Pots and containers offer the gardener great versatility, and are a fantastic way to experiment with planting and design. From short-term bedding displays to permanent features of small trees and topiary, planting in pots adds another dimension to the garden, softening corners, brightening dull spots and providing instant, yet easily changeable, results.
When choosing your pot, stick to just one or two different materials. Take your cue from the style of the house and garden – red brick buildings are enhanced by terracotta containers, while a modern plot is the best backdrop for galvanised metal pots.
Bigger pots have more impact and plants growing in them won’t dry out as quickly, but an eclectic group of small containers creates a quirky, ever-changing scene. Repetition can be effective – garden designers often use three or more identical containers planted with the same plants, for maximum impact.
Best plants for pots all year-round
Some plants work well in pots all year round. These include hardy evergreen foliage plants like yucca, ivy, variegated euonymus and heuchera, and flowering plants like Skimmia japonica and hebes. Evergreens tend to be best for year-round pot displays as they are always in leaf and therefore always have something to offer the display. Match them with plants that flower at different times – from spring through to winter. Planting long-flowering plants like perennial wallflowers, which may bloom for 12 months of the year if mild, will add to your display.
Browse our list of 10 plants for pots and containers, below.
The best 10 plants for pots and containers
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.
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.
This male form is blessed with glossy evergreen leaves, and an abundance of tiny red buds through the winter, which open to pinky-white flowers in spring.
Hostas make beautiful architectural plants, and work well in containers, either alone or with other plants. Try combining with bleeding heart, or other foliage plants, such as heucheras.
Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
Fountain grass is a real show-stopper. Grow in large pots with alliums for dramatic impact, or on its own to make a statement. ‘Rubrum’ has graceful stems and red-tinged, squirrel-tail flowers that fade to beige in autumn. Protect from frost in winter.
The ‘Buzz’ series of buddleias is compact, making them perfect for growing in pots. While they don’t flower all year round and need to be pruned back in spring, they will form a perennial display that you can complement with other plants that flower at different seasons.
Many hebes are compact enough to grow in pots. Most have evergreen leaves and their flowers last well into autumn and even winter when conditions are mild. Flowers range in colour from pinks to purples and whites.
Agapanthus work well in pots, as they do best when their roots are slightly restricted. Grow them on their own or pair with other plants that flower at different times of year. Most agapanthus are evergreen but there are some deciduous types.
Many varieties of dogwood, including cultivars of Cornus alba, Cornus sanguinea and Cornus sericea, have beautifully colourful winter stems, and work well in pots. They make an excellent backdrop for other winter perennials, and you can choose plants (such as the lavender, hebe and phormium shown in this pic), which will take centre stage when the leaves grow on the cornus stems in spring, dulling its display.
Heuchera are evergreen foliage plants and come in a range of vibrant colours. They’re perfect for using as a foil for other plants, and make excellent long-lasting displays.