3 Florida-Inspired Container Gardens
Jason Daniel, horticulturist at Clay Garden & Gifts in Seagrove Beach, Florida, has been gardening on the Gulf Coast for almost 25 years. He and his staff create hundreds of containers each year, so he knows a thing or two about making them pretty and keeping them happy. Read on for Daniel's best planting advice and stunning container ideas he created on the incredible Florida Panhandle.
Brighten Up with Blue and White
This covered seating area looks like it could be overlooking a rocky beach in Greece. To maintain that effortlessly European vibe, Daniel chose oversize cobalt-glazed containers that complement the shimmering aqua wall tile and the deep blue accents in the window trim, rug, and pillows. He kept the plant palette calm with pale blues, whites, and greens. Daniel contrasted the dialed-down colors with plantings that spill out of the containers for a lush effect. Planters and stools placed in groups of three soften the strong architecture. To keep the plants thriving, remember not all need lots of water. "Because this is a shaded, covered porch area with little to no direct sunlight, watering should be light and overwatering must be avoided," Daniel recommends.
The Key Plant
"Meyer" lemon exudes sunshine with its zesty yellow fruit and has a heavenly scent when in bloom. It's a cross between a lemon and an orange, so you can enjoy its sweet-tart flavor in recipes for everything from vinaigrettes to desserts.
 Plumbago and "Guacamole" hosta
 Fan flower
 "Meyer" lemon, plumbago, SunPatiens, and creeping Jenny
Don't choose wimpy plants. Daniel says, "The Gulf Coast's salt spray, extreme heat, and high humidity mean we're constantly battling insects and disease. We try to pick plants that thrive in the elements." That is solid advice no matter where you live in the South.
Frame with Blooms
"These small pots fill the window ledge and narrow walkway with colors that contrast with the emerald waters of the nearby beach," Daniel says. Even if you don't live on the water, pink and green is a no-fail color combination. For maximum impact, Daniel wrapped seafoam-trimmed windows with vivid pink mandevilla vines that grow from white pots with coordinating pink purslanes. In the three turquoise containers, he placed a vibrant mix of mostly pink and magenta blooms with pops of white and yellow. Daniel made sure that all the plants do well in morning shade with afternoon sun, and he recommends keeping the containers on the dry side, watering only as needed.
The Key Plant
Mandevilla beautifully bears the South's hot, humid weather. It's hard to beat this vigorous vine for amazing blooms in shades of pink, red, or white from late spring until the first frost. If you live too far north for mandevilla, try climbing rose, smilax vine, or jasmine for a similar look.
 Elephant's ear, caladium, variegated vinca, Cora Cascade vinca, gaillardia, and SunPatiens
 Mandevilla and purslane
 Purslane, caladium, gaillardia, Shasta daisy, variegated vinca, purple coneflower, and pentas
Pay attention to the water requirements on the plant tags, and keep in mind the conditions specific to your container, like whether they can get rainfall or are under an overhang. "The number one mistake I see is planting a flower that wants full sun on a shaded porch," Daniel says. Also remember to fill your container with plants that appreciate the same amount of light and water so they'll all live well together.
Our 10 Best Container Gardens
If managing a full garden isn't your style, we recommend instead turning to these bright, bountiful container gardens for inspiration. We picked our ten favorites – a variety of outdoor containers, indoor greenery, and porch perfection.
Bring a Bold Trio Together
For a rustic look that complements the stone walk, Daniel chose terra-cotta containers with a mottled glaze. Though they share similar finishes, they are shaped differently to keep things interesting. He filled them with the hot pink blooms of purple coneflowers and Cora Cascade vincas as well as greens in different textures. Daniel placed the tallest greenery (miscanthus) in the back pot so its spiky shape would stand out boldly against the wall. He also made sure that all the plants he chose are well suited for this spot that gets morning sun and late-afternoon shade.
The Key Plant
Don't let the name fool you: Purple coneflower also comes with pink, yellow, red, orange, and white flowers. This native plant attracts bees, butterflies, and birds—as well as neighbors who'll stop to gawk at the eye-catching blooms.
 Caladium, purple coneflower, sweet potato vine, and "Lemon Ball" sedum
 Miscanthus, purple coneflower, and Cora Cascade vinca
 Sweet potato vine
"What I tell people is, take your time and choose a container you love. A nice glazed one can last a lifetime," Daniel says. "Get the right size and a color you like. Plants can be switched in and out, but that pot's going to be there looking the same forever." And remember, your pot must have a hole in the bottom so excess water can drain out.