10 Best Container Gardening Plants

Updated: Apr. 05, 2024

Container gardening provides a simple way for you to plant and maintain flowers and foliage, allowing you to easily move them around to spruce up any corner of your space.

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Container gardening plants are specifically chosen and grown in containers or pots rather than in the ground. “Planting in containers creates an opportunity to grow anything, anywhere, without limitations such as soil type and sun exposure,” says Linda Vater, a garden designer, stylist and author of two gardening books. Containers provide an opportunity to showcase a homeowner’s unique style and personality and to cultivate plants that might not thrive in the local climate, such as tropical or desert varieties, she notes.

“Plants can be displayed in containers outdoors throughout the warmer season and easily relocated into a greenhouse or indoors for the winter,” says Vater, who is also a plant expert at Southern Living Plant Collection. “Container gardening can also be a fun and rewarding way for beginner gardeners to experiment with different plants, learn their needs and build confidence before tackling larger gardening projects.”

“When shopping for container plants, consider size and space requirements, light needs, watering frequency and container compatibility,” says Kelly Funk, President and CEO of Park Seed and Jackson & Perkins. She also says climate conditions and maintenance preferences are other important factors. Read on for the best container gardening plants on the market.

'Pretty Pistachio' and 'Appletini' Coralbells via Proven Winners

‘Pretty Pistachio’ and ‘Appletini’ Coralbells

Primo ‘Pretty Pistachio’ and Dolce ‘Appletini’ (shown here) may be coralbells (Heuchera), but they have enough pizzazz to hold interest by themselves, making them one of the best plants for container gardening. ‘Pretty Pistachio’ features medium-pink flowers rising above mounded chartreuse foliage all summer long. ‘Appletini’ offers ruby-red flowers on dark-red stems from early to midsummer. Its light-green foliage features an intriguing silver overlay for added appeal. Both perennials are hardy in Zones 4-9, preferring part shade but accepting full shade.

ColorGrass Spiky Blue Corynephorus via Ball Seed

ColorGrass Spiky Blue Corynephorus

Standing at just 1 ft. tall and 8 in. wide, this upright perennial grass is perfect for groundcover or as a front-of-border plant. However, its striking blue-gray spiky foliage also makes it an excellent choice for container gardening. ColorGrass Spiky Blue is heat- and drought-tolerant, needing minimal maintenance, and is hardy in Zones 6-9, or it can be used as an annual elsewhere.

According to Vater, flanking an entryway with symmetrical container plantings can create a lush appearance, even without a lawn or the ability to do in-ground plantings. For dramatic height and color variation throughout the seasons, she recommends selecting a shrub with evergreen foliage and a strong upright habit.

Baby Cakes Blackberry via Bushel and Berry

Baby Cakes Blackberry

Who wants to use blackberries in container gardening? They’re thorny and gangly, you might think. However, Baby Cakes is a dwarf blackberry without thorns. Baby Cakes offers up large, tasty blackberries in summer and may produce an encore crop later in the season in some climates. “It’s ideal for container gardening due to its compact size and thornless, dwarf growth habit. It typically reaches a manageable height of around 3 to 4 feet, making it suitable for small spaces like patios and balconies,” says Funk.

Viola via Pan American Seed


Violas are ideal for container gardening because they are frost-tolerant and many overwinter successfully. “Their small size also means they can be grouped closely, creating a dense and colorful display in containers,” explains Funk. They are known for their prolific flowering, providing continuous blooms and vibrant color throughout the growing season, she adds.

Profusion Red Zinnia via All-America Selections

Profusion Red Zinnia

Profusion zinnias are loved for their small size, disease resistance and long-lasting blooms. The newest addition, Profusion Red, maintains these traits but offers a vibrant red color that won’t fade in the summer sun. According to Funk, Profusion Red Zinnia has a compact, bushy growth habit, making it ideal for containers as it won’t outgrow them too quickly. “They are low-maintenance, requiring regular watering and occasional fertilization, making them suitable for novice gardeners or those with busy schedules,” says Funk.

Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet via Ball Seed

Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet

Here’s a plant with real stage presence when it comes to container gardening. Use it by itself or to back up smaller companions—just be sure to put it in a large pot. Purple Majesty ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) grows 4-5 ft. tall and 8-12 in. wide. Its attractive foliage takes on a darker hue of purple in full sun to make it among the best flower landscape ideas. Purple Majesty is heat-tolerant and low-maintenance, and it offers interest from spring till early fall. In some climates, it holds on long enough to add winter interest as well.

Jolt Pink Dianthus via All-America Selections

Jolt Pink Dianthus

This dianthus boasts large, brightly colored fringed flower heads on strong stems. While dianthus typically prefers cooler spring temperatures, Jolt Pink thrives in heat and should perform well all summer. It’s an easy-to-grow flower, perfect for those who prefer neat container gardening. Jolt Pink is hardy in Zones 7-10, or it can be grown as an annual. “Lush greenery, pops of color and interesting textures instantly elevate your home’s exterior,” notes Funk.

Ornamental Peppers via Pan American Seed

Ornamental Peppers

These heat-loving summer annuals boast bright, cheerful fruit that rivals the show-stopping power of flowers. The Salsa Mix (shown) offers colors like red, orange and yellow, while some ornamental peppers feature purplish foliage and fruits. They thrive best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

“Ornamental peppers have a vigorous and bushy growth habit, so they are perfect for containers,” explains Funk. Their compact size allows for easy placement in decorative pots, adding visual interest to gardens. “Very well-branched, this upright plant makes a good showing alone in the container or as part of a mixed foliage or flower-and-foliage design,” says Funk.

Emerald Lace Plectranthus via Ball Seed

‘Emerald Lace’ Plectranthus

This drought-tolerant tropical is better known as a houseplant, but it can be used in outdoor container gardening, too. Let it vacation outdoors in the summer in a shady spot by itself or with companions. The textured, variegated leaves are silver-gray and green, providing a visually-appealing look. They’re also topped by delicate white flowers in late summer.

Very Berry Creeping Wintergreen via Ball Seed

Very Berry Creeping Wintergreen

Very Berry creeping wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a tender perennial hardy in Zones 6-9, but it can be grown as an annual elsewhere. It features glossy, dark leaves that serve as the perfect backdrop for small, white, bell-shaped flowers in summer and bright-red, aromatic berries in early fall. The foliage later turns purplish, adding to its appeal. According to Funk, incorporating evergreens into a landscape will ensure year-round visual interest.

Why Trust Us

I’m an award-winning garden editor with 25 years of experience in horticultural communications. My extensive background includes editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. My journalism degree, along with my horticulture studies and Master Gardener certification, gives me the expertise to offer valuable insights and recommendations for container gardening.

We interviewed Kelly Funk, the President and CEO of Park Seed and Jackson & Perkins, for expert insights on container gardening. Leveraging her passion for gardening, Funk leads the strategic vision and end-to-end customer experience for her company. With leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies like Target and Best Buy, Funk boasts a unique blend of business acumen and gardening expertise.

We also consulted Linda Vater, a plant expert for the Southern Living Plant Collection. Vater is a self-taught garden designer, stylist and content creator. She boasts more than 420,000 social media followers and has written two top-selling garden books. She produces garden-related media for TV and magazines and even has her own garden product line at QVC.