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Top 10 plants for containers

Captivating containers

Containers offer the gardener great versatility, and are a fantastic way to experiment with planting and design.

Container planting recipes

Gardening with containers is something I've always enjoyed. They provide some of the most satisfying gardening experiences, and offer versatility, flexibility and quick results. Whenever I move house and inherit a new garden, one of my first tasks is to plant up a selection of pots to give some instant colour.


Tips for the best pot display

When choosing your pot, as a rule it's better to stick to just one or two different materials to ensure a coherant final display. When making your selection, take your cue from the style of the house and garden. For example, red brick buildings are enhanced by terracotta containers, while a modern plot is the best backdrop for galvanised metal pots.

Cosmos flower

Size really does matter. Bigger pots have more impact and won't dry out as quickly. Alternatively, try an eclectic group of small containers to create a quirky, ever-changing corner. Repetition can be effective, and garden designers will often use three or more identical containers planted with the same plants for maximum impact.

There's no end to the range of plants that can be grown in pots. By combining long-term evergreens with seasonal fillers, a container can provide colour throughout the year.

Containers also give you the opportunity to grow plants that wouldn't otherwise thrive in your garden. Those with chalky alkaline soils can grow acid-loving plants in ericaceous compost, whereas those with heavy clay can enjoy silver-leaved herbs, which need good drainage to survive a wet winter. Even small trees can be grown in pots, and city dwellers could try growing exotics, such as olives and citrus.

Top container annuals

Coreopsis tinctoria 'Mahogany Midget'

These dwarf annuals look great combined with Phormium 'Bronze Baby' for height, along with nasturtiums and purple basil for good measure.

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sonata Series'

The cottage-garden feel of these daisy-like flowers adds a sense of informality and movement to containers. They work well with silver foliage, but they're also effective on their own.

<i>Impatiens walleriana</i>

Impatiens walleriana 'Fiesta White'

I fill my windowboxes with these gorgeous busy Lizzies - they're the perfect choice for my shady terrace. Helped along by plenty of deadheading, they'll flower well into autumn.

Top climbers for pots

Clematis x cartmanii 'Joe'

This evergreen clematis is often sold tied to an upright stake, however, its trailing habit makes it perfect for the edge of a container. Partner the white blooms with spring bulbs for a dash of colour.

Hedera helix 'Ivalace'

Ivies are one of the most useful and attractive of all plants for pots. This one has dark-green, shiny leaves with curled edges.

Top shrubs

Euonymus fortunei Emerald 'n' Gold'

Variegated foliage is a real pick-me-up all year round. For a striking display, try it with creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, tulips, golden narcissi or primroses.

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'

This elegant evergreen shrub has rich mahogany leaves that emerge a pale creamy colour before darkening. Slightly tender, it will need a sheltered spot over winter.

<i>Skimmia japonica</i> 'Rubella'

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'

This male form is my favourite skimmia. It's blessed with glossy evergreen leaves, and an abundance of tiny red buds through the winter, which open to pinky-white flowers in spring.

Hosta 'Night Before Christmas'

I love this hosta, with its flashes of creamy white on dark-green undulating foliage. Planting hostas in pots helps to protect them from slug and snail attack.

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'

Purple fountain grass is a real show-stopper. Best in its own tall container, it has graceful stems and red-tinged squirrel-tail flowers that fade to beige in autumn. It will need frost protection in winter.




Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Top 10 plants for containers
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shize56 24/11/2011 at 15:27

It would useful to have pictures of the plants mentioned on this page.

leggygirl47 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I agree as i don't always recognise names!

Gillyons 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I really need to know what are the most hardy plants for containers. I have had my plants decimated by vine weevils and want to repot ASAP as the garden is bare!!
is ther any plants that will fare well against these evil creatures that will also produc some nice flowers??

si.rollett 24/11/2011 at 15:30

Same as the first to as just starting out.

sterelitza 10/06/2012 at 10:07

My green tennax phormium has flowered this year. Is it possible to grow more plants from the seeds and how can I do this please. Thanks

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