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Increasingly as our warmer drier summers encourage an outdoor lifestyle, pots and other containers on the patio grow in popularity. Not all plants are suited to this environment, while other survivors tend to be unattractive in this role.
Many different types of plant are used in containers ranging from trees & palms down to simple bedding plants. Consider if you want a co-ordinated theme with matching pots or just variety. Container plants may be long-lived or simply there for the summer, produce a riot of colour or simple foliage hues, aromatic or a stately focal point.
Patio plants require lots of care if they are to produce a display worthy of the prime space they occupy. Start by choosing the correct size container for the plant. Too small and the plant will always be dry and look sad, whereas if too big there is a lot of wasted space. Never fill containers with rubbish or lumps of polystyrene to fill out the space. Compost is cheap and if the plant needs a large pot it will also require a good amount of compost.
Containers will always run out of nutrients, and if this situation is left uncorrected, the plant will soon suffer. Apply rapid acting fertilizer at 4-6 week intervals throughout the summer period to keep plants looking their best. Plants will be relying on you to supply their water supplies as well. Do not leave this to the weather as your feature may well die while waiting for the forecasted rainfall. Get into a routine of watering all the pots on the patio every day, regardless of the weather. If you can remember to feed the kids, you can remember to water the plants.
With such a variety of shape and form available, it is hard to lay down any strict rules for the choice of plant. Generally, trees should be naturally small, slender and slow-growing, and these tend to look better when planted alone in the container. This way, the accent is on the character of the plant.
Containers meant to be full of colour should be just that. Full of colour! Summer bedding in a pot will look silly if there are just the odd specimen here and there, pack them in. The age old recipe of busy lizzie in shady places and pelargoniums in sunny situations still works today.
Here is a few of my favourites to give plenty of variety on the patio, some for the summer months only and others for permenant placement.