You are here: Home > News and Resources > ECG Clippings > Native Combos

Combos to Make Shoppers Take Notice of Natives

By Pamela Straub

Stop and take notice of natives, and you can’t miss the premise that they’re not just great in the ground; they’re also showstoppers in containers and combinations. The biggest trend right now is that breeders are starting to take notice too. They’re working more with natives by making natural selections for high ornamental value.

For a long time, natives suffered under the stigma and generalization as only being grasses the municipality used to restore a prairie on the side of a highway. But one of the best things using today’s natives is that often, you can’t tell it’s a native. Meaning, these aren’t Laura Ingalls’ prairie grasses!

Today’s natives beautify the space but don’t require compromising the natural environment. They’re often unexpected, like a swath of Muhlenbergia c. Fast Forward fully blooming in July, or Panicum Ruby Ribbons in a stand-alone pot.

Today’s natives don’t just look different; they are different. But it’s not just in the way they’re selected, it’s in the way that you use them. Natives have far bigger potential than the sweeps and masses they’ve been known for. So how do you get the most out of natives in containers?

5 Design Principles

Great container gardens start with five principles for great design. Put them to work before you put any combo together, and you’re on the road to a winner.

1. When choosing the container, first decide where you’re going to place it. Full sun or shade? Protected from elements? Will it be a focal point or one in a grouping?

2. Use grasses for texture, form and color.

3. Add flowering perennials for color, fragrance and utility.

4. Choose the correct size pot for plantings. I almost always choose my plant combo first, and then select the pot.

5. Finally, choose your color scheme. Are you going for bold contrast (such as orange and purple, fuchsia and yellow), harmonious color (like pastel blues and pinks) or monochromatic impact (pairing whites and greens for example).

4 Biggest Container Trends Right Now

Try incorporating natives into some of today’s hottest container trends for a double whammy of impact and interest.

· Using native plants – they are their own trend and can stand alone!

· Mixing bold/vibrant colors – yellows/reds/vibrant purples, black & white, etc.

· Adding fragrance

· Creating “micro-eco systems” – butterflies/hummingbirds, edibles- veggies and herbs, children’s sensory gardens or fairy gardens

In addition to natural beauty, the real beauty of natives comes with their lack of rules—using them in unexpected ways and pairing them with plants that bring out their best. They offer great things for containers, and retailers can capitalize on the potential!


Panicum Ruby Ribbons, Echinacea Prairie Splendor, Carex Blue Zinger, Gaura Passionate Rainbow


Panicum Frosted Explosion, Stachys officinalis Pink Cotton Candy, Duranta Cuban Gold, Alcea Spring Celebrities White


Juncus Big Twister, Acorus Oboruzuki


Echinacea Prairie Splendor, Achillea Deep Rose, Carex Cappuccino


Pennisetum alopecuroides, Gaillardia Goblin, Carex Toffee Twist


Buddleia Buzz Sky Blue, Echinacea Julia, Carex Frosted Curls


Echinacea White Swan, Miscanthus Gold Bar, Sedum Lemon Ball


Carex Frosted Curls, Verbena Snowflurry, Ajuga Chocolate Chip


Miscanthus Little Zebra, Duranta Cuban Gold, Echinacea Milk Shake


Veronica Whitewater, Ajuga Black Scallop, Juncus Blue Arrows, Echinacea PowWow Wild Berry, Pennisetum First Knight

Pamela Straub is the in-house designer for Emerald Coast Growers, one of the country’s largest liner producers. For more information on natives, ornamental grasses, perennials or specialty plants, call 877-804-7277, e-mail or visit

This article originally appeared in Garden Center magazine.