Two-Tiered Container Garden with Portulaca and Elephant Ears on the Side


This two-tiered container garden has been impressing me all summer, and received lots of likes on my Facebook page, so I decided to share it here too.

Two Tiered Love

Two Tiered Love

It is two containers stacked, the smaller one sitting on top of the soil of the larger container.  I wasn’t sure what would be planted in the bottom level at first until I spotted some nice looking six packs of Portulaca grandiflora MOJAVE Tangerine Purslane at a local nursery. I could tell the plants were fresh and healthy, so I grabbed two 6 packs and planted them around the base when I got home. They were small sizes and easy to tuck into the soil.

I also knew this annual was a great candidate for the location of the containers, because Portulaca can take hot sun and is drought tolerant. The color of the blooms are a bright to soft orange, and with some Nepeta (catmint) planted in the ground below, the color combo of orange and blue blooms of the Nepeta would be complementary. Portulaca has a spreading habit and grows to 6″ to 8″. It blooms from early summer to frost. Definitely a hard working annual for our CT planting zones.

Orange with yellow centers of Portulaca

Orange with yellow centers of Portulaca

Elephant ears (Colocasia) were planted on each side of the container in the ground.  Using some kept from my overwintered stock, I thought they were Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ but the color got so rich and lush, and at the right time of day, the leaves shimmer like a silky black negligee. So I was considering that maybe they were ‘Black Diamond’ but now I’m just not sure because ‘Black Diamond’ has pointy tips to their leaves.  Its possible the color intensified due to the location, which faces west.  I decided this was the case as I watched it grow larger all season and is still showy in fall.

Because it is against my house, it has nice shade in the morning, and the sun gradually warms up the area mid day, but by mid afternoon, it gets hot sun. As long as you water your elephant ears regularly, they can take the sun too. It turned out the rich dark color of the elephant ears look amazing against and near the showy orange of the Portulaca. It made the Portulaca stand out more with the contrast in color plus the leaf textures of both, the Portulaca being fine and Colocasia being coarse, worked.

Colocasia elephant ears, tropical

Colocasia elephant ears, tropical

The only downfall of the Portulaca is the blooms roll up tight for the evening. So, around 3 pm, the bloom show closes for the day.  The disappointment was my guests missed out on how incredibly beautiful they are if they visited later in the day. I had forgotten these flowers do this. In fact, a friend told me recently she has some at her house, and her husband asked her what happened to their plant when he came home one evening to see their’s rolled up tight too.

Closed by mid afternoon

Closed by mid afternoon

The top part of the two-tiered container let me down a tad. I expected the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) to grow taller along with the Canna next to it. However, the Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum filled in nicely. Known as Fountain Grass, it is always a great filler or thriller in a container garden.  It is an annual in our region. But the coloring of red blades can’t be beat, and worth replanting every year in containers. It reaches 2-3 feet tall and its fuzzy plumes are showy into the fall season.  It looks great with fall decor for some reason, guess because it has movement and has a nice rich color against the yellows, reds, and oranges of the autumn season.

Planted to the right of the pot were also some Canna plants with red blooms. Sometimes when I was admiring the Portulaca blooms, a buzz from a hummingbird would go by my ears as it visited the Canna. I call the Cannas, my ‘Rene Cannas,’ because my friend, Rene, gave the rhizomes to me last season.

My Rene Cannas with red blooms

My Rene Cannas with red blooms

For the spiller, the reliable Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) vine was planted on the left side.  This one is Sweet Georgia Heart Red.  And on the right side is Sedum makinoi, which is new to me. It has a nice shape to its leaves and dark coloring so it fit in with the rest. Lastly, a little decorative Gnome was tucked in for fun.

Protecting my containers

Protecting my containers

The fact my containers are old and a bit worn did not matter because the plants created a lush and full look hiding the scratches on the pots. As one Facebook friend posted, it is “Beautiful, rich, luscious, heavenly.”  I, of course, agree!

Written by Cathy Testa

One more photo:

On second tiere


2 thoughts on “Two-Tiered Container Garden with Portulaca and Elephant Ears on the Side

    • Hi Jenny – We must remedy this – no elephant ears in your yard! Let’s talk next season when I plan to have some available. I just love them – and they sure remain dramatic all the way into fall for us CT folks. Thanks for your comment. Cathy T

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.