As a change from pots that brim with colourful, generally annual plants, your display could include or indeed consist of, containers with plants that are grown primarily for their foliage interest. These plants generally flower, giving a few weeks of extra beauty, however they are mostly grown for the pleasure of enjoying their long-lasting foliage effects. The following suggestions are all for plants that have large leaves. In containers filled with small-leaved annuals, the foliage masses of these suggestions will provide a pleasing contrast.
The first choice is Hostas. These come in a range of sizes from the tiny to the huge, but the following selections are hostas that are mid-sized. Try something blue with Hosta ‘Blue Danube’. This serene plant has conical leaves that are coloured blue-green. This would look nice against a ferment of red pelargoniums (often called annual geraniums). For blue and silver elegance try Hosta ‘Silver Spray’, cool and crisp with fat leaves edged in silver, which is good with vibrant blue Lobelia. For subtle chartreuse and gold try the broad leaves of Hosta ‘Guacamole’, matched with lush Petunias. Hostas are prone to attack by slugs and snails. When grown in a container on their own a copper band placed around the container provides an excellent slug deterrent, provided the slugs can’t climb onto the hosta from another plant.
The second choice is Heuchera and x Heucherella. These are well-suited to containers where they often seem to do better than in a busy flower border. They often make slightly tiered mounds of foliage and can result in a good block of colour that combines well with annuals. These plants come in a variety of forms, some having very ruffled foliage. The forms with smoother leaves generally look better when placed near busy annuals. For something dark and delicious try Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ dark, shiny and black. Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’ changes colour through the seasons going from pinkish red through tan to orange. For lime green, and having slightly ruffled edges to otherwise smooth leaves, try Heuchera Key Lime Pie = ‘Tnheu042’ (Dolce Series). It pays to treat potted Heuchera forms (and indeed all container plants) with a vine weevil killer as vine weevils can completely separate a plant from its roots before one notices.
Finally, grey-foliaged plants are always appealing. There are silver leaved Heucheras – Heuchera ‘Cinnebar Silver’ is a delightfully showy example. The light, silver grey oblong leaves of Brachyglottis (Dunedin Group) ‘Drysdale’ is beautiful with purple and orange flowered annuals. Cut off the yellow flowers for a pure foliage effect. This needs a sunny position to give of its best. And for a partly shady spot, the fern Athyrium ‘Pewter Lace’ is an exquisite choice.
All these plants are perennial which means they can be used in future years. Alternatively, they can be planted out in the garden so that a whole new series of plant combinations can be tried in your containers next year.
Susan A. Tindall.
Further details and care instructions for all the plants mentioned in this article are available in our Garden for pleasure plant finder