Low maintenance drought tolerant flowering plants for containers?

mackenzie_bOctober 19, 2010

Hi, I'm new here... looking for suggestions.

I live in an apt complex. Between my porch and the start of the grassy areas there is 1 to 3 feet of plain dirt (depending on the side) They'll let us grow stuff as long as it's in containers.

I love city apt living(raised in NYC), but love to "pretend" I live in some country cottage, my apt & big screen porch are decorated to fuel this fantasy.

I would love flowering plants/shrubs lined up around the porch to get a cottage garden feel.

I've grown a lot of container herbs, tomatoes and such, which I still grow on the screen porch, but I don't want to grow edible things off the porch because I don't know what kind of things they'll be subjected to by residents or maintenance people. I've not grown many ornamentals other than some annuals, so I'm not sure what to pick.

My needs/preferences are:

- must be good for containers (fairly compact)

- low maintenance or easy southern natives

- good drought tolerance (no hose/sprinklers; just a big watering can I prefer not to have to haul out that often)

- can take the heat & humidity of FL summers.

- good for full sun to partial shade

- perennial flowers or flowering shrubs, or ones that re-seed themselves (some annuals are okay but I don't want to keep replacing everything every year)

- a mix of fall bloomers/spring bloomers, etc., so something is always going on throughout the year. I'm not picky about colors so long as it's colorful.

Long list of demands I guess, it sounds picky but I figure being picky will give me more chance of success and less fuss.

If anyone has any suggestions, particularly if you've gardened around the Tampa Bay area, that would be great.

Thanks so much~

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The only thing that fits your specifications is silk.

However, you should minimize your expectations for flowers and concentrate on textures instead. The big box stores sell a wide variety of succulents. Some will flower, but not as showy or as often. Agaves, and these will eventually grow too large for the pot but not for several years, need little to no water and will eventually bloom. Aloe, and not just Aloe vera but the dwarf varieties often sold as "Angel Plants". Jade Plant grows well down here and it also requires minimal attention.

Bromeliads are going to be your best bet, though. Many will take full sun, others require shade, but none require irrigation and you can get flowering varieties with a large, upright bloom, or ones that have miniature flowers in the cup. These are essentially air plants but they will grow just fine in a pot or in the ground.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 6:50AM
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I have a lot of containers and I will tell you that they are not maintenance free! For you, watering will be the issue - in the summer (or even these days with no rain) the pots need to be watered daily.
That being said, you might have luck with Desert Rose or other succulents as noted above. Crotons will also work - I've had different varieties in pots for years - but you will need to water often.
Pamela Crawford has a great book called Container Gardens for Florida which you might find helpful.
Best of luck

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 7:46AM
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I think you can have all of the plant qualities you mentioned, but not all at the same time in one plant. Ponder what is most important to you. What I like to do is get some tough longlasting shrubs or greenery and then accent with colorful annuals as my time and finances allow. Containers are going to be more work than planting in the ground because they dry out fast. It will help you if you get plastic or glazed ceramic pots as these dry out slower.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 9:05AM
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If you get a one foot length of cotton clothesline rope and thread it into the hole at the bottom of your plastic pot, pull it up so at least 6 inches is inside the pot. Then put in your potting soil around the rope as you hold it up so as much of the soil can touch it. Plant your plant in the pot, and rest the pot on a couple of bricks with the rope dangling between. Find a rectangular pan and slip it under the pot between the bricks and fill it with water. The rope dangling in the pan will act as a wick and keep your plant watered, you will then only need to maintain the water level in the pan and easy to see when water is needed.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 3:20PM
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Lou, you are a GENIUS !! sally

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 4:33PM
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Mack, crown of thorns and lantana fit your requirements exactly. CoT comes in different colors (red, pink, white, yellow), different growth patterns (compact, tall, etc), and there are also different types of lantana.
We have a rock yard so all of my gardening in is pots, that's what I use. Very low maintenance and blooms all year.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 9:24PM
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FAWNRIDGE: Thanks, I thought about Agave and Aloe as they are pretty common around here but am still holding out to see what my quest turns up.

LOU: would you believe I thought of that this morning! When I go away a few days I do that with my herbs, except I coil the rope on top of the soil and bury it under the mulch. It wicks what it needs from a big bucket of water. I was going to ask if anyone thought something like that would work but thank you, you have confirmed that for me. That is excellent.

HESTER: Container gardening is all IâÂÂm familiar because IâÂÂve never owned a home but IâÂÂve been keeping small herb/veggie container gardens for about 20 years. Putting plants around my screen porch is going to triple/quadrouple my container gardening work load, and IâÂÂve never grown flowers/shrubs before except a few short lived annuals. The easier, the better. I am going to order that book you recommended on Amazon right, thanks so much, I just wish you could get royalties for selling it. All my container gardening books are from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens up north and have been pretty useless since I moved South a few years ago.

AMBERROSES: Yes, thatâÂÂs along the lines of what I was hoping to do... get some pots around with easy, sure-fire plants and shrubs. IâÂÂll probably add annuals in the mix here and there. Yes, majority of my pots are plastic, and IâÂÂve just inherited a big stack of plastic milk crates I plan to line with grow-bags and poke holes in them. I can camouflage them with some window boxes placed strategically in front of them or some dollar store plastic mini border fence I have.

CORRIE: Lantana I recognize, and they always have it at nurseries around here though I never grew any myself. Your suggestions sound perfect, just the kind of thing IâÂÂm looking for.

I also found one on my own... butterfly weed (not bush), a native weed but colorful and orange. Sounds hard to kill.

Everyone, thanks for all the help... YouâÂÂve given me some great suggestions to look into and by all means keep them coming if you have any more.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 4:11AM
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