I know absolutely nothing about plants first of all. My husband and I just built a new house and I have a patio area that is at my basement enterance. It gets the morning and midday sun and then is shaded for the late day and afternoon. I would like to have some potted plants on the patio to give it some life and color. What would you recommend, maybe a tree?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Jennifer in Kentucky: Congratulations on your new home! The first thing you need to do is determine how many hours of sun this space actually receives. I am not quite clear what your definition of midday and afternoon is so this becomes tricky in terms of giving you planting suggestions. Technically six hours or more is considered full sun, four to six hours of sun is part sun/shade depending on the time of day, and two hours or less of sun is considered full shade. Also, the time of day the sunlight hits the area needs to be taken into account. If the area receives direct sun in the morning and/or late afternoon, it is not the same in terms of intensity as the high, midday sun between the hours of 11-2. From what you mentioned I assume you are dealing with full or part sun. The next thing to consider is your containers. You want to make sure that if they are going to be planted year-round that they are good quality and can withstand the winter weather. High-fired clay and polyurethane (light-weight) containers are best for this purpose. Glazed are typically fine for a few years if you put them up on pot feet so the air can circulate under them, preventing them from freezing when the ground does. Whichever ones you choose, be certain that they have sufficient drainage holes and fill them with a good quality potting mixture. As for choosing a plant, it is true of all trees that they are not going to want to live their entire lives in containers. If you are referring to a tropical that has been trained into a tree form this is a great option for the summer months. In general, plant material is switched out seasonally for container planting. That being said you can certainly plant a smaller tree and leave it in there for a couple of years and then plant it in the garden. If this is what you choose to do make sure you choose containers that are significantly bigger than the nursery pots the trees are growing in. This will allow their roots to spread and give them extra protection during the winter months. If you can give me details in terms of sulight and a planting wish list, I can give you specific suggestions.