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10 Best Container Gardening Plants

Container gardening continues to be hot. Homeowners like that containers are easy to plant and maintain. They also like that the containers themselves can be moved around the yard to inject color and interest wherever needed. Here are some of the best plants for container gardening.

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‘Pretty Pistachio’ and ‘Appletini’ Coralbells

Primo ‘Pretty Pistachio’ and Dolce ‘Appletini’ (shown here) may be coralbells (Heuchera spp.), but they have enough pizzazz to hold interest by themselves, making them one of the best plants for growing in garden containers. ‘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 is decorated with an intriguing silver overlay for added appeal. Both perennials are hardy in Zones 4-9, preferring part shade but accepting full shade. Available wherever Proven Winners plants are sold or from Walters Gardens.

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ColorGrass Spiky Blue Corynephorus

This upright perennial grass reaches about 1 ft. tall and 8 in. wide, so it’s a natural as a groundcover or front-of-border plant. But the blue-gray spiky foliage is pretty enough to hold a container garden. Better yet, ColorGrass Spiky Blue is heat- and drought-tolerant, so it will hold up with minimal maintenance as landscaping bushes. Hardy in Zones 6-9, it can be treated as an annual in other areas. Seeds available from Stokes Seeds.

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Baby Cakes Blackberry

Who wants to use blackberry in container gardening? They’re thorny and gangly! Well, Baby Cakes is a dwarf blackberry without thorns. Its compact habit (maturing at 3-4 ft. tall and wide) is perfect for patio pots. Baby Cakes offers up large, tasty blackberries in summer and may produce an encore crop later in the season in some climates. It is hardy in Zones 4-8. In cold climates, mulch or bury the pot for winter protection. Available from Stark Bros.

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Although usually grown as an annual, violas are frost-tolerant and many overwinter successfully. Their compact size and free-flowering habit are a good fit for container gardening. There are a range of bright, festive colors, including white, lilac, purple, yellow and orange. This mix of lemon and peach colors is called Sunset Boulevard. Violas are available at your favorite local garden retailer.

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Profusion Red Zinnia

Profusion zinnias are beloved for their compact size, disease resistance, and lasting blooms among garden flower plants. This newest addition to the series offers the same features but with a true red color that won’t fade in summer sunlight. A 2017 All-America Selections Winner, Profusion Red is the fourth color in the single flower series to win the coveted AAS Winner award. It looks great in borders and in container gardening. Seed available from J.W. Jung Seed.

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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. Seeds available from J.W. Jung Seed.

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Jolt Pink Dianthus

This dianthus features large, brightly colored fringed flower heads on strong stems. Dianthus typically prefers cooler spring temperatures, but Jolt Pink is heat-tolerant so it should perform well all summer long because it’s one of the best plants for pots outdoors. It’s an easy-to-grow flower for those who like their container gardening neat and tidy. Jolt Pink is hardy from Zones 7-10, or grow it as an annual. Available from Park Seed.

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Ornamental Peppers

These heat-loving summer annuals are full of bright, cheerful fruit to rival the showstopping power of flowers. They’re some of the best plants for pots outdoors. Colors of the Salsa Mix (shown) include red, orange and yellow, but some ornamental peppers have purplish foliage and fruits. The compact size and nicely branched habit of ornamental peppers make them a natural for container gardening. They’ll have the most fruit in full sun but will take part shade. Plants and seeds are available at your favorite local garden retailer.

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‘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 summer in a shady spot by itself or with companions. The textured, variegated leaves are silver-gray and green, providing eye appeal all on their own. But they’re topped by delicate white flowers in late summer. Available from Summer Hill Seeds.

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Very Berry Creeping Wintergreen

Very Berry creeping wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a tender perennial that’s hardy in Zones 6-9 but can be grown as an annual elsewhere. Very Berry offers glossy, dark leaves—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 another bit of visual interest, so it’s great for container gardening and is one of the best plants for pots outdoors. Available from Stokes Seeds.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.