Best plants for pots all year round – our favourite picks
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If you have a garden but it’s not conducive to in-ground planting, you can take advantage of pots or containers and still enjoy a variety of plants all year round. If you want to add colour and texture to your garden no matter the season, consider these 10 best plants for pots which will provide you with just that all year round.
As we wanted to focus on plants that provide colour all year round, we have mainly chosen plants that are evergreen to provide all year colour, produce stunning foliage or flowers and obviously grow well in pots. We start with a plant most gardeners will be familiar with, Pieris Forest Flame which is famous for its stunning red growth.
Pieris Forest Flame (Lilly of the valley bush)
Commonly referred to as the lily of the valley bush, not to be confused with other plants also known as lily of the valley, this is an evergreen shrub that does well if it’s grown in rich, acidic soil that is well drained. It thrives in full sun or partial shade and needs the soil prepared much the same way as you would prepare the soil for a rhododendron. Effectively when you add compost or other material to the soil it needs to be properly mixed into the soil before planting rather than just placed as a liner in the hole for planting.
These plants prefer protection against wind and they do well if they get dappled afternoon shade. It will span approximately 1 metre or more in height and spread. Between the months of March and April, you can enjoy white flowers that are very showy and can be deadheaded immediately after flowering to encourage more clusters.
While all the flowers are stunning this evergreen is best known for the colourful leaves it provides which are attractive and glossy in the form of panicles and offer different shades throughout every season including winter. This is a slow growing, dense shrub that produces leaves in with a flame red colour that eventually fade to a light, creamy pink and then eventually become dark green, summertime. There’s so much to enjoy with the forest flame. It is ideal as an informal hedge, a shrub border, or even a specimen plant. Most importantly these shrubs thrive in pots too but remember to use ericaceous compost, ideally a soil-based John Innes mixture.
This small shrub gives bushy growth combined with stunning flowers the colours for which range from purples and whites to pinks and reds. At its maturity, the shrub will reach between 100cm and 200cm in height but there are many dwarf varieties ideal for pots and containers. As mentioned it can be placed in a pot depending on the species. In fact, there are many species of Japanese azalea that are ideally suited to fill a flower bed or container. The soil in said pot or container should be acidic which means ericaceous compost must be used and the position should allow for partial sun or full shade. They produce stunning flowers between April and May so long as it is not overexposed to sunlight and has proper drainage so make sure you have plenty of crockery over the holes in the pot before planting.
When you plant the Japanese azalea in a pot or a container you need to prepare a healthy plant soil mixture and you should select a pot that is wide enough to give the plant plenty of growing space but not large. The depth of your pot is not nearly as important such that if it is too deep but wide enough, you can always save soil by filling in the lower half with rockery, we have even been known to use broken polystyrene. This will also help with proper drainage.
Heuchera Purple Palace (Coral Bells)
When you are looking for a delightful plant for year-round colour but you don’t want to go with the traditional green, the purple Coral Bells is great as it brings to the table a deep purple colour for the foliage. During the summer months that deep purple will be offset by sprays of small white flowers too.
This is a wonderful shrub to plant in pots that you place along borders or to intermix with other green foliage plants so that it adds a lot of variety in different textures. It needs to be grown somewhere with partial or full sun and requires regular watering especially if grown in containers. It will grow in the form of a mound and works very effectively in many garden types. In fact, it is quite exquisite when grouped with plants of similar stature and will flower under some shade so it’s great to use it as an edging plant. This plant makes an excellent choice for containers are is easy to grow and does not get too big. There are also lots of other interesting varieties.
Skimmia Japonica Rubella
This is a handsome plant that really does steal the show. Densely branched, it will assume a natural dome shape. This shrub offers glossy green leaves that are aromatic and then throughout the springtime bring to your garden large clusters of small but very stunning flowers that begin as reddish-pink buds and eventually open to a white, star-shaped flower as pictured above that is incredibly fragrant. Not only will you enjoy stunning aesthetics all year round but you can sit back and breathe in the rich fragrances offered all year round as well. Not every small shrub can offer this. When growing in pots this is an ideal shrub to use around things like storage for your garbage bins because of the fragrance it offers or as a small privacy hedge grown in containers around a seating area.
It requires full to partial shade so make sure you pick a spot in your garden that gives it the right amount of sun without too much. It also needs to be watered regularly. Rest assured it’s very slow growing plant and add its full maturity it won’t get too large when grown in pots. Not only does it offer year-round interest and it’s very easy to care for but it will naturally attract butterflies to your garden which is an added bonus.
The agapanthus offers flowers for a very long amount of time bringing showy flowers of multiple shades from the middle of summer all the way through the beginning of autumn. Suitable for containers it makes for an excellent border plant and it will thrive in the sun, offering something visually appealing all season long. The best part is there are many varieties from which to choose and you can select smaller varieties that don’t grow more than 60cm maximum were others that can reach up to 1.5 meters. Shorter varieties are perfect at the front of a border while taller varieties can be interspersed in the middle of a border. With any variety of agapanthus, you can grow them in containers and they actually like being grown in pots as they prefer to be slightly rootbound too.
More important than the variety are the colours. You can choose pale sapphire blue, rich inky blue, purple, white, or even pink flowers. Pick the flower shade you think would work best in your garden and enjoy the trumpet shape, pendant blooms, or rounded flowerheads they have to offer. Once you have planted in your pots, they require regular watering to get established and they should be given some form of food in springtime once they start to produce flowers. It’s worth noting that some varieties are deciduous so you want to look for evergreen varieties if you want all year round colour.
Callistemon citrinus (Bottlebrush)
Bottlebrush is a broadleaf evergreen that does well in moist, well-drained soil and is one of the rare sun lovers among this list. It needs full sun and in fact, will tolerate soil dryness from time to time. This is an evergreen, upright shrub that when left to its own devices will span up to 2 meters in height and 1m in spread. That being said they grow well in pots which also helps reduce there size. It’s a seasonal bloomer and when it does bloom it gives you showy red flowers but rests assured that the rest of the year you can enjoy fragrant evergreen leaves.
It is not prone to serious insect issues or diseases so it’s incredibly easy to maintain and works very well as a container plant. The flowers offer bushy bright stamens and are grown in cylindrical spikes that look very similar to the bottle brushes you would use to clean out a bottle, hence the name. If you live in a frost-free area you can enjoy flowers intermittently throughout the year and they bring bees to your garden. If you have frost in your area do not worry as you can still enjoy the narrow, elliptical leaves that start off with a copper hue and eventually turn medium green. When they are bruised they offer a lemony citrus scent, which is what gives it the official name. Bottle brushes can be tender in very cold weather so some winter protection is recommended.
Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’ (Tree Mallow)
If you want a terrific display for Summer and Autumn, in particular, this mid-sized bush is what you should choose. At the beginning of Summer, you will notice white flowers inside of which are deep red eyes. These flowers remain in effect throughout the summer and the autumn juxtaposed by grey-green leaves. Optimal growing conditions for this include full sunlight and moist soil. Beyond that, they are fairly easy to grow and don’t require any amendments for soil type or soil pH levels. You can have normal, sand-filled, clay soil, neutral, alkaline, or acidic soil and it will grow just fine.
At full maturity, the height will span between 90 cm and 120 cm. The spread will range between 75cm and 90cm so it’s ideal for pots and containers unlike most other varieties of lavatera that grow much larger.
Dwarf Buddleia Buzz (Butterfly Bush)
This dwarf shrub requires full sun or partial shade and moist soil. On average it will reach a height of just one meter and a spread of just over one meter which is much smaller than nearly all other types of buddleia. It draws a great deal of attention not just from those who planted but from butterflies which is why many people refer to it as the butterfly bush. It offers blooms all summer long until the 1st frost. In fact, the colours are incredible ranging from Ivory to Lavender, magenta, soft pink, velvet, hot raspberry, midnight, and sky blue. In addition to the vibrant shades from which to choose the flowers themselves to grow up panicles offering a collection of small flowers all the way up each stem.
They are not susceptible to any serious pest issues nor are they very invasive. They will bring butterflies and other pollinators to your garden and no matter the colour of the flowers you can sit back and enjoy a subtle scent throughout the summer months. Buddleia Buzz had been specially bred with container growing in mind. The only downside is that it doesn’t look much over winter, however, we loved it so much we had to include it.
The shrub requires full sun or partial shade and is more of a climber than a shrub. It is a dwarf, evergreen clematis which thrives in neutral soil that is well drained. It grows at an average speed and will eventually reach a height and spread of approximately 1 meter which is small in clematis terms making it perfect for growing in pots. Come April and May you can enjoy masses of small, Primrose yellow flowers. It thrives most effectively and larger containers that have some sort of support structure like a trellis. If you have a sunny area of your patio this will be the perfect spot for this plant to grow.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’
The emerald n gold gets its name from the Luminous foliage that takes on dark green centres tinged with gold and pink throughout the Autumn and the winter. This is a plant you will cultivate more for the foliage than for anything else. It does produce flowers at the beginning of Summer but they are very small and few and far between. It has received awards for its glossy, elliptical leaves and once you plant it in your garden you will see why.
This low-growing evergreen shrub takes on a spreading shape. It will reach between 30 and 60cm in height and between 90 and 120 cm in spread so its perfect for using to form a small hedge in troughs too. Wherever the stems touch the ground they will start to take root so growing it in pots or containers actually helps to prevent a more invasive spread and keeps it to that particular container.
If you place the container up against a wall or you add some sort of trellis to the container it will climb vigorously and can be well trained around whatever you wish. Place the container somewhere the plant will receive full sun or full shade and make sure that you water accordingly.