DIY Rainbow Container Garden

Flowers are available in every color imaginable, so why not plant the rainbow? Follow our plant recommendations and planting tips to pot up a colorful container garden that, bonus, can stand up to the heat of summer while attracting a variety of pollinators to your patio or deck.

Photo by: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Materials Needed

  • plastic whiskey barrel-style container
  • ROYGBIV plants of your choosing (info on the plants we used, below)
  • potting soil
  • trowel
  • mulch
  • empty water bottles, broken pottery or pebbles to aid drainage
  • hammer and screwdriver or awl
  • small gazing ball (or solar light or bee bath) for the planter’s center

About the Plants We Chose

When selecting plants to share a container, it's important to first consider how much sun exposure the planter will receive. Our chosen location will be full sun most of the day so we chose plants that can take the heat and share similar watering requirements.

Red: Gerbera (aka Gerber) Daisy Available in all colors but blue, gerberas thrive in full sun but, depending on your zone, they may also appreciate a bit of dappled afternoon shade during summer's hottest days. Like all daisies, pollinators are drawn to these flat, shallow blooms that offer up plenty of easy-to-access pollen and a convenient spot to land.

Orange: Lantana Both a butterfly and hummingbird magnet, these multicolor blooms are available in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and white. An annual for most of the U.S., lantana is a fast-growing and relatively carefree repeat bloomer that can even withstand a drought, once established.

Yellow: Yarrow A low-maintenance perennial that tolerates drought and adds both texture (courtesy of its fernlike, silvery leaves) and a big boost of color to any container garden or bed. Yarrow's wide, flat flowers are also a nectar source for both bees and butterfly varieties, including the endangered monarch butterfly.

Green: Dusty Miller A perennial in Zones 8 to 10, this fuzzy-leafed stunner is grown as an annual in most U.S. regions. Boasting silvery-green, velvety leaves, it's a beautiful complement to showy blooms — both in a container garden and as cut flowers.

Blue: Lithodora A stunning groundcover, this low creeper is crowned with masses of tiny, star-shaped flowers in the most intense shade of true blue. A standout in rock gardens, lithodora is also an eye-catcher in containers where it thrives in full sun and can even weather the occasional drought. Many gardeners also report that the blooms' bright color is very attractive to bumblebees.

Indigo: Balloon Flower or Platycodon A sun-loving perennial, these self-seeding blooms resemble small balloons in their bud stage, then open into large, star-shaped flowers with a nectar-rich center that attracts both bees and butterflies.

Violet: Pentas or Starflower Typically grown as an annual, this easy-to-grow garden beauty can be overwintered in many regions to provide cheery garden color and draw butterflies like a magnet year after year.

Position Planter + Add Draining Holes

Because the completed planter will be heavy when fully planted, first, place the empty whiskey barrel where you'll want the finished container garden. Using a hammer and screwdriver or awl, pop out the drainage holes. Note: If these pre-marked holes aren't present, use a drill and bit to add drainage holes.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Add Filler + Potting Soil

Fill in the base of the planter with empty water bottles (or broken pottery or rocks) to minimize the amount of potting soil needed and to aid with drainage (Image 1). Tip: Be sure to leave the drainage holes you just created clear, though. Then, fill the container's bottom two-thirds with potting soil (Image 2).

Determine Placement

Place your chosen ROYGBIV plants on top of the potting soil, still in their pots, in order to determine placement, being sure to leave an area open in the center to accommodate the gazing ball.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Unpot Plants

Carefully remove each plant from its nursery pot by squeezing the pot’s sides while gently pulling the plant free (Image 1). Gently tease apart the roots to encourage growth in their new location (Image 2).

Place in Planter

Starting with the red bloom, place each of the unpotted plants in their proper position. When you’re happy with each plant’s placement, fill in any gaps with additional potting soil, gently, but firmly, pressing the soil around each of the plants to secure them in their new home.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Add Mulch

Finally, no planter is complete without a layer of mulch that not only serves as a decorative finishing touch but also preserves moisture (meaning you'll need to water less often) and discourages weeds.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Add Gazing Ball

Nestle a small gazing ball in the empty center of the planter. Many small gazing balls currently available also double as a solar light, like this one, so the decorative feature is not only beautiful during the day, it also doubles as landscape lighting at night.

Photo by: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Water + Enjoy

Planting is tough work on plants, so be sure to give them a good soak when you're done to hydrate their roots and help them settle in to their new home (Image 1). Surround your completed rainbow container garden with cozy outdoor chairs where you (and your pups!) can spend time enjoying the flowers' colorful, ever-changing display while watching a wide variety of pollinators as they busily harvest each bloom (Images 2 and 3).

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