DIY easy, portable plant screen

DIY plant screen

I noticed several of these portable plant screens used at the Sunset Magazine gardens to screen or block off certain areas.

This could not be easier: an inexpensive trellis from the nursery or garden center, vine, container, and maybe even a plant stand with wheels. I don’t normally like plastic pots, but in this case I’d recommend a plastic pot that looks like terra cotta because it will be easier to move around and you won’t have to water it as often. Depending on which vine you choose, you might need to tie it to the trellis.

I’d probably do something fairly indestructible like a Jasmine, Bower Jasmine, or Ceanothus because I know I can grow those in a container without killing them. Clematis and Mandevilla are awfully tempting, but I’d probably forget to water them. I believe that’s an Akebia in the picture.

Sunset has a great list of fast growing vines like Thumbergia and Morning Glory that work well in containers.

Six stunning planters for indoor or outdoor gardens

garden containers

Because what you put a plant IN is as important as what plant you choose. I love a mix of traditional, country, and what you could call vintage modern and this group, with their their colors and their handmade (or handmade looking) forms, works equally well with any or all styles.

  1. Anthropologie Celadon Garden Pot
  2. Crate and Barrel Bataan Small Planter
  3. Etsy Owl Planter
  4. Which also comes in turquoise (and lots of other colors and sizes)
  5. Terrain Cast Stone Poppy Pot
  6. Etsy Turquoise Stoneware Planter

Even more pretty, easy drought tolerant containers

oxalis container

Saw these containers outside of Apartment 46 in San Mateo. Apartment 46 is an inviting, off the beaten track shop with lots of unique, pretty, affordable things for your home. It’s definitely worth a visit.

I’m loving all of this purple/black oxalis I am seeing lately, especially when it’s spilling out of a whitewashed concrete container.

More green and purple in these black painted wine barrels: Oxalis Triangularis (Purple Shamrock), Liriope muscari Variegata (the spiky grass like plant in the center),  a mix of purple, green and blue echeveria; and sedums spilling over the sides.

Note: Oxalis Triangularis is poisonous to cats and dogs.

green and purple containers

green and purple containers

Pretty, easy, drought tolerant containers

pretty late summer containers

Sculptural containers filled with low maintenance plants that you don’t have to water every day: perfect. Everything is kept loose and informal and easy, with simple, classic pale blues paired with soft yellows and white.

The garden bed is filled in with river stones, and the terra-cotta pots are set on top. This would be such a cool solution to a garden bed you haven’t gotten around to yet.

Here’s what I think is in these (Don’t you wish that people would put up little signs with plant lists?): Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’, Zinnia ‘Dreamland’, Rudbeckia/Black-Eyed Susan, Chinese Forget-Me-Not (Cynoglossum amabile), and Thunbergia ‘Alata Sunrise White’.

Here are some more views:

drought tolerant containers

pretty, drought tolerant containers

pretty, drought tolerant containers


Simple, easy succulent containers

succulent containers

Here is a cute group of succulents in terra cotta and handmade ceramic pots. The grouping works well because the pots are all natural tones including some soft blue greens that echo the blue green of the plants and the handmade ceramics emphasize the sculptural quality of the plants. The succulents are all different types of echeveria (I especially love the luminous white/silver) so the forms are variations on a single theme. I like to plant one type of succulent per container, and just rearrange the containers when I want a new combination.

Buy your succulents in the tiny 2″ pots so you can afford to try tons of varieties. They will grow quickly and give you plenty of babies along the way. I don’t do anything special – I give them the cheapest potting soil, full or part sun, and weekly water. Ceramics can get pricey so if your mother doesn’t go through a ceramics phase, you can get fantastic ceramic pots at estate sales, garage sales, or flea markets.

kalanchoe container

This is one Kalanchoe pumila. Believe it or not, this started out as a single plant in a little tiny pot (this planter is about 1.5’x3′ to give you an idea of the size). It grows like crazy and if you want more, just break off a piece and plant it. I love this one because it gives a full, lush look of a something leafy but only needs to be watered once a week (or less).

Instead of cut flowers, use succulents

succulents instead of cut flowers

The one problem I have with succulents is that I can’t grow them indoors. They get leggy, pale and lose their beautiful forms completely. I’ve started thinking of them as cut flowers. I pop a few out of their outdoor containers and stick them in a pretty container. When they start to look bad, I plant them back outside and bring in some new ones. They last longer than cut flowers and planting a succulent is literally as easy as putting a flower in a vase: break off a rosette and stick it in some potting soil. You can also put them in water, just like flowers. If you need to move it, just pick it up and put it somewhere else.

This is echeveria imbricata in a handmade ceramic pot, sitting on an antique tile I bought in Malacca, Malaysia. The small blue antique dish is on a lacquer tray from a Chinatown souvenir shop.

Garden ideas: complicated containers made simple

how to plant a mixed container

These beautiful pots look complicated but they all follow a basic formula. From the center radiating out to the edge, plant something:

  1. Tall, upright, and spiky in the center:
    Hollyhocks – here are some black and burgundy ones. So cool.
  2. Upright and bushy
  3. Upright and spreading
    Osteospermum (African Daisy)
  4. Mounding and compact
  5. And finally,
    Trailing, sprawling plants around all the edges:
    Calibrachoa (Million Bells). They look like tiny petunias. I’m in love with them, especially Tangerine and Peach Evolution.
    Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’

As far as containers go, you literally cannot go wrong with weathered terra cotta in a classic shape. And it will only look better with age.

how to plant a mixed container

how to plant a mixed container

how to plant a mixed container

A vintage modern container garden

charming container group

A charming vignette with a vintage, eclectic feel. This garden belongs to a friend of mine, a jewelry designer who restyles vintage pieces, and her garden definitely reflects her aesthetic.


  1. Weathered pavers and mix of containers, all with age and patina.
  2. Traditional, almost old fashioned plants: ferns, petunias, mandevilla vine, lavender, clover, and jade.
  3. All of the plant choices are lush and delicate.
  4. A soft feminine palette is modernized with a jolt of black and dark purple.
  5. The container palette takes the same approach: soft natural materials or painted black and dark purple.

black petunia container

Love this pairing of bold black and delicate white flowers.

delicate flowers and black clover containers

The delicacy of the large pot is offset and its colors amplified by the big black clover. Blue and yellow is classic, but then you throw that black clover in there and it changes the whole effect.

vintage modern window box

The bold black and delicate white theme is repeated here, and the window box is painted dark purple instead of black.

More beautiful, colorful container garden ideas

mixed containers

Here are a few more of the gorgeous containers in my mother’s garden. The big pot in the back is Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ underplanted with a green and gold variegated ivy. The pot in the front is Heliotrope ‘Fragrant Delight’ and Lysimachia nummularia ‘goldilocks’ (Creeping Jenny).


  1. Pick a theme each year. Here we have: green, chartreuse, purple, black, dark blue.
  2. Repeat plants from container to container or use plants that are very similar. Don’t make every container the same, but each container should have either a color or a plant in common with another container.
  3. For mixed containers, pick and upright grower, something that will spill over the edges, and a filler plant if your upright grower is thin or spiky.
  4. Group your containers by theme and watering requirements.

colorful containers

The front blue pot is more of that gorgeous chartreuse Creeping Jenny. Behind it is Salvia elegans (golden pineapple sage) and Sweet Potato Vine ‘Midnight lace.’ The salvia will get a LOT bigger and put out red tubular flowers that hummingbirds love, and the leaves smell like pineapple when you crush them. (Yep, that’s basil, a geranium, and a gerbera daisy in those other pots. There’s a WHOLE bunch of other pots!)

colorful containers

Here is the pot on the left in the above photo. This is Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), Sweet Potato Vine ‘Golden Lace’ and Creeping Jenny.