Containers: summer selection

You can create glorious pot displays throughout the summer months by planting up containers with summer bedding or even hardy perennials. A colourful container can be used for lighting up a patio, deck, balcony or even a dull spot in a border.

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Themed containers can be grouped for a high-impact display
Themed containers can be grouped for a high-impact display


For successful summer displays, choose plants that flower over a long period of time, respond well to deadheading and are tolerant of container cultivation. A wide range of suitable plants should be available in most garden centres from late March onwards. However, don't plant them out until the risk of frost has passed in your area.

Practical considerations

When planting up summer containers, remember:

  • The mainstay of summer containers are tender perennials, often referred to as 'patio plants'. Those such as fuchsia can overwintered in the greenhouse as plants or rooted cuttings or bought fresh each year
  • Annual bedding plants are also good candidates and include nasturtium and pot marigold
  • It is possible to use hardy perennial plants, such as lavender, which can eventually be planted out in the garden
  • Choose a focal plant such as a structural shrub or annual climber grown on a small tripod for the centre of the scheme
  • Surround the focal plant with a mix of upright bedding plants and some that trail over the side of the container. Plant at least three of each
  • Link the scheme together by repeating some of the same plants in each container and consider restricting the colour scheme
  • Combine plants that have similar requirements; most summer bedding plants do best in full sun but some, such as begonias and tobacco plants, will tolerate light shade
  • Where daily watering is impossible, consider drought-resistant plants

Suitable plants

Whatever the style or situation, there are summer container plants to suit;

Focal point: Argyranthemum (marguerite) grown as standards, dahlia, fuchsia, Lantana, lavenderPhormium and salvia.

Upright (larger): Ageratum, Brachyscome iberidifolia (swan river daisy), Diascia, heliotrope, Lantana, marguerite, OsteospermumPelargonium, salvia, VerbenaZinnia.

Trailing: Calibrachoa (million bells), ivy-leaved pelargoniums, lobelia (Lobelia erinus Cascade Series), petunia (Surfinia types) and Verbena (trailing).

Light shade: Begonia, Glechoma hederacea 'Variegata' (ground ivy), Impatiens walleriana (busy Lizzies), Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (creeping Jenny), Mimulus × hybridus (monkey flower), Solenostemon scutellaroides (coleus), Chaenostoma cordatum 'Snowflake' (Bacopa), Torenia.

Drought tolerant: Aeonium 'Zwartkop', Echeveria, Mesembryanthemum, sedum.

Foliage: Coleus, Dichondra 'Silver Falls', Helichrysum petiolare, Senecio.

Scented: heliotrope, Lobularia maritima (alyssum), Matthiola (stocks), NemesiaNicotiana (tobacco plant).

Hot tropical: Begonia (tuberous), Bidens, Canna, Coleus, Gazania, Lantana, Tagetes (French and African marigolds).

Cool and calm: Alyssum, French lavender (Lavanula stoechas and L. dentata), Lobelia, marguerite.


10 AGM perennials for containers
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