and the purple triangularis are my standbys; both produce ample pink flowers which nicely complement their leaves.
I found two additional plants at a garden center this spring, which I hope will also be with me next year. These plants grow from bulbs which can go dormant in the winter, staying right in the dried-out pot. They need only occasional water.
Each year I try out a couple of new annuals in pots. This year includes snap dragons and verbena. Both are attractive, but require frequent dead-heading to produce blooms. It has been a challenge to keep the pots watered in the heat. The snap dragons produce new flowers more quickly. Wood chip mulch on pots will reduce evaporation.
Mint and basil are also patio staples, with parsley growing in a nearby planter bed.
I start new basil plants in July from seed, since the spring plants don’t last through the summer. In late fall, I put my mint plant on top of the ground in the garden, and bury it with chopped leaves. In spring, I toss half, repot the rest, and have fresh mint for tea by June.
My pots include a few small shrubs each year, either purchased by mail or from cuttings. This year these include a Tuff Stuff macrophyla hydrangea, a red arborescens hydrangea, a white forsythia, and mock orange. By fall these have a respectable size root ball which will get planted as soon as the weather begins to cool a bit. This will allow plenty of time for them to get established before the ground freezes.
I continue to play with containers of hardy succulents which I plant in the ground in the fall.
I have over-wintered some of these in containers, but I’ve found that most are healthier if they spend the winter in the ground. Sedum Siboldi and Chinese Duncecap are two of my current favorites. These hardy succulents are much more durable than the popular tender succulents, and are far less vulnerable to decline from over-watering.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email: JulieBW48@gmail.com.