Help me pick the perfect plant
April 5, 2012 5:37 PM   Subscribe

I need a fairly cheap, hard to kill, awfully pretty plant that comes in a 6-pack or more of bedding plants. And would be happy in a small pot.

I'm running a workshop at my local hackspace for building wooden planters out of scrap wood, and I need a good bedding plant for people to take home in their planter.

The planter itself is probably going to be around the size of a coffee mug - maybe three inches square at the most. I'm supplying the wood, and the gravel for drainage, and the dirt, but I also want people to go home with a nice plant.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what a good plant would be. I was thinking pansies or petunias, because you can get bulk bedding trays of them, but I've never really had luck with them, and I'd hate for people to go home with a plant that doesn't really last.

I then thought maybe strawberries, but strawberries always want to grow up and out, so that tiny planter isn't going to do so good.

Sutera works really well in small containers (as proven by my hanging basket), but that really isn't a cheap option.

So, any suggestions? I might still go for pansies, because I can get a bunch in the B&Q value range for under a fiver, but if there's something better, that would be awesome.
posted by Katemonkey to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have good luck with the wave petunia, but your planters are pretty smallish, and petunias like a little room ..
Something that looks cool-ish in a small rectangular planter is grass. Comes up fast and you have a nice fresh green mini-lawn. Doesn't really last though unless you (they) baby it.
It's hard to keep plants thriving in small containers, there aren't many really suited to them ...
Cacti/succulent would do well but probably pricey.
Will you please come back later and let is know what you do?
posted by bebrave! at 5:45 PM on April 5, 2012

Umm, I mean let us know what plant you go with for these pots and how they do/did
posted by bebrave! at 5:47 PM on April 5, 2012

  • Marigolds
  • Portulacas
  • Vinca
  • Coleus

  • posted by Ostara at 5:47 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

    Maybe some pallida? They're pretty and purple and durable.
    posted by spunweb at 5:48 PM on April 5, 2012

    Succulents! They like sandy soil, they live with irregular watering, and they can stay small-- some of them flower beautifully, and they come in such novel shapes that they're perfect for your application. IMO.
    posted by Sunburnt at 5:49 PM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

    Oh!! I change my vote to Marigolds.
    posted by spunweb at 5:49 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Idk if you can get kalanchoe in trays but they're unkillable in a sunny window.
    posted by toodleydoodley at 5:50 PM on April 5, 2012

    Another vote for marigolds! There are so many interesting varieties... Poofy, striped, etc.
    posted by dayintoday at 6:08 PM on April 5, 2012

    How about nasturtiums? They're easy, pretty, and all parts of the plant are edible.
    posted by mudpuppie at 6:20 PM on April 5, 2012

    Maybe impatiens of some variety?
    posted by janepanic at 6:27 PM on April 5, 2012

    I'd go with impatiens or marigolds or what about basil or another herb? Basil will thrive pretty happily in a small container as long as it gets enough sun and while I've never tried oregano or thyme in a container I'd bet they'd be fine; you can't kill oregano.
    posted by mygothlaundry at 7:24 PM on April 5, 2012

    Pansies. Nice flowers, and will repeat flower for ages, with only the most basic care.
    posted by thylacinthine at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2012

    I'm not sure that you can get African violets in 6-packs, but they love small pots (they do best rootbound) and they like being forgotten about and watered maybe once a week or two weeks.
    posted by fiercecupcake at 9:18 PM on April 5, 2012

    I see a lot of great suggestions. How about dianthus? They are common bedding plants, so should be easy to find in a flat.
    posted by annsunny at 9:20 PM on April 5, 2012

    Succulents are more or less the only sort of plant which will survive in a coffee mug size planter long term. Succulents are sold in six packs at nurseries in our area, but for approximately twice as much as six packs of annuals. So, I suppose the decision is: expensive longevity, or short term beauty followed by demise?
    posted by Wavelet at 9:40 PM on April 5, 2012

    How about mint? So hard to kill it's considered invasive, and you can use it for cooking, tea, or mojitos. Cheap and available everywhere.
    posted by homodachi at 10:07 PM on April 5, 2012

    Annual vinca* survives awful D.C. summers in curbside tree boxes really well. It looks somewhat like impatiens but it's larger and much more succulent and can take more sun and heat. Winter pansies are also very hardy.

    *This is not perennial vinca (periwinkle).
    posted by jgirl at 5:10 AM on April 6, 2012

    Dianthus definitely.
    I like mint too.
    Snapdragons, if it's in season where you are. Once it gets too hot, it's hard to keep one happy.
    posted by FergieBelle at 6:54 AM on April 6, 2012

    Second pansies. The best annual for tiny containers. Also Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum species), a succulent perennial. Buy some one gallons and divide them into smaller pieces. Portulaca is also a great suggestion. Most of the other annuals recommended won't hold up for long with limited root-room.

    One piece of advice: skip the gravel for drainage. It's a discredited practice. Just make sure there's a hole at the bottom of the container.
    posted by recurve at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2012

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