DIY Outdoor Planters: A Cool Palette for Hot Weather by

Issue 77 · Summerhouse Gardens · June 18, 2013

DIY Outdoor Planters: A Cool Palette for Hot Weather

Issue 77 · Summerhouse Gardens · June 18, 2013

I garden in pots on my front porch, and by the time summer arrives, I just want my containers to look good...and I don't want to spend a lot of time on them. So I always create at least one lushly planted pot filled with low-care plants, since that's all you need to keep a small space looking gorgeous for the season.

Photographs by Julie Chai for Gardenista.

julie chai diy container cool summer colors

Above: I like to garden in larger pots—at least 14 inches or more in diameter—and I usually use a container I already own. I replant my containers as the seasons change.

julie chai measure container of the month before buying plants

Above: When I’m shopping at the nursery, I like to know my container’s size. But I’m not about to lug heavy pottery with me, so I came up with an easy way to measure: take a large piece of scrap paper (newspaper or a paper bag work well), place it over the pot, and cut out a circle that’s about the same size as the container’s opening. 

Then, I take my paper disc with me to the nursery so I can arrange plants on it while I shop. This helps me estimate how many plants will actually fit in my pot without overcrowding, and also gives me a chance to play around with the plant arrangement.

  julie chai container of the month nemesia bacopa

Above: For summer, a simple color combination of cool blue, white, and silver balances the heat. This month's container is a mix of four hardy summer workhorses:


  • Blue Bird’ Nemesia. It's is an upright plant that grows to a height of 12 inches and blooms until frost; $14.95 for a 4.5-inch pot from Nature Hills. 
  • Gulliver White’ Bacopa has pure white flowers on trailing stems—perfect for the front of a container; $3.52 from Garden Harvest Supply.
  • Lamb’s Ears have large, fuzzy gray-green leaves. It’s technically a ground cover—so it will eventually spread and you’ll need to reduce the clump or replant in another pot. It also forms lavender flower spikes (bees love them, but you can cut them down if you don’t like the way they look). It's $4.95 per plant from Mountain Valley Growers.
  • Glacier Blue’ Euphorbia. It can reach 18 inches tall, and has thin, silvery leaves edged in white along with blooms in late winter or spring. A 4-inch pot is $5 from Thyme After Thyme.

julie chai container of the month euphorbia nemesia bacopa lamb's ears

 Above: I generally aim for five or fewer types of plants in a pot because I like to let each plant stand out. When creating combos, it’s important to mix growers that have the same water and light needs so that everything will thrive—this grouping likes full to part sun, and regular water. 

  julie chai container of the month loosen roots

Above: I always use a container with a drainage hole, and before planting I gently loosen any matted roots. It’s best to fill your pots with fresh potting soil because it drains well and is packed with the nutrients your plants need.

euphorbia julie chai

Above: Water thoroughly after planting, and then again whenever the top inch or so of soil feels dry.

julie chai container of the month cool colors for hot summer weather
Above: You can also feed your plants with a liquid organic fertilizer (just follow the instructions on whatever product you buy) to keep everything happy from now into fall.

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