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Aug 172012
Window box with pansies

Annuals are ideal container plants. Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

As for choosing plants to place in containers, the sky is the limit. With sufficient attention to detail, almost any small-stature plant that can grow in the garden can be convinced to grow in a container. Part of the fun of container gardening is experimenting with new plants.

However, some plants are definitely more adapted to containers than others. The cornerstone of container gardening are annuals. They can be induced to produce quick, long-lasting color, allowed to decline and die at season’s end, then replaced the following year. In the mean time, the pots can be taken out of the weather, emptied, cleaned, and stored for the next season.

Here are some annual flowers that are easy to grow in containers:

Common Name Scientific Name
Alyssum Lobularia maritima
Browalia Browalia speciosa
Lobelia Lobelia erinus
Marigold Tagetes spp.
Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
Pansy Viola x wittrockiana
Petunia Petunia x hybrida
Salvia Salvia spp.
Snapdragon Anitrrhinum majus
Verbena Verbene a hybrida
Zinnia Zinnia elegans

Geraniums in hanging basket

Geraniums are perennial in pots, if protected in winter. Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Perennials, including bulbs,also make great container specimens. However, they require both larger containers to provide long-term plant needs and attention to winter care to remain healthy during the dormant period. Tender perennials, such as begonia, dianthus, geranium, impatiens, and lantana will need to be moved indoors before frost. Hardy perennials will need some winter protection but can take (even need) cold temperatures. Good perennial subjects for container gardening include the following:

Common Name Scientific Name Season of Bloom
Alumroot Heuchera sanguinea Spring
Basket of Gold Aurinia saxatilis Spring
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis Summer
Chrysanthemum Dendranthema x grandiflora Fall
Coleus* Coleus x hybrida (foliage)
Dahlia* Dahlia x hybrida Summer
Daylily Hemerocallis spp. Summer
False Rock Cress Aubrieta deltoidea Spring
Fringed Bleeding Heart Dicentra eximia Fall
Geranium* Pelargonium x hortorum Summer
Globeflower Trollius europaeus Spring
Impatiens* Impatiens spp. Summer
Lantana* Lantana camara Summer
New York Aster Aster novae-belgii Fall
Pincushion Flower Scabiosa caucasica Summer
Red Valerian Centranthus rubber Summer
Rudbeckia Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii Fall
Stonecrop Sedum spp. Summer

*Tender perennial, susceptible to frost, requires special winter maintenance.

Grass in container

Grasses can thrive in containers. Photo courtesy of Judy Sedbrook

Small to moderate-sized ornamental grasses make great container plants, especially mixed with other plants that add color and texture. Appropriate grasses for containers include:

Common Name Scientific Name
Blue Fescue Festuca spp.
Blue Oat Grass Helictotrichon sempervirens
Blue Wildrye Elymus glaucus
Bulbous Oat Grass Arrhenantherum elatius
Fountain Grass* Pennisetum spp.
Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora
Japanese Blood Grass* Imperata cylindrica
Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea
Reed Canary Grass Phalaris arundinacea
Sedge Carex spp.
Spangle Grass Chasmanthium latifolium
Tufted Hair Grass Deschampsia caespitosa

*Tender perennial, damaged by frost and requires special winter maintenance.

Bulbs blooming in clay pot

Bulbs bloom well in pots. Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Bulbs are good candidates for container gardens. Being perennial, overwintering maintenance concerns apply. Bulb plants that work well include:

Common Name Scientific Name
Agapanthus* Agapanthus africanus
Begonia (Wax Leaf)* Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum
Brodiaea* Brodiaea laxa
Caladium* Caladium x hortulanum
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
Fritillaria Fritillaria imperialis
Glory of the Snow Chionodoxa luciliae
Hyacinth* Hyacinthus orientalis
Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria majalis
Ornamental Onion Alliums spp.
Tulip Tulipa spp.

*Tender bulb, damaged by frost and requires special winter maintenance.

The University of Vermont provides a long list of plants suitable for container planting.

 August 17, 2012