“There’s just so much visual interest,” says Jordi Velasquez, who owns Pete’s Greenhouse with her husband, Devin. “It’s so much fun to watch all these different things grow together.” 

She’s talking about plant combinations. Pete’s is known for the creative container combinations Jordi and her team create. Whether arranging different plants in a patio pot or mixing them in a planted garden, varying the color and texture of plant groupings can turn a ho-hum outdoor space into a spectacular one. 

“It’s one of my favorite things to do in the greenhouse,” Jordi says. “I love finding a good, new combination.”

However, those combinations take some thought. Flowers that need plenty of sunshine shouldn’t be planted with shade-loving shrubs. Tropical plants that are greedy for water don’t pair well with drought-tolerant succulents or cacti. Every combination should keep in mind a plant’s characteristics, including color, height and more.

We asked Jordi and Devin for tips for pairing plants. They helpfully separated some of their favorites into categories—all of these will grow in Amarillo’s climate—and provided this additional advice:

Think sunlight first. “If you plant a full-sun plant in a shady area, you’re just never going to be completely happy with it. It could be leggy. It might not give you many blooms at all,” Jordi explains. On the other hand, a shade-preferring plant will wither in the mid-summer heat, especially if this summer brings us a span of triple-digit temperatures like 2020 did.

Don’t avoid evergreens. These are essential to in-ground gardens. “Everyone likes the blooms and color” of flowering plants, Devin says. “But they forget what the bed looks like in the winter.” For year-long visuals, he recommends including boxwoods, hollies, junipers and/or other evergreens in your garden, alongside flowering annuals or perennials. 

Consider growth rate. “Don’t plant a really fast-growing plant with a plant that grows slower,” says Jordi. “It can overwhelm. A sweet-potato vine can take over a whole pot.” Most plant labels will reference how fast a plant grows.

Design for balance. This means thinking about height, trailers, ground cover, dark versus light green, and different flower colors. When it comes to a container on a patio, Jordi also says to consider the viewer’s perspective. “It’s important to keep interest depending on where you put the pot. Do you need
360 degrees of interest or just 180?” 

Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize. When combining plants, it’s particularly important to make sure they get adequate nutrition besides water and sunlight. “The roots get all tangled together, so make sure you feed them,” Devin says. “That’s why everything looks so good in the greenhouse. We feed our plants.”

Water deeply. For the same reason—intertwining roots and plants that grow to different depths—
it’s important to water plant combinations all the
way to the base. “Don’t just pour water on top,” she says. “Water down to the base.” Make sure your planter has a drainage hole. Also, don’t neglect the sides of a container, which can dry out faster in the Panhandle wind.

When all else fails, go with geraniums. “I think everyone knows these are our favorites,” Jordi says. “We grow them every year. You get so much color for one plant—lots more bang for your buck.”