30918thumbPavement serves a purpose in a landscape. So does decking. They are the flooring of the outdoor spaces that are used for outdoor living. Patios and decks are where we barbecue and dine. Walkways and porches are how we get around the exteriors of our homes. Driveways are where we park cars. For what they get used for, they are better than turf grass, ground cover or bare soil.

So why is it so trendy to clutter pavement and decking with potted plants that would really prefer to be in the ground? It would be more practical to pave less area, and leave more space to plant things in the ground. There would be no damp pots staining concrete or rotting decking. There would be less area to rake or blow, with fewer obstacles in the way. Watering would be much easier.

Well, as it turns out, there are a few plants that should be potted. Houseplants are the most obvious. After all, not many homes have exposed soil where houseplants can be grown on the inside. Even if they did, it is still easier to keep houseplants potted for portability. Plants such as orchids and Christmas cactus, can live in the garden most of the time, and then come in while blooming. Portability is also important for tropical plants that need protection from even mild frost. It might be easier to move them than to cover them.

There are also a few plants that are contained because they are invasive. Mint and horseradish are culinary plants that are so famously invasive that not many of us would bother growing them if they were not so much better fresh from the garden than purchased from elsewhere. Rather than allow them to escape, mint is popularly potted, and horseradish is commonly grown in deep tubs.

Container gardening and growing plants in pots is something that we do for out own convenience, or just because it looks good cluttering otherwise useful parts of the landscape. With only a few exceptions, plants prefer to be in the ground, where they can disperse their roots as extensively as they like. They are healthier, and need less attention. To them, container gardening is unnatural.

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6 thoughts on “Potted Plants Have Their Place

  1. containers also allow you to be creative on a temporary basis. If something doesn’t work well one year, try something else next year. At least that applies here where most of us use annuals (to us) for splashes of color on a patio, step, driveway etc.

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    1. That applies here as well, and works nicely if done properly. When I was working for a ‘landscape’ company, we put so many pots out on walkways that they interfered with the function of the walkways, just because we charged a lot of money for the work. Those who work in their own gardens tend to be more tactful with pots.

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  2. I’m always puzzled at how well boxwood seem to grow in pots in pictures online. In the ground their fibrous roots are shallow but extend well beyond the drip line. Yet there they are looking healthy and well in narrow pots.

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    1. I think that they are not too discriminating. They put their roots where they can. I like them too much as those formal small hedges (to hide the bases of roses) to put them in pots, but they do happen to look sharp in the right place.

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  3. Not everyone has large gardens so container gardening offers them to have a lot of plants in a small space. AND, the flexibility of moving them to sun or shade…or even undercover during the winter.

    What is the name of the plant you feature in your photo above? i want one of these… 🙂

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    1. Asparagus sprengeri / Asparagus aethiopicus – Sprenger’s asparagus / foxtail asparagus. It is a foliar plant that tends to stand more upright than it does in the picture. It is quite tough, and does not need much attention, but should be groomed of old stems every once in a while. You can find better pictures of it online. I just used this picture for the pot.

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