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This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
A tuberous-rooted perennial most often grown as an annual or a houseplant, 'White Queen' has large frosted-looking white leaves that have green margins and bright red veins that "bleed". A great plant for full shade, it can also be grown in sun if provided with consistently moist soil. Greenish-white flower spathes appear in spring and are followed by white berries, but the foliage is the main show. Its arrow-shaped leaves light up a dark spot and work well as bedding or in containers. It can also be grown as a houseplant and tubers can be overwintered indoors.
Cannas bear broad, smooth paddle-like leaves reminiscent of banana plants. The oversize leaves make it easy to create dramatic combinations with other, more finely textured plants. Each stout, fleshy stem is topped with attractive spires of brightly colored flowers. Cultivars vary widely in height, foliage, and bloom.
Having the striking leaves of a Rex begonia and a vining growth habit, Cissus discolor is excellent in a container and can be trained onto a form. Its oval- to heart-shaped leaves are dark green with frosty silver patterns, while the undersides are red. The vine generally stays to 1 to 3 feet in containers. It may also be used on trellises or arbors.
This exotic-looking beauty has a fantastic bold form and strong appeal. Its pendulous leaves sit on tall, upright stems. King Tut® is a rapid grower that makes an impressive centerpiece in the landscape. It likes wet places like water gardens or waterside and is perfect for containers without drainage holes. This papyrus is easy to grow and untroubled by pests or diseases.
Of the maybe 10,000 named dahlias introduced in the 1800s—when dahlias ranked right up there with roses in popularity—only three survive. One of them is 'Kaiser Wilhelm', introduced in 1892. Its 3-inch flowers have neatly curled petals of soft custard-yellow brushed with burgundy, and a green button eye just like that of an old rose. The plant can grow to 5 feet.
This species boasts maroon-speckled stems and green flowers with maroon margins. The flowers occur on thick, solitary stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
This species boasts stems and undersides of leaves with maroon spotting, and white flowers tinged with maroon. The flowers form on 24-inch-long, thick stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
With velvety foliage that darkens to near black in full sun, 'Black Bird' euphorbia looks good in perennial borders and is especially striking in containers. Flowers open above bright, lime green bracts on red stems that form a compact vase shape. -Pat McKernan, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This hybrid has petite green-and-cream variegated foliage with a hint of pink on the undersides. It produces chartreuse and apple green bicolored bracts on airy stems.
This unusual looking plant has many succulent, pencil-like branches. The leaves are small and short-lived, and the flowers are insignificant. Euphorbia tirucalli can grow to almost 30 feet in the wild, but it can be used as a smaller specimen or container plant in the garden. It is hardy only in Zone 11.
These compact tufts of 8-inch-long powder-blue leaves are well suited for edging and naturalizing in the rock garden.
'Jan's Twister' has large, light coral, spiderlike flowers and no fragrance.
The yellow-green trumpet-shaped flowers of 'Lime Green' flowering tobacco mix well with many other colors in the garden. Growing to 2 or 3 feet tall, this annual's flowers attract hummingbirds and are fragrant at night.
Broad, deep-green leaves nearly a foot long and panicles of flowers the color of a Granny Smith apple make this Nicotiana a great companion for many other garden plants. It looks especially handsome with dark-foliaged trees or shrubs like purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) or ‘Diabolo’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’). It is also good with grasses. N. langsdorffii comes into its own as a moderator wherever colors clash. That chameleon-like quality makes this nicotiana’s propensity to self-sow most welcome; no matter where its progeny appear, they look great.
Friendship plant—easily propagated and given to friends, hence the common name—is native to Central and South America. It has richly textured, bronzy leaves and makes a nice addition to containers where it can be appreciated up close. The flowers are not particularly noteworthy.
This double-flowered rose has yellow blossoms with green outer petals. The flowers are perfectly formed and are excellent for cutting. It blooms in summer and into fall, and grows to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide.
Hens & chicks are always a welcome sight, and this exciting 'Black' variety is a newer take on the old favorite.
No other grass exhibits quite the refinement of texture as this species. Its bright green foliage resembles delicate filaments that arise in elegant, vase-like clumps and spill outward like a soft fountain. All summer it bears a profusion of feathery panicles, which mature from foamy-green to blonde. It is native to the Americas.
Planting Spring Bulbs in Containers
by Richard Hartlage
VIDEO Forcing Bulbs
Trick your bulbs into blooming early
by Renee Beaulieu
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
Potting Soil Recipes
Cook up your own container mix that is suited to your plants
by Daryl Beyers
Potting Soil Ingredients
Here's a breakdown on some common container soil ingredients
by Daryl Beyers
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