The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond

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5 Container Favorites

I don’t talk about annuals much, preferring to invest in perennials and shrubs. But I do a bit of container planting each year to keep the color going. I’m anxious–but not too–for this cool, rainy spring to turn over to summer where the containers really take off. Every year I like to experiment with something new but I do have some tried and trues that I can’t live without. Here are five of my recent favorites.


2015 nicotianaNicotiana. I plant this near a window so I can enjoy its evening fragrance. A fast grower, nicotiana attracts bees and likes sun. Nicotiana comes in pink, a limey green and white. I like the white but have planted all three. I don’t usually combine this in a container because it likes as much room as it can get.

Trailing begonia 2Begonia. Not just any begonia. It’s gotta be dragon wing begonia. The light my window boxes receive suits this plant just right, and dragon wing has become a staple. I usually pair them with a spiller because these plants are all the thriller I need! Here I’ve paired it with purple spiderwort, another easy grower. I’m partial to the coral blooms that gently cascade on a delicate stem. As you can see, they take over, but I’m not complaining.

DSCN1945 (960x1280)Angelonia. I’m fairly new to this gem of a plant and I find the white cultivars are a bit more vigorous than the purple. However, I’ve only planted these in containers for two seasons and last season my containers (which had the purple variety) really didn’t perform well. This container had both white and purple varieties. I adored the yellow accent of calibrachoa, but it only bloomed once and looked pretty shabby.

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Gerbera Daisy. Happy, hardy, colorful. A friend brought this over one day. I popped this sunny flower into a sunny yellow pot and enjoyed the heck out of it all summer. This is an easy care perennial that performed best in a container. It did not take well to being transplanted.

Gomphrena containerGomphrena.  I wish I had a better photo but you’ll get the idea. This is a real workhouse annual, providing bloom after tireless bloom all summer. Its cute pom-pom shaped spheres on long thin stems make for a great fill-in. I planted this last summer for the first time and combined it with sweet potato vine and petunias. I’d categorize this plant as fun, if there is such a plant category. The nearly neon purple bloom is a lot of fun too.




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4 Annuals I am Obsessed With

A benefit of surviving a hot, humid St. Louis summer is that sub-tropicals perform well here as annuals. My list below includes annuals I’m obsessed with that are common in the south, but also pack a punch here in the Midwest. Or maybe I’m obsessed with these selections because they are a throw-back to my early 20s, when I lived in Houston, TX, where I was able to admire these plants day in and day out. Either way, these plants bring up the garden energy a notch and provide a leave me with sense of joy long after their beauty has faded. Most on the list I plant each and every year; while Canna has yet to join the backyard annuals.

What annuals accent your garden?

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Canna. No, St. Louis is not the tropics, although a sweltering July or August day will give zones 8-10 a good run for their money. I do not live in the right zone for this plant, so it is classified as an annual here, but, yes, I’ve got to have this plant. I promise to shelter it from harsh winds and give it the full sun it requires and I am confident this tall, handsome plant will return the favor with gorgeous foliage that climbs the length of its 8-ft height and an unfurling of vibrant, ruffled flowers.

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Caladium. Arching gracefully above the other mix of annuals in my window boxes on the front of my house, caladiums provide a little bit of that extra curb appeal I’m looking for every summer. And they give me the height I am looking for…not too tall, but just enough to draw attention. Their variegated white/green/pink foliage provide a nice pop of color in the shade, and I adore their arrowhead shape. So pretty, you might forget they’re not a flower.

Mexican heather (cuphea hissopifolia). Some like it hot and this baby really performs when the sun beats down…as long as it receives a restorative drink of water each day. Looking for a plant that seems to be in constant bloom? Mexican heather is the perfect choice, as it always has small purple blooms among its glossy green leaves. I have incorporated this annual into my potting scheme for several years now and have never looked back. Typically I fill a pot with a variety of annuals for visual interest, but not with this one. She gets a pot all to herself.

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Nicotiana (nicotiana sylvestris). Known as flowering tobacco (for the shape of its leaves, I suspect), I am a big fan of this guy. The bright, star-shaped blooms on this annual really know how to show off. And when daylight gives way to evening, nicotiana lets of a fragrant scent that’s sure to make you slow down and take notice. I have typically planted this in pots but this year I intend to give it a go in the garden bed to accent “Spruce Springsteen,” the name we have affectionately given the dwarf Colorado blue spruce that I planted a year ago. I gave Spruce  lots of space to accommodate its girth, which won’t happen for a few more years. Nicotiana will be a nice way to fill up the mulch bed.