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Advice for Plants around Patio & Deck?

last month

Hi all,

I would like to add a couple large planters/potted arrangements around our patio, and maybe some flower boxes or potted plants up on our deck. We live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Are zone 5a. I am fine with perennials or annuals. This space faces south and slightly east, so we get sun from sunrise until maybe 4 PM on the edges of the patio, 5 PM on the deck. The back of patio might get a little morning sun but is mostly shaded (the pics below were taken at 1:30 PM).

I would welcome ideas (plants or otherwise) for under the window on the patio.

I plan on getting a narrow counter height table for the patio for additional dining/food prep space but that's going to be polywood and we're waiting a bit to buy it.

Our current landscaping is very young so needs to grow up a bit to fill the space. We're not looking to add anything more in the ground. I'm just not good at visualizing/arranging this stuff and don't want to spend a bunch of money on pots & plants and have it look haphazard. I also do not have green thumbs, so I cannot manage finicky plants. They WILL die if I touch them.

I was also considering putting something on the big blue wall on the deck but it would have to be fairly narrow as that's the walkway to the stairs.

Appreciate any and all ideas!


Comments (27)

  • last month

    I would go to a good nearby nursery and purchase 3 big pots to go between the columns on the patio. Then confer with the nurseryman about easy care plants that grow well in your area. They can help you put together something lovely. and a nice planter for the table on the deck. Something easy care like sedums.

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  • last month

    @chispa Thanks! Good tips! I am not great with plants but have had success with flower boxes at my last house. And now I have been forewarned! I won't be so upset if I kill everything. LOL.

    What color planters would you use? Our patio is a light beige with a black border so I feel like I could do either off-white or beige planters, or black.

  • last month

    When the nurseries get in the hanging baskets of annuals, get some of those and take the hangers off. If you can keep those alive for most of the summer, then start thinking about planters.

    Overwintering potted plants in a cold climate can be tricky. There are the ones that come inside and are temporarily house plants, and the ones that get moved to space slightly above freezing. Very little is going to survive potted outside over the winter.

    I'm also not really seeing a space for the planters.

    Avoid black unless you like your plants well done.

  • last month

    I share your climate, and I can be negligent when it comes to regular watering. I have had great luck with dipladenias in planters on my full-sun deck. I pick them up from the home center, not the nursery. They fill in nicely and have many colorful blooms. You can choose from pink, white, red, or plant several for a combination.

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I am a plant “newbie” - last summer was the first one that I made my own containers/pots + took care of them all summer. I also moved WAY too many inside - but was able to keep 80% alive this winter (zone 6a/6b - my city is smaller - it’s a suburb of a major metro area - but it’s split - not sure where exactly). The ones that were in my basement didn’t receive the same attention as the ones upstairs.

    Anyway - the previous two summers, my SO had a local nursery put containers/pots together and deliver them over to the house. When he finally gave me a straight answer re: how much $$$ he spent each year, I decided that I could do it myself.

    I went a bit overboard - and will try to cut back a little this year. I received a lot of compliments - but it was too many.

    Everything I purchased must have been difficult to kill - because I only had one problem (powdery mildew on my zinnias at the end of August).

    I tried to make pots that looked similar to ones that the nursery put together - it’s actually pretty simple - you need a filler/spiller/thriller. So, one taller plant in middle + some plants that will hang down over the sides of your container/pot + some plants to fill out the rest of the container.

    Here are some photos:

    I actually asked for some advice on the two hanging planters on the right - they changed throughout the summer as the plants/flowers became more prominent at sifferent times during the season. I made the hanging basket on the left for my SO - I’m not a big fan - but he likes them so I included two of them (there’s another hanging one on the other side of the patio). I made all my hanging plants first - that’s why the rest of the covered patio looks bare in this photo. These two baskets got really big - and had very pretty (and long) ”spillers” as the summer progressed:

    I made six of these to hang along the back fence (cedar fence looks much better now - it was power washed and sealed):

    I planned on spray painting the holder in the below photo - but never go around to it (it’s on my firepit - so, I decided it was better to not have it directly on cover for fire pit - it gets pretty hot).

    The two similar ones on the right and left side of photo below have the same two spillers hanging over on the backside of the sit wall (I planned on having matching colors of sun patiens in them - but my SO planted a bunch of sun patiens in a bed in the front yard before I made the second planter - and forgot that I asked him to leave certain ones for my planter):

    This is the planter in the middle on the sit wall in above photo:

    I’m not sure what the flowers are in the above planter - I need ro find out because they were really pretty + bloomed all summer/fall. Here’s a close up:

    Here is the only plant/flower that I had issues with - I didn’t know anything about zinnias and powdery mildew. It looked beautiful until the very end of August + I had a lot of fresh zinnias in vases all summmer + made an arrangement with a couple zinnias + other stuff for one of my sisters every other week.

    anj_p thanked dani_m08
  • last month

    @dani_m08 Thank you! Your arrangements are gorgeous!!! I love the filler/spiller/thriller tip! I have no idea how to arrange flowers. I probably won't try to keep these alive overwinter - we don't really have space in our house to store stuff anyway. I've mostly done annuals in the past, and a lot of flowers that are perennials elsewhere tend to be annuals here due to the climate.

    And I agree, those daisy-looking flowers are beautiful!

  • last month

    This photo was after we had a bad storm three weeks earlier - this pot was actually launched into the yard - and everything came out of it:

    I used a few varieties of ornamental sweet potato vines in various planters - they grow fast and can make a container look nice for hardly any $:

    The lime sweet potato vine in this rectangular planter filled the entire next level down by the end of the summer - we tried growing lavender TWICE in that area - but even with amending the clay soil exactly as instructed, all of the lavendar died both times (we were hoping to have it as a perennial). Since the lavender died, I just let the sweet potato vine fill up the area. Not sure what we will do this summer.

    I did two hibiscus containers with just creeping jenny - easy.

    Here is a photo of those two hanging plants - they really kept evolving as the summer went on + into the fall:

    This is the inside of my covered patio - must have been end of Sept because I have a few cabbage plants added:

    My crotons didn’t grow tall enough to handle the oranmental sweet potato vines in these this year:

    this is another color of sweet potato vine that I used

    Everything was easy to grow - so, if you like any particular plants/flowers, let me know and I can tell you what they are.

  • last month

    These are purple hearts - very easy to grow - and turn a vibrant purple with little pink flowers (flowers are closed because it had just sprinkled):

    I’ve kept several of these going over the winter - the photo below was when I first planted them:

  • last month

    If you are looking for the plant Dani shared, it is acultivar Tradescantia. T. pallida 'Purpurea'

    It sometimes helps to have the botanical/Latin name when you are looking. I have the Tradescantia species and I love it Mine are green with blue flowers. They do close up here in the afternoon though.

  • last month

    Dani, Does your yard get a lot of sun? My pool deck gets sun, dining room deck gets sun—great for my herbs. Lower patio is mostly shade along with front porch and planters in my front yard.

  • last month

    I left you a comment

  • last month

    @dani_m08 that daisy-looking flower with the stripe on the petal is called Gazania New Day Rose Stripe. Unfortunately they are not available here - my zone is a bit out of its range, I think. I could probably use it as an annual but it doesn't look like nurseries around here carry it so I'd have to grow it from seeds. A bit late in the season for that I think.

  • last month

    Kimmie - my backyard has western exposure = lots of sun. I’ve grown quite a few plants/containers under my covered patio - so, indirect sun. I also grow pots/containers out of my front porch = eastern exposure - that turns into shade after 1 p.m. or so.

    Part of the area around the fire pit receives quite a bit of shade from some very large river birch trees - so, no direct sun till late morning and then dappled sun as sun moves west and is partially blocked by birch branches/leaves.

    If you look at the first photo in my second comment, you can tell that’s the side that has partially blocked sun (container with big banana plant that was launched out into yard during storm). You can see that the sky is blue - no clouds - and even the fire pit has some shade.

    I had two of the same exact planters on each side of the fire pit area (4 total - two of each kind) - and although the ones on the right were in full in afternoon - and the two on the left were in partial shade after a couple hours, they all grew exactly the same.

    These were under covered patio - received indirect sun + late afternoon sun:

    This is late Sept or early Oct (ornamental cabbages have really pretty colors):

    In this photo, the big planter on the left + the next two + firepit planter receive only a few hours of full sun - and then the river birch branches provide dappled sun. They would have still grown well in full sun.

    Baxter likes to ”photo bomb” when I’m taking pictures 😂

    Sept - you can see the river birch trees (plus, how I let the ornamental sweet potato vines go crazy!!)

    EDIT - I just noticed that Ella (white dog) is in one of the photos - she doesn’t ”pose” like Baxter does!

  • last month

    Late sept or early Oct- went to pick up some fertilizer at nursery - and came back with a bunch of ornamental cabbage + kale! Photo was taken before I made new containers for them (or added them to existing ones):

    My SO thought I was a bit crazy at this point 😜

    Forgot about this one - very simple = cheap: some sweet potato vines + coleus:

    Grew to this pretty quickly (and then much larger):

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    The only big ”failure” i had design wise - I needed a ”thriller” = taller plant for this one. I thought the red flower plant would be bigger and then I could get them to stay standing up before flopping over with a little trellis I bought. But they didn’t grow as big as I wanted (but - I also planted them later - I bought this really tall planter when it was on sale in July - and transferred the sweet potato vine from a different container). By the end of Oct - the vines were all the way down the sides and onto the patio!

    Also, the only other pest issue - happened beginning of Sept - some green caterpillers (forget their name right now) - you can see some damage they did to some of the sweet potato vine leaves. But I got rid of them - and it was only this planter

    Sweet potato vines are super easy to take cuttings and root in water in order to add them to other planters. They grow fast. They aren’t expensive + have really pretty colors. The lime ones look nice - and give a good pop of color - but the black/purple ones + the maroon/gold ones have so many pretty mixed colors.

    I also had another type that had a different shaped leaf (not sure that I posted any of it in my photos).

    Here are close ups of the mix of colors (vs the lime ones - they are all the same shade of green):

    The planter above was in the shade - so, you can’t see the mix of colored leaves like in the photo above (in full sun).

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    First - I have always hated rocks in flower beds (except large pretty rocks). I have removed them by the ton in previous homes. Weeds get thru, they look ugly and just a crazy idea to have them there. As for your plants, look at a garden store and buy what you LIKE, and then change it the next year if they die or just to change up. I love bee balm myself - magenta is so pretty and native to MN. It comes back every year and spreads some. Sometimes neighbors have some to share.

  • last month

    @terrib962 I guess it's a good thing it's my yard and not yours then? Not sure why it's a crazy idea. We had wood mulch, the dogs plowed through it and spread it everywhere. Dug in it, ate it, you name it. It required constant cleanup and our patio (and dog) got filthy from it. Didn't even last us the summer. So we replaced with river rock and are really happy with that decision. I'm not sure I'll care if the next owners like it or not (or people on houzz, who all seem to hate rock. Crazily enough, most of my neighbors prefer rock so YMMV). I suppose if they don't have dogs or young children mulch would work just fine but it didn't work for us.

    We get weeds whether it's rock or mulch, too, so not sure what the difference is there.

    Thanks for your suggestion on bee balm. I will look into it.

  • last month

    @anj_p It is just that rocks are something that is usually in commercial office bldg beds (when they do not have funds to replace mulch each year), and cheap apt bldg and around mobile homes. Same goes for colored mulch - looks cheap. Sometimes rocks are OK on the back side of a house next to the house for a few inches, or around an A/C exterior unit, but in general areas, looks cheap and terrible. Sounds like you need some raised beds or edging sides of some sort to keep the dogs out. My entire lot is garden and mulch with brick paths, no lawn as the lot is too small to have small patches of lawn like putting greens. Removing rocks takes an effort, but so worth doing it. Real gardeners never use them.

  • last month

    Huh, interesting. My office building has mulch. Most of my neighbors have rock. Those who don't have rock have colored mulch (including us - our front and side yards have brown colored mulch). Maybe what people think of rock, colored mulch, and regular mulch might be different depending on where you live. I certainly don't think anyone thinks our landscaping looks cheap or terrible. Most people have the opposite reaction. Maybe you're the exception to that.

    I'm also not a real gardener and don't claim to be one, so I suppose it's fine that I use rock.

    I'm not planning on planting anything else in the rock. It's just a border with some perennial grasses. And while your yard sounds lovely, I also don't need a full back yard garden or the time that it takes to care for one, as I work full time and am trying my best to raise a kid when I'm not working (and sometimes when I am). I don't need anything else to take care of. I just want a few planters on the patio to add some color, as per my original post.

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    @anj_p - I have two small dogs - and they drive me CRAZY re: trailing mulch into the house from the backyard (they are "friends" with the dog who lives next door - and they LOVE to run the fence with him - especially my 3 lb yorkie). I have seriously been considering having it all removed and replacing it with river rock (or something). P.S. I don't live in a cheap apartment building or a mobile home either.

    FYI - I waited almost 24 hours before posting this because I know that it's not always a good idea to respond/make a comment when I'm irritated - but I still feel the same.

    @terrib962 - OP was very gracious in the replies posted in response to your comments - because, honestly, your comments were pretty rude. While it's perfectly fine that you prefer mulch over rocks, it doesn't mean that you need to make comments about rocks looking like cheap apartments and mobile homes. Nice landscaping rocks are fairly expensive (especially compared to mulch). Maybe where you reside, cheaper rocks are used?

    Regardless, it was unecessary to add the above in your comment to OP. You should have simply stated your preference for mulch without implying that OP (i) lives in a mobile home, (ii) can't afford to re-mulch her yard every year, and/or (iii) doesn't understand the difference between residential vs. commercial properties related to landscape design.

    Additionally, there isn't any reason to look down at someone who does live in a less expensive apartment complex, mobile home, or if she/he/they can"t afford to re-mulch his/her/their property every year.

    I'm not sure what your definition of a "real gardener" is - but I have quite a few neighbors - who have very nice yards - with a variety of many beautiful plants/shrubs/flowers/etc. A few of them are very knowledgeable and talented gardeners - and some of them have rocks (or a combination of rocks and mulch).

    I have some mulch in my yard + some areas with rocks. Not that it's any of your business, but am more than capable financially to have all of my landscaped areas re-mulched on an annual basis. The choice to incorporate some rocks had nothing to do with an inability to pay to have someone install new mulch each year. None of my landscape beds/areas have weeds growing.

    Also, I've never noticed weeds coming up through any of my neighbors' rocked landscaped beds. Our neighborhood isn’t filled with $5 million dollar homes, but it’s fairly nice.

    I'm sure that there are people who have weeds growing up through their rocks - but there are also people who have weeds growing up through their mulch. Landscaping beds that have been properly prepared (prior to adding rocks or mulch) prevents that from happening.

  • last month

    Here's what I did. It was overwhelming and I'm lucky to have an aunt who loves plants and has taken container gardening courses! Obviously all of this will fill in but here we are on day 1:

  • last month

    Very pretty!

  • last month

    You used two of my favorite spillers -

    silver falls (dichondra argentea):

    and the varigated vinca vine:

    It will just take a little bit to fill in - last summer, I kinda ”overfilled” many of my containers/pots - and had to move a few plants to other places.

    Happy that you had some help! Wish mine were done - I just finally moved all the plants I ”over wintered” indoors out to the patio today. Now, I have to buy some others + replant the ones that were indoors!

  • last month

    @dani I also found the gazania and used it! Can't wait to see it grow. Thanks for your help!

  • last month

    I need to find some more Gazanias!!

    What are the squiggly green (thriller) ones you used in your first photo? I’ve seen those before - but don’t know the names. I think they are interesting - a nice change from the other tall green spike looking ones (I’m blanking on the names right now - I like those and have quite a few than made it through the winter).

    Just a little while ago, a HUGE storm came through - with high winds (we actually lost power - and that never happens since most lines are underground) - right after I decided to move all of my plants outside! I’ve worked hard caring for them all winter - I am not going to be happy if any of them have been damaged!!

  • 27 days ago

    The squiggly green thrillers are called jancus effusus spiral rush! Sorry I had to go find the tag! Quite the name.