Choosing the best plants for container gardens
. Some plants are better suited for growing in containers than others. These plants tend to have abundant flowers, colorful foliage, or graceful trailing stems. They may also be more durable and able to withstand harsh conditions. No matter what the reason, these plants are the best choices for growing in containers.
16 of the Best Container Plants
Below is a list ofcontainer garden favorites that are new and reliable.
Canna (Canna spp. and hybrids)
Cannas are a great choice for summer containers because they continue to grow bigger and better as the summer goes on, and you don’t need very many of them to make a big impact. If they’re hardy in your area, you can leave them in pots year-round. If not, dig up the rhizomes after frost has killed the foliage and store them in barely damp peat moss in the basement until spring, when you can plant them outdoors again. The pretty blooms attract hummingbirds, but the large leaves are the real star. You’ll find varieties with green, burgundy, and even variegated foliage.
Late-season sages (Salvia spp. and hybrids)
It’s hard to believe that the small number of blooming spikes on these tender sages could make a big impact in the fall garden, but they actually get better as the season goes on and keep going even in cooler temperatures.
What makes these plants special is that they’re able to thrive in difficult conditions. They can survive without much water, handle high temperatures, and are not affected by humidity. Also, deer don’t typically eat them. They’re also appealing to pollinators like hummingbirds.
New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hybrids)
The process of taking care of New Guinea impatiens is very simple and only requires planting them and watering them regularly. These plants are also self-cleaning, so you won’t have to do any deadheading. However, if they are in containers, you may have to sweep up any fallen petals.
The most important thing to remember about New Guinea impatiens is to keep them watered, as they will droop when the soil gets dry. Although they will improve with more moisture, getting too dry too often will cause them to produce fewer flowers and have less foliage.
Payprus (Cyperus papyrus and Cyperus involucrata)
Papyrus elevates a container beyond the average due to its tall, slender stems topped with tufts of foliage. While it provides structure and height to a planting, it doesn’t take away from the other colorful components. Papyrus is perfect for small containers. It can be potted and brought indoors to overwinter, but will need some light and may lose leaves. In the spring, it can be set outside again and new sprouts will take off.
Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa hybrids)
The plant Calibrachoa is good for hanging baskets because it hangs down, and one plant can cover a small container. The flowers of Calibrachoa slow down during hot weather but start blooming again when the weather gets cooler. If the plant gets enough water, it will bloom until there is frost or the days get shorter.
Coleus (Plectranthus hybrids)
Coleus is a very versatile plant! You can grow it by itself or with other annuals, and it grows quickly. If it gets too tall at the end of summer, just pinch it back. That’s all there is to it!
Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeriana)
Slightly shiny purple foliage on Persian shield plants makes a great contrast or backdrop for other plants with bright-colored flowers. The foliage color is best in part shade. Persian shield also has pale blue blossoms in late summer or fall. You can leave the blossoms on the plant or pinch them off. Don’t let the soil get too dry or the plant will drop leaves. Persian shield overwinters nicely indoors as a houseplant.
Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia)
Just like any other plant, Angelonia needs a good amount of nutrients and water to grow properly. Too little and the plant will suffer, too much and the plant will drown. A simple weekly dose of water-soluble fertilizer and some TLC in the form of deadheading will keep your Angelonia looking its best.
Geranium (Pelargonium hybrids)
The plants mentioned in the text do well in hot weather and can go a while without water, making them good candidates for plants to keep in containers. There is a large variety of colors available for these plants. Some varieties have flowers that look like tulips, rosebuds, or cactus flowers. Another way to add interest to a traditional planting is to choose a variety with interesting leaves, such as leaves with a zone of a different color in the center.
Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas)
This tender perennial is popular because of the burgundy, brown, gold, or variegated leaves. Occasionally, the tips of the stems should be cut back a couple of inches to keep the vine under control. It grows quickly, so a small plant can be used to get big rewards in a short amount of time.
Winged begonia (Begonia hybrids)
The winged begonia is a tough and drought-resistant plant that is known for its clean foliage and its prolific blooms. The colors of the plant hold best in afternoon shade, but it can also tolerate full sun. The plant is self-cleaning, so the flowers drop off as they fade and you never need to deadhead.
Starflower (Pentas lanceolata)
If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, starflowers are the way to go. They flock to them as soon as they see one. Place it in the middle or back of your container. Starflowers need sun and heat to bloom, so don’t put them out until summer arrives. Remove the spent flowers for a tidier plant and more blooms.
Fanflower (Scaevola aemula)
This is a great annual to drape over the edge of a mixed container, regardless of your color preference. The plant gets its common name from the flower petals that resemble fans. It is drought- and heat-tolerant, meaning it will survive if you forget to water it occasionally. You also don’t have to deadhead it, but you may want to trim a few stems back every now and then to keep the plant looking tidy.
Petunia (Petunia hybrids)
Petunias are great because they come in many colors and only need full sun to thrive. Every few weeks, cut some of the stems back to encourage more side branches and flowers.
Rex begonia (Begonia rex)
A Rex Begonia with silver leaves is a great way to brighten up a shady corner. Most cultivars have other colors in their leaves, but the silver color makes them stand out. Keep these plants out of direct sunlight or the leaves will get scorched. The ideal soil is moist but not wet. Feed the plants with a water-soluble organic fertilizer at half strength every two weeks.
Euphorbia (Euphorbia hypericifolia)
Do you use baby’s breath in your bouquets? You’ll love this annual euphorbia in your mixed containers if you do. Diamond Frost is the standard white, but Breathless Blush, with burgundy-speckled leaves and pale pink flowers, is also available. Keep in mind that wet soil can be fatal and make sure to let plants dry out between waterings. When planting, make sure that all of the companions in your container like the same conditions.
Frost-Tender Perennials and Annuals for Full-Sun Containers
You can grow lantana as a perennial or annual and it will look great in sunny, hot conditions. This especially colorful variety is perfect for containers because it has a dense, compact growth habit and doesn’t stop blooming. It can get up to 30″ tall and wide and grows best in zones 9-11, but can be grown as an annual in any zone.
A Petchoa is a hybrid flower that combines the best features of petunias and calibrachoas. SuperCal is a variety of Petchoa that is prized for its continuous abundant blooming. Hummingbirds are especially drawn to the brightly colored blossoms of the SuperCal (as are we). This variety of Petchoa is an excellent choice for hanging baskets or for combo container plantings in sunny areas. SuperCal grows to a height of 14 inches and a width of 18 inches. It is hardy in plant hardiness zones 10-11 but can be grown as an annual flower in any zone.
The Timeless series of Bidens are perfect for blooming all season in a sunny container with its bright, cheerful flowers on an upright and compact habit. They are able to brighten up window boxes and containers while also looking great in a bouquet. They can grow up to 14″ tall and wide and are in zones 9-11, but can also be grown as an annual in all zones.
These sunflowers only need a sunny location and they will provide an abundance of blooms from spring until frost. They are heat resistant and actually do better with a bit less water than most plants need when grown in containers. They can get up to 32 inches tall and 40 inches wide. They grow best as an annual in all zones.
Purple Fountain Grass
A drought-tolerant grass that is beautiful in containers as a specimen or “thriller” in a mixed container planting. This grass can handle the heat of the summer and will look great. It can grow up to 4′ tall and 3′ wide. Zones 8-11 (grow as an annual in all zones).
Full-Sun Perennials for Containers in Zones 4-9
Nitty Gritty Pink Rose
You can grow roses in containers. The Nitty Gritty™ Roses are tough and beautiful. The pink blooms are bright in hot summer weather and look great in large containers.
Giga Blue Pincushion Flower
This pincushion flower is one of the largest around! With a width of 3″, honey-scented blooms, and a compact mound of fine, fuzzy foliage, it is perfect for sunny containers. Up to 20″ tall and 15″ wide, this flower is sure to make a statement in your garden. Zones 4-9.
Fanfare Citronella Blanket Flower
This plant has bright yellow flowers that will last from summer until the first frost if you remove the dead flowers. It is a perennial that is easy to take care of and does well in sunny areas. It can grow to be 22 inches tall and 16 inches wide and does well in zones 5-9.
Little Night European Meadow Sage
A tough, heat-loving sage perfectly suited for mixed containers in sunny locations. Vibrant purple-violet flower spikes cover the mounded foliage in late spring and late summer.
Bronze Carpet Stonecrop
We love Bronze Carpet for containers because it is a unique bronze-red color, has a ground-hugging habit that cascades over the edge of containers, and has dainty pink flowers that add a touch of whimsy.
Succulents Perfect for Containers
This agave grows slowly and looks beautiful in a container in full sun, where its unique “threads” can catch the light and be admired up close. However, be careful not to get too close, as each white hair has a sharp spine at the end! Mature plants produce a 10′ tall flower spike. It is up to 2′ tall and 3′ wide. Zones 8-11.
Retro Succulents Guido Aloe
This is a wonderful succulent that can tolerate both heat and drought, and can be kept as a houseplant when the weather gets cooler. It has a pale green rosette with creamy stippling and fringed edges, and bright red-orange flower spikes appear from summer to fall. It slowly grows to 8″ tall and wide. Zones 9-11.
Topsy Turvy Echeveria
This Echeveria has unique ice-blue rosettes with thick, upward-curving leaves that add extraordinary texture and color to container plantings. It is a must-have addition to your indoor succulent collection! It is up to 12″ tall and wide and is hardy in zones 9-11.
Herbs for Sunny Containers
Tuscan Blue Rosemary
This herb is a great choice for container gardens in full sun because it is heat tolerant and has aromatic, needle-like foliage. It also produces a profusion of tiny blue flowers. Planting in a container also gives you the ability to bring it indoors for winter and enjoy it year-round. This herb can grow up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, but can also be kept smaller in pots. It is zones 8-11.
Thumbelina Leigh English Lavender
This lavender is compact, aromatic, and beautiful, with a profusion of violet-blue blooms that return up to three times a season. This tidy, upright selection is a must-have for any sunny container garden. It can grow up to 18″ tall and 12″ wide. It is hardy in zones 5-9.
Plants for Tropical Containers
Electric Pink Cordyline
This selection of cordyline has dark maroon leaves with bright pink edges, adding a splash of color to the classic cordyline structure. It looks amazing in containers on its own or with companions. It grows up to 4 feet tall and wide and is hardy in zones 9-10.
Jazzy Jewel Gold Hibiscus
A Jazzy Jewel hibiscus is essential for a tropical container garden. These plants are known for their large, long-lasting, and vibrantly colored flowers, as well as their glossy deep green foliage. They can grow up to 5 feet tall and wide and are best suited for zones 9-11.