Picture Perfect Planters for Fall and Winter
November 2022 Issue
Story and photography by Lindsay Gifford
Plants make me happy. An unexpected bloom, a plant that recently perked up, or a clipping that’s finally taken root is all it takes to bring a smile to my face. Throughout the summer my garden thrives with summer-loving hibiscus plants and a plethora of succulents—my green thumb shines. But, as the temperatures begin to plummet, so does my garden inspiration. This year I decided to head to The Greenery, for a fall and winter planter crash course with the one-and-only Carol Guedalia, one of the two resident horticulturists at The Greenery’s Garden Center.
As I explained my conundrum, my first lesson was apparent. While all those Pinterest-worthy fall containers grace many porches as soon as October rolls around, here in the Lowcountry it’s just too hot. Deemed “Indian Summer,” fall plants will simply “melt” in our early fall heat. So, it’s important to to think more “fall/winter” when it comes to choosing your plants while sipping your Pumpkin Spice Latte in 85-degree heat.
Here’s the crash course:
Choosing Your Container: Think about your porch vision and choose your planter based on your own personal style. Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone. A planter can be anything from a metal bucket to a stylish ceramic. Here are a few pointers: 1) Make sure you have good drainage. If your container is a not made for plants, you may need to drill holes in it. 2) Make sure you have a large enough planter for your plants’ root base and growth. For example a 4” plant needs at least a 6” base of soil. 3) Don’t be afraid of a tall pot. You don’t have to fill the entire thing with soil. Just take some clean plastic bottles (cap on) and use them to fill up the bottom before adding your soil on the top. It will save money, be less heavy, and hey, you’re repurposing.
Potting Soil is Key:
For winter, choose a quality potting soil that drains well and doesn’t have water polymer in it. (Water polymer is great for summer and indoor plants.) Choosing a good potting soil also means you should not need rocks to help with drainage. As you choose your potting soil, take note of the plants you plan to use and whether or not it contains fertilizer. This will be important as you feed your plants down the road.
Carol recommends 1) Osmocote 14-14-14—a slow release fertilizer that lasts 3 months and is temperature sensitive. 2) Bloodmeal: top dress every 6 weeks. and 3) Add liquid fertilizer to your watering can every 3 weeks.
During winter, plants should dry out between watering. Stick your finger into the soil in 3 different areas to test for dryness and be sure to water around the entire planter.
Choosing Your Placement:
In the winter, most blooming plants need 5-6 hours of sun.
Choosing Your Plants:
Think color, texture and size. Place them together as you peruse to make sure they play off each other well and offer a nice variety! The best theory is to look for a thriller, a few fillers and some spillers. We’ve created a cheat sheet (see right). Bonus, several of these work for one or more “areas” of your planter.
Thrillers: (The Wow Factor)
• Snapdragon – Multiple sizes: 8-10”, 14-18” and 36”; showstopping blooms
• Drassina Spike Plant – A cool spiky plant with great height
• Ornamental Cabbage – Green with colorful centers: white, purple, red or pink
• Ornamental Kale – Similar to cabbage, but more ruffles
• Linaria – These look like baby snapdragons; great for small containers
• Mustard – Very leafy and offers great contrast
• Rosemary – A fast grower; smells wonderful
• Dinosaur Kale - A statement plant with huge green leaves
• Chinese Red Mustard – Large-leafed beauty in vibrant purple
• Dianthus – Small and tall varieties
• Pansies – Carol’s No. 1 recommendation; comes in a large variety of colors
• Violas (not to be confused with violets) - Looks like petite pansies, colorful, can also be a spiller
• Smaller Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
• Herbs like Curly or Italian Parsley
• Carex Everillo – Deer resistant, beautiful chartreuse color, good spiller too
• Monkey Flowers – Great all winter long, super fun, variety of colors
• Stock Plant – Deer resistant, beautiful blooms, variety of colors
• Wallflowers – Deer resistant, blooms in high shade, tiny but beautifully colored
• Lobularia (Sweet Allysum) - Varieties—white, purple, lavender and pink
• Lamium (Dead Nettles) - great foliage, blooms in purple, lavender or pink
• Creeping Jenny – Vibrant green, great for a shady spot
The Alternative: You can also choose to have one plant that really wows. A large pot of pansies can make a major statement!
Building Your Container:
Work from the back forward as you design your planter. Put your soil in as layers, lightly tossing the soil with water to hydrate as you go. Once most of your soil is in, arrange your plants in their pots where you think they should go, moving and playing with them until you settle on a design. Then, you can begin placing the plants in the soil, making sure to leave enough room for them to breathe and grow.
Don’t forget the experts are here to help!
The Greenery’s Garden Center staff wants to help you be successful. Some important things to note: What kind of light do you have? Do you have deer or rabbits? Don’t be afraid to bring a notebook and take notes. There is so much to learn.
I have to say, I’m feeling much more prepared to tackle the chilly temperatures in my garden, and I hope after reading this, you are, too. Now, let’s go get a little dirt on our hands!
Stop by: 960 William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island • 843-592-3766
Monday-Friday 8:30-5 • Saturday 9-4:30 • Sunday 10-4:30