Most of us fill our pots and containers with annuals, which flower for ages and provide maximum impact. They only last for one season, however, and have to be discarded after flowering. This makes them quite high maintenance and expensive.
Growing perennials in pots is a good idea because the plants require much less maintenance than annual displays. They may cost more than bedding plants initially, but grow into substantial plants that you can later transplant into the garden. Perennial plants should last for several years in a container, after which time you can divide them and plant them back into the pot in fresh compost, or move to the garden.
Many perennials are less showy than many annuals, so the trick is to go for flowering plants with long-lasting flowers, but also offer attractive foliage or interesting texture. Grow them in large pots, in good-quality, peat-free multi-purpose compost, and keep well watered.
Here are some beautiful perennials to try.
Lavender likes good drainage, so be sure to incorporate some horticultural grit into your compost when planting. Grow in full sun. Most varieties are evergreen and fully hardy; Lavender stoechas, pictured, needs protection over winter in colder areas. Watch Monty Don plant lavender and pelargoniums in pots.
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is a short-lived perennial wallflower that is in flower virtually all year round in mild areas. Grow it on its own, or underplant with spring bulbs. Trim back flower spikes after flowering. Each plant only lasts a few years, but is easily replaced with fresh plants taken from cuttings.
Penstemons produce foxglove-like flowers for months on end, in shades of purple, pink and red. They are semi-evergreen and hardy, but you could take cuttings to ensure plants for next year. Don’t cut back until the spring, once the worst of the winter weather has passed. Read our Grow Guide to penstemons.
The flowers of daylilies (Hemerocallis) only bloom for day, but they produce bloom after bloom, giving a display for many weeks. Divide day lilies or replace every three or four years to prevent the roots becoming congested and to ensure the best display of flowers.
The grey-blue, evergreen foliage of Festuca glauca combines well with a wide range of plants throughout the year – it looks especially good with white, bright pinks and reds, or lime greens and acid yellows. Try this combination with euphorbia and lime heather.
Heucheras are evergreen plants grown mostly for their foliage, which comes in a wide range of colours, from acid yellow to dark purple. They also bear spikes of tiny flowers in summer. They make a great foil for other plants – try this combination with cyclamen and skimmia.
Hellebores are among the first plants to flower – they brighten up our gardens in January and February and often welcome nectar for bees. Growing them in pots on the patio means you can enjoy them at close range without. Discover more plants for winter containers.
There are many varieties of hosta to choose from, all grown mostly for their bold foliage, which ranges from deep to acid green. They are ideal for a shady spot and combine well with other more showy plants. They are very susceptible to munching by slugs and snails but are easier to protect in pots – surround the pot with copper tape.