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Top 10 hardy plants for pots for outdoors

Last updated on March 29th, 2022

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For many people, outdoor spaces have become just as important as indoor spaces. Growing beautiful plants in pots is a way to extend the inviting space of the interior, to the exterior. Outdoor potted plants help create ambience and decorate any seating areas where you might spend your time.

Of course, if you are planning on growing plants outdoors they need to be hardy plants if you want something more permanent, ones that can withstand the fluctuating temperatures and will look spectacular no matter what season, or at least survive the winter to promote colour the following spring and summer. That is why we have reviewed our top 10 hardy plants for pots outdoors.

Our favourite potted plants for patios

1. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

Skimmia Rubella is a handsome plant that really does steal the show. Densely branched, it will assume a natural dome shape. Perfect for growing on containers and shrubs

This is an evergreen shrub that is quite compact which makes it suitable for balconies and patios. No matter how small your outdoor space is this shrub is perfect for growing in pots. It is particularly popular outside because it provides beautiful colours all year round. For most of the year, you can enjoy the evergreen foliage, which ranges in shades and is certain to add visual appeal when you are outside.

And then come winter this plant is punctuated by stunning red buds, followed immediately after by fragrant white flowers come spring. This makes it useful, not just aesthetically, but in terms of adding a wonderful scent to your garden. What’s more, the nectar this plant produces is wonderful for attracting bees so anyone can bring bee-friendly plants to their garden and help out the struggling population of bees.

Heavily buzzing bees will no doubt at a symphony of sounds to your outdoor ambience. Rest assured this is a very strong shrub with next to no issues, so you can, as a beginner, plant it and then walk away, just attending to watering when needed. A stunning evergreen plant that is perfect for pots and planters and provides winter colour.


2. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’

Euonymus Emerald n Gold ground cover shrub

This evergreen shrub has variegated foliage, and from looking at it, you can easily see where it gets its name from. The yellow, golden-like hues interspersed with the emerald green. Standing quite tall, emerald and gold are not the only two colours you can enjoy. All year round it will offer a different colour scheme, in the middle of winter becoming pinkish-red.

This is a very versatile plant that is perfect for creating privacy. You can grow this as a hedge or screen in containers, even as small hedges planted in troughs that you might want to sit along the railing to provide you privacy around your balcony or used as stand-alone containers to create smaller spaces within a larger garden. The height can be maintained as you see fit.


3. Laurus Nobilis – Bay Tree

This is a slender, conical tree that takes on a small shape and we have already looked at the topiary version. Again it has dark green foliage that is highly aromatic and can be used in culinary seasonings. It thrives in containers and once it gets established it's very tolerant of drought. More importantly, you can cut and shape it into a topiary form or use it as a formal Hedge in troughs as pictured above.

This plant is a more formal shrub that you can shape into miniature topiary or form as a smaller hedge in a trough, as pictured above. The high-quality appearance they offer adds elegance to any formal garden area.

This particular variety is very hardy so it will survive well outside, it responds well to shaping and pruning so you can have the exact display you want, and of course, offers brightly coloured flowers throughout the year to welcome people to your outdoor space as well as being used as a kitchen herb. Sometimes they will need to be protected with frost fleece in very cold winters.

Learn more about protecting potted plants in winter in this article.


4. Agapanthus

Planting Agapanthus - step by step

The Agapanthus is particularly effective in patio containers. The plant is unique in so far as, when the roots become constricted, more energy is put into creating stunning flowers. This is why it does so well in patio containers, especially slightly smaller containers that for the root construction and, as a result, provide you with an impressive display.

So popular are these plants that they are now a favourite of UK gardens with every colour available from deep blue and violet to pure white, and everything in between. You can get evergreen varieties that provide colour all year round.

Agapanthus
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Learn more about growing Agapanthus in containers in this guide by clicking here


5. Alstroemeria

Alstroemeria

This is the perfect flower to grow in your garden if you plan to take cuttings for displays in your home. The variety ‘Summer Breeze’ is one of many stunning varieties that produce orange and yellow blooms that stand contrasted by the hunter green, and they certainly catch the eye.

It grows in a compact, upright form, so it will stand perfectly when displayed on patio tables, not stretching its growth out to the sides. The stems are quite strong and the upright design is in large part what contributes to the ability to successfully cut stems as they are in full bloom and display them in other parts of your home. This is a perennial plant which means it will flower regularly from June through November and is perfect for growing in containers and grows to around 60-90cm tall.


6. Callistemon viminalis – Bottle Brush

If you were looking for something that's unusual in texture, this native Australian plant is the perfect solution. It is a bottle brush plant so the flower blooms are frothy, and they take on a hot pink colour hence the name. This particular plant can also be used to take cut stems and grow indoors in a vase, offering an aesthetic appeal that differs wildly from the plants you might purchase already cut from the store. It flowers very early and attracts bees and butterflies to your garden. This plant requires a sheltered area so it is perfect for a small corner in your patio or on your balcony.

If you are looking for something that’s unusual in texture, this native Australian plant is the perfect solution. It is a bottle brush plant so the flower blooms are frothy, and they take on a hot pink colour, hence the name.

This particular plant can also be used to take cut stems and grow indoors in a vase, offering an aesthetic appeal that differs widely from the plants you might purchase already cut from the flower shops. It flowers very early and attracts bees and butterflies to your garden. This plant requires a sheltered area so it is perfect for a small corner in your patio or on your balcony. Although it is classed as hardy we recommend covering it with fleece in very cold periods of winter.


7. Hebe ‘High Voltage’

This shrub is incredibly strong and one of the hundreds of varieties of Hebes that can also be used in containers to provide all year round colour. The ‘High Voltage’ variety is an ideal specimen for a container because its smaller size allows it to grow quite contently in small patio pots.

The flowers will appear in the summer on short spikes and grow so much that they envelop the entire shrub. Every spike on the plant will boast a deep, electric blue colour and as the flowers mature they transform into a pure white. But no matter the colour they have, they will attract bees and butterflies easily.

It gets its name from the fact that, during the freezing winter months, the foliage changes colour and is no longer a deep green but a bronze shade, so the leaves and the flowers will transform and change colour throughout the year making it a brilliant choice for containers all year round.


8. Buddleia ‘Buzz’ – Dwarf Butterfly Bush

Buddleia Buzz a true dwarf buddleia that grows to 120cm tall

This dwarf Butterfly Bush can be purchased in a collection known as The Buzz 3 in 1. Why is it called this? Because there are 3 different varieties to choose from, buzz sky blue, buzz ivory and buzz magenta.

The Butterfly Bush is great for attracting butterflies to your garden and it does come in a range of colours, but the problem is butterflies tend to visit just one of the colours, the traditional violet and not so much the other colours.

This is a compact bush and the flower spikes are incredibly fragrant so in addition to the pollinators you can enjoy the aroma it adds to your outdoor seating area. It grows in a compact, upright fashion with flowers all summer long so you don’t need to worry about it spreading too far beyond the perimeter of the pot. Most Buddleias grow far too big for containers so this is a great option for those who can only grow them in containers.

See our article on dwarf Buddleias by clicking here


9. Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’ – Mallow Bush

Lavatera barnsley baby - Another upright beauty is the lavatera. This is a dwarf variety of the commonly found plant among cottage gardens. It has a branching design with soft pink flowers that grow along the racemes.  During the summer the saucer-shaped flowers will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden and is sure to draw the attention of anyone who stops by for a visit. Once it gets established it needs very little maintenance and in fact, will survive through periods of drought just fine.

Another upright beauty is the Lavatera. This is a dwarf variety of the commonly found plant amongst cottage gardens. It has a branching design with soft pink flowers that grow along the racemes.  During the summer the saucer-shaped flowers will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden and is sure to draw the attention of anyone who stops by for a visit. Once it gets established it needs very little maintenance and in fact, will survive through periods of drought just fine.


10. Syringa vulgaris ‘Beauty of Moscow’

Syringa Flowerfest Pink

Another dwarf variety for your patio is this dwarf Lilac. If you have ever grown lilacs you know that they tend to flower at the end of spring but with this dwarf variety, the show doesn’t end then and there. The flowers will continue from spring into summer with a second flush of incredibly fragrant flower clusters that will last until the first frost. This is very neat in compact variety that grows well in pots, brings butterflies, and requires very little maintenance.

Learn more about growing lilac shrubs here


Overall, there are ample flowers that thrive in containers and will do very well when left outside all season long. You can mix and match different containers with any of these top 10 hardy plants in order to generate the flower and colour display that you want most.

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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