GROWTH IS GOOD, RIGHT?
Updated: May 9
We all take pleasure in seeing a plant increase in size, but sometimes a plant overtakes everything in the container, so much that the original composition is lost. This problem is usually associated with our summer plantings because it's the longest growing season and over that long period, only the most diligent of those who that stay on top of their pruning cultivate a showstopper. Give an annual five or six months to grow unchecked and you could have a hot mess at your front porch.
I love most of the young coleus and few of the old. Those colorful leaves are show stoppers but they grow so fast that planted without fully knowing their maturity, they can take over a container. If you're working with just a pair of pots and you're wanting to incorporate colorful leaves into a composition that will keep their shape, I suggest the genus of croton. They grow at a much slower pace and will keep the scale of the design much better. Other plants with striking leaves that grow at a slower pace include calathea and the rex begonias. Share with me your favorite slow growing plants.
Another fast growing plant is the wildly popular Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomea). I use "wildly" as a double entendre because of it's tendency to run across decks and sidewalks. It grows so fast that small children and pets have been know to disappear near them. If you lose your flowers or your toddler, then maybe growth isn't such a good thing. Our friends at Ball Seed have come to our rescue and developed a series of sweet potato plants that give the fullness and color without the kidnapping. Their trademarked Spotlight series is developed to play well with others. We all love the pop of chartreuse that ipomoea 'Margarite' adds to a container, but many of us abstain for its crazy growth. This Spotlight Lime version is much more promising. Young plants are hard to distinguish, so ask your professional at the garden center and they will be happy to guide you.
So is growth good? It depends on how you use it. The key is to know the space that your are going to plant. If you want to block a view or stage with multiple containers, I say, fertilize often! It's worth noting, that an emerging trend in container gardening is curating many containers of just one variety and staging with separate elements. Claus Dalby and Detroit Garden are masters of this. However, if you want your plants play well with its neighbors, then do a little research before you bring home that adorable seedling.