Porch Plant Primer


Porch Plant Primer

This week we visited KSL’s Studio 5 to give some tips on porch plants. Here’s a list of the plants we showed, plus some bonus tips that didn’t make it into the segment.

Studio 5 porch plantsGetting Started

First things first – consider the sun exposure your pot will get. Do you have a north-facing porch that is shaded all day? Does your front door face west, and get sunshine in the hottest part of the day? What about east-facing, where you get some cool morning sunshine, but shade in the afternoon? Then there’s south facing, which gets moderate sunshine most of the day. Don’t forget to look at the big picture –  you may have a south-facing porch, but it’s covered, or there’s a tree nearby that offers shade.

Once you’ve determined how much sun or shade your porch plants will get, consider what kind of plants you would like. Do you want something perennial that will come back year after year? If this is the case, be sure to select a pot that can withstand Utah’s cold winter weather. Plastic or resin are good choices.

There are a few different options you can go with as far as plant design. One that we’ve discussed here on the blog before is the thrill, fill, spill technique. Alternatively, you could plant all one type of plant, or even a single shrub or small patio tree.


On the Show

Curious what plants we used on the show? Here’s the complete list.


Shade Plants:

Screenshot (10)

  • Coleus
  • Red spike


Sun Plants:

Screenshot (3)

  • African daisy
  • Marigold
  • Million bells
  • Sedge grass
  • Creeping jenny
  • Creeping charlie
  • Sweet potato vine


Filtered Sun Plants:

Screenshot (15)

  • Hellebore
  • Coral bells
  • Ajuga
  • Creeping jenny


Pizza Garden:

pizza garden

  • San Marzano tomato
  • Hot pepper
  • Walla walls onion
  • Italian parsley
  • Oregano
  • Basil


For a salsa garden, use cilantro as the herbs, and a jalapeño pepper. Container gardens that will produce fruit are best for porches that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. 


Trouble Shooting

Can’t seem to keep your porch plants alive? Chances are, the problem is with water—either too much or to little of it. The best way to combat this is by monitoring the moisture in your pots. You can do this by sticking a wooden chopstick down to root level in the pot, and checking to see if it is damp when you pull it out. A foolproof way of doing this is with a digital moisture monitor. West-facing porch plants may actually need water twice a day to stay hydrated, while a shaded pot may not even need daily watering. The only way to know when your plants need water is to check the moisture level.

Using good potting soil will help retain moisture, but you can also find soil additives that will further maximize moisture retention. A new company out of Morgan, Utah, produces a soil additive that is a combination fertilizer and moisture retention product, and it is actually just made of wool! If you use an additive to retain moisture, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have to monitor moisture. The additive is just an extra step you can take to ensure that your plants are hydrated and happy.

Another tip for west-facing porches is to choose light-colored pots. Potted plants are extra vulnerable to hot and cold, because their root systems are more exposed to the elements than if they were planted in the ground. A lighter-colored pot will keep those sensitive roots cooler.

Here’s a trouble shooting tip for all porch plants, sun or shade: remove spent foliage and pests. If the flowers on your plants have bloomed and are headed downhill, remove them! You don’t want the plant to continue putting energy into flowers or leaves that are spent, so just clip them off. And of course, if you notice insects, be sure to remove them to prevent putting your plant into distress. (Distressed plants attract more bugs, and no one wants that).


Find Out More 

We learned all of this information by talking with the experts in our Salt Lake County Extension office. Your local Extension office is a great resource! Find your local office here.

All of our plants and materials used on the show (including the wool soil additive) were generously loaned to us from Millcreek Gardens.

For more gardening information, visit garden.usu.edu.

This article was written by Marta Nielsen, Live Well Utah blog editor, marta.nielsen@usu.edu

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