Yesterday I had a wonderful visit with my friend Alexa. Among other things, Alexa and I discussed her bare porch, and she asked me to recommend some plants that would do well in pots. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it’s based solely on the plants I’ve had success with. Since I’ve lived without a yard for the past four years, I’ve had quite a bit of time to experiment with growing plants in pots. I’ve come to look for and appreciate certain characteristics in potted plants, and there are a few varieties that I can recommend with some confidence. Many of these plants fall into more than one category.
Plants that smell good:
I love anything in the mint family, but I’m especially fond of spearmint, peppermint, and lemon balm because they’re really hard to kill and smell wonderful. They’re especially nice when placed in a high traffic area; guests get a nice-smelling surprise when they brush against them had mixed luck with lavender. Up until this summer, I’d never been able to get it to bloom despite my best efforts. I’m not sure what exactly I could’ve been doing wrong other than trying to start it from seed rather than buying plants, but I can say it’s definitely worth the effort. These sweet little blooms smell so wonderful, and their bright purple color adds visual interest as well.
Plants that look or feel interesting:
I posted about the mother of millions (alias bryophyllum crenatodaigremontianum, in case you were wondering) a couple of weeks ago. These are some of the most visually interesting plants I’ve seen yet, and as it turns out they’re nearly impossible to kill. Again, I want to stress that these are very aggressive and probably shouldn’t be grown outside of pots. They’re also toxic when consumed, so keep animals away from them as well! These factors make them perfect plants to grow in pots because you have total control over them.
Lamb’s ear is a really fun plant because it’s fun to look at and touch. Make sure and water the dirt and not the plant itself, however, because the leaves really don’t like to get wet.
For a long time, I didn’t know that chrysanthemums and mums were the same things, but apparently, they are. I learned the spell the word chrysanthemum in second grade, and I remember being furious that my teacher expected me to learn to spell a thirteen-letter word. Nevertheless, I still remember how to spell the word and they’re some of my favorite flowers nowadays. I’ve had a lot of success with growing mums in pots. They come in tons of fun colors, bloom late in the summer, and are available at most grocery stores and greenhouses.
I’m crazy about all ferns, including the boring Boston ferns you can pick up at any grocery store. My favorites, however, are the ones that are a little harder to find and more visually appealing. I have a maidenhair fern and an asparagus fern in hanging baskets on my porch, and I love the unexpected variety and volume their leaves provide. Their leaves are more beautiful than a lot of flowers I can think of–to me, there’s something kind of woodsy, Elvin, and wild about ferns. I’m always on the lookout for newer, more rare varieties.
Plants that are Useful:
Catnip is another member of the mint family (which is why it looks so much like mint and lemon balm), and it’s good for more than just cats. Although we do love watching Chowder and Maxine go crazy after eating catnip, I would never keep this plan inside because they’d likely devour the whole thing within a day or two. Catnip, like other mint plants, is easy to grow, hard to kill, and comes back year after year. Catnip can be made into a very soothing tea for anxious types like myself (and you, Alexa). It’s cousins mint and lemon balm also make tasty teas.
Chamomile is another plant that fits more than one category. I love the way these delicate flowers look and smell, and chamomile can be used in a number of soothing beauty recipes (more on that later). My first encounter with chamomile was drinking it as a calming night-time tea, and that’s still one of my favorite uses for it. A lot of people confuse chamomile with the milkweed that grows in ditches around here, but I like how chamomile is a little stringy and wild-looking.
There are probably more that are slipping my mind, especially considering the circumstances. The plants that survived our move from Columbus are hanging out on my parents’ rarely-visited front porch, and the only time I fool with them much is to water or harvest them. As I said before, this list is in no way comprehensive–these are only the plants I’ve had luck with growing in pots. What about you guys, are there certain plants you prefer when it comes to potted plants?
(all images are links to the original source, and I also realize I’m neglecting one of the most important aspects of container gardening–the containers themselves. But that’s for another post.)