Color Combinations for Flower Pots: Color Theory and Common Mistakes

Color has a substantial effect on how your interiors look and feel. Selecting the colors for your container garden is an important design decision. 

Color is perhaps the single most important element used in design, ensuring that your indoor plants are housed in the right ones can be stressful. This guide will help you understand the basics of color theory, give some design tips on how to combine tones and shades, and share some common mistakes to avoid for your garden. 

Color Theory

Colors set mood, tone, create atmosphere, draw attention, or hide details. Here we look at the basics of color theory, the selection of color schemes, and ideas on utilizing color.

The Basics

These are a few basic terms to familiarize yourself with that will help with your research on planter color. 

Primary Colors

Red, blue, and yellow are primary colors that cannot be made from mixing other colors. 

A macro shot of some colorful plastic pieces
A macro shot of some colorful plastic pieces @ StephanHoerold / Getty Images Signature

Secondary Colors

Orange, purple, and green can be made from mixing the primary colors together. 

orange, green and violet colours of textured canvas papers
Orange, green and violet colours of textured canvas papers @ eden004 / Getty Images

Tertiary Colors

The six colors that can be achieved from mixing combinations of primary and secondary colors together. They are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

group of tertiary colours on an isolated white background
Group of tertiary colours on an isolated white background @ eden004 / Getty Images

3 Attributes

Colors have three 3 attributes that allow them to be identified and distinguished from each other.

  • Hue is the identification of the color e.g. red or blue
  • Value is how light or dark a color is 
  • Intensity refers to how strong or dominant the hue is. 
3 attributes of colors
3 attributes of colors @ Internet

Adjusting with Neutrals

With the base color selected, it’s straightforward to create minor variations within the same family. All that needs to be done is to create a combination of that basic color with a neutral color, white, black, or gray. 

  • Tint is the act of lightening a color by adding white to it. 
  • Shade is the act of darkening the color by adding black
  • Tone refers to the brightness or deepness of the color, combine gray into the basic color affects tone.  
Neutral colored planter home decor
Neutral colored planter home decor @ Svetl / Getty Images

The Color Wheel 

Now that we have covered the basics, before jumping into selecting your planter colors, a useful tool to have is the color wheel. 

The color wheel is a decorator’s best friend. In simple terms, it show visual color combinations via a circular arrangement of color hues organized by their relationship with each other. 

A classic color wheel is created with the three primary, the three secondary, and the six tertiary colors. More complex color schemes circles will include more variations including darker shades or brighter tints. Some of the most popular color schemes are explained below.

Analogous

This color combination uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Generally, you would pick two or three colors that are positioned side by side. To avoid this color scheme being overwhelming, choose one as the dominant color, one as the subordinate color, and the last as an accent. This creates cohesion for the overall look. 

Red, orange, and yellow are warm colors that have a close relationship with each other. Paired with cheery flowers, this combination would go especially well with a Farmhouse styled home. 

Analogous color combination
Analogous color combination @ Internet

Blue and green are cool colors that are harmonious and reminiscent of the colors of the sea and sky. These are popular for a coastal style interior design. Flower pots in these shades also have a calming and serene effect. 

Complementary

Complementary colors refer to the colors opposite each other on the color wheel. When the two colors are used next to each other, they create a strong contrast. For example, purple would be complementary to yellow, and green to red. It is easy to see that if overused, such color combinations can be very jarring and cause visual fatigue. 

Wooden blocks with complementary colors on the table.
Wooden blocks with complementary colors on the table @ Ogdum / Getty Images

If you enjoy decorating your garden using the complementary colors technique, use the second color sparingly. A yellow planter in a sea of blue flower pots would be a delightful contrast of color, whereas alternating pots in bright colors like pink and green could be an eyesore. A less aggressive way to do this would be to contrast the planter color to the room’s background.

Triadic

A triadic color combination is the utilization of three colors evenly spaced out on the color wheel that creates a triangle. Using all three colors in equal amounts can be tricky and overwhelming. Instead, pick a main color and two supporting ones for balance.

A triadic color combination of planters @ Merlinus74 / Getty Images

A yellow, blue, orange, color combination of flower pots would be a cheerful mix for your garden. More eclectic and fun in nature, this selection is perhaps for the more free-spirited gardener.  

Tetradic or Rectangular

A rectangular color scheme is when four colors positioned around the color wheel in the shape of a rectangle is used. There is no clear main color, and it is a particularly vibrant, nervous, and colorful scheme. The rectangular scheme is very aggressive, it requires careful management and a very sensitive approach.

Background of Colorful flowers pots
Background of Colorful flowers pots @ Sasha_Suzi / Getty Images

A typical selection for this scheme would be red, blue, green, and yellow. All of these are strong tones for planter gardening, and may compete with the vibrancy of your flowers and plants. 

Monochromatic

A monochromatic color scheme is popular as it is hard to go wrong. This color combination focuses on a single color, then creating variations by incorporating tints, tones, and shades of that hue. This single color expands into the entire wheel palette with varying amounts of value. You can use any one color to create a monochromatic color scheme. 

Monochromatic Fashion and planter Design
Monochromatic fashion and planter design @ Porechenskaya / Canva Pro

The selected color should complement the overall style and flow of the room. For example, a monochromatic gray color combination of flower pots can match an office or home decorated in the minimalist style. Deeper shades for the planters can appear to be more professional, while bright, lighter shades can ope up a room. 

Mistakes to Avoid  

Here are three common errors to avoid when choosing the color of your pots for your garden.

1. Shopping Online: Choosing Only based on Pictures

It is not easy to imagine in your mind’s eye an item on a website’s page in your personal space. A color on a planter that looks good online may look different in your container garden when placed alongside the different elements in your space. 

shopping online
Shopping online @ grinvalds / Getty Images Pro

What to do:

To get a better idea of how the pot’s color would work in your space, arm yourself with a stack of color swaths. After finding a container in the color you like online, match different samples next to the color on your screen. When you have the closest match, take that swath and place it in your space to see how the color works. 

2. Forgetting Balance

When selecting colors, color combinations can easily turn into color competitions. An equal amount of hues in the same space can make it uncomfortable or hard to relax. 

balancing colors
Balancing colors @ doomu / Getty Images

What to do:

Follow the 60-30-10 color rule where 60 per cent of the space contains one main color, 30 percent is another color, and the last 10 per cent is the accent color. Generally, the primary color covers wall spaces and large anchor pieces, the secondary color is for furniture and rugs and creates depth. While the last color is for decorations, art pieces, and small items, it provides greater interest and contrast to your color scheme. Select your pot color accordingly with this helpful guideline to achieve a balance of dimension and details. 

3. Missing the Big Picture

For plant parents, your container garden is often the heart of your home and it takes up a large amount of your energy and attention. Making your garden look the best it can takes up a lot of time. While selecting flower pots in your favorite color and design, it is easy to get bogged down by the details of your garden and miss the bigger picture of the surroundings. You might select a shade that do not necessarily work with your office, living room or patio, or may simply clash with the background.

Architect, interior designer, working with material sample board in office
Architect, interior designer, working with material sample board in office @ microgen / Getty Images

What to do: 

Bear in mind the architectural and design styles of the space, know which colors go better which different styles. Plan ahead with the color wheel concept for a cohesive look for both your garden and the larger landscape before buying your pots.  

Top Tip

Container gardening is a great, healthy hobby. Bringing plants indoors to create a comfortable and relaxing environment should overall be a lighthearted and fun project. While selecting the colors of your plant containers is an important design decision, it should not be something to lose sleep over.

Overall, our top tip is to not feel trapped into a palate. The good thing about plant pot colors is that you do not have to play it too safe, it is a good opportunity to test out trends or go for a bright shade that you may not want to with a more permanent piece of furniture. Plants also often need to be repotted, which gives you a new chance to refresh the planter combinations in your garden and even to experiment with a new color scheme.

Still unsure how to find that perfect color for your planter? Read up more on popular colors of flower pots and ideas on choosing the right plant pot for your interior style with this post on how to choose planter color!

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