London (change)

How to create an exotic container display

You will need

  • Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'
  • Aeonium 'Zwartkop'
  • Canna 'Pretoria'
  • Dahlia 'David Howard'
  • Euphorbia martini
  • Euphorbia mellifera
  • Hakonechloa macra
  • Cattle trough, or similar planter
  • Crocks and multi-purpose compost
Do it: late-June - mid-August
Takes just: about an hour


Filling a large planter with sub-tropical plants is a perfect way to add instant impact to your garden. It gives you the chance to fulfill your wildest planting ambitions and grow bold, statuesque plants.

Many sub-tropical or tender plants are perfect for planting in a large container, as they provide masses of growth in just one season. The impact made to your garden can be mind-blowing.

There are plenty of alternatives to large cattle troughs, such as tin baths, tea chests or plastic water tanks.

How to do it


Before planting, put the trough in its final position and stand your plants alongside it. This will help you work out which neighbours work best together and give you an idea of planting distances.


Place a layer of broken pots along the bottom of the trough to provide good drainage. Puncture holes in the trough to allow water to drain away.


Empty bags of compost into the trough until it is two-thirds full. Firm it as you go.


Plant the largest plants first to give you a good idea of the main structure of your container. Bear in mind how big some of your plants will become before you place them in their final positions.


Fill in the gaps with smaller plants, varying textures and colour. Pendulous grass needs to be near the front to allow it to cascade, but bushy plants can be added to the body of the planting.


Plant everything firmly, ensuring the plants' crowns are level, then top up with compost. Water well and if some compost settles, top it up again so the surface remains level.

Carol tip

Deadhead plants regularly. Cut dahlias down to the next bud and remove banana and canna leaves at their base.

Water these thirsty plants regularly, and give them a liquid feed once a fortnight.

Transplant undercover or provide protection over winter.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to create an exotic container display
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Mike Gee 06/12/2014 at 15:39

What plants have been used?

Fairygirl 06/12/2014 at 15:48

Tells you down the left hand side of the article Mike 

Should have said - it's a summer display so no good for just now unfortunately.