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This issue marks the 10th anniversary of my garden column for L Magazine! So many issues, so many topics. This month’s topic is a first: how to enjoy container potting with just one pot, or a small group of pots. As someone who pots up more than 30 outdoor plant containers every year, I am not the poster child for a minimalist approach.

However, there are good reasons to consider small-scale container potting.

Time can be a major factor. It takes multiple weekends for me to pot up so many containers. That does not include time spent creating plant groupings nor months of growing 100-plus plants from seed. There is also a significant commitment to watering three dozen pots daily throughout the season. And fall cleanup.

Then there is cost. Buying plants – even tiny annuals in early spring – can add up quickly. The cart at the nursery fills up quickly, and the cash register adds up.

Lack of space can be a reason to limit the number and size of container pots. The light in that space – whether sunny or shady – will determine which plants can thrive there.

Following are some of my favorite container pot ideas:

A trio of pots:

You don’t need a large space for a grouping of three pots. Try using different sizes – or elevate one – then add your favorite plants. I use gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) for one of my trios. My typical display includes three different colors of gerbers; you can make a potent splash of color using three of the same.

A trio of pots can include different plants if you prefer more variety. One of my favorite shady deck groupings is a big pot filled with impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) bookended by two small pots with lobelia (Lobelia erinus).

A single large container pot:

Anyone can have a great summer plant display in a single pot by following the Thriller, Filler, Spiller technique. Use one plant to make a big splash in color or – more typically – in height (thriller). Then, one or more medium-height plants to fill up the pot (filler). Add one or more plants to spill over the side (spiller).

For sun:

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One of my sunny pots contains a cordyline (Cordyline australis "Red Star") thriller, three or more red salvia (Salvia coccinea "Summer Jewel Red") filler and an ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas "Ace of Spades") spiller.

For shade:

My favorite shade pot (early morning sun but little during the heat of the day) includes one elephant ear plant (Colocasia esculenta), two or three Diamond Frost euphorbia (Euphorbia hypericifolia “Inneuphe”) and variegated vinca vine (Vinca major “Variegata”) tumbling over the side.

One pot can be enough when it contains a favorite plant.

Happy container potting!

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Mari Lane Gewecke is a Master Gardener volunteer, affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus program, and a self-employed consultant.

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