Top 10 Plants for Containers

By Mary H. Dyer | December 10, 2016
Image by Nikki Tiley
by Mary H. Dyer
December 10, 2016

Whether you’re lagging in space, seeking more flexibility, live in a cooler climate or simply enjoy gardening with container plants, we’ve picked some of our favorites to add to your collection. Here are our top 10 plants for containers.


1. Marigolds (Tagetes) – Marigolds are tough, sun-loving flowers that comes in shades of bright yellow, orange, red and gold. Sizes range from petite varieties that top out at 5 inches, to big, bold cultivars of 18 inches or more.

2. Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) – This attractive annual plant is just the thing to add color to a low-light area, and even tolerates near-total shade. Look for impatiens in bright hues of red, pink, purple, white and orange.

3. Geranium (Pelargonium) – Geraniums are old-fashioned flowers, beloved not only for their big, bold blooms, but for their attractive foliage. This tough, low-maintenance annual needs plenty of sunlight.

4. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) – Also known as dragon flower, snapdragons are easy to grow in containers. Look for a variety of colors, ranging from soft pastels to more intense shades and even bicolors.


5. Daylily (Hemerocallis) – Although daylily can be grown in a large container, some reach heights of 5 feet. Consider smaller, dwarf varieties, which come in nearly every color under the rainbow. These cold-hardy plants are suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 3 through 9.

6. Hosta (Hosta) – Hostas are an ideal choice if you’re looking to brighten up a shady spot on your deck or patio. Its attractive colors make this popular foliage plant a great backdrop for brightly colored annuals or perennials. Hosta, suitable for zones 3 through 9, prefers chilly winters and warm summers.

7. Coral bells (Heuchera) – Coral bells are available in an amazing variety, ranging from leaves that are curly, frilly, smooth, rough or crimped, in solid or variegated shades of lime green, burgundy, white, black, dark purple and red. The blooms, which take a back seat to the leaves, consist of delicate flowers growing atop tall spikes. Most varieties are hardy in zones 4 through 8.

Woody Plants

8. Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – Japanese maple is a graceful, cold hardy tree that thrives in containers. Although a regular variety is suitable for a large container as long as it is frequently trimmed to control growth, you may want to consider a dwarf variety, which tops out at about 10 feet. Most varieties are hardy in zone 6 to 8, but some are tolerant to zone 5 and a few may survive in zone 4.

9. Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) – Suitable for zones 5 through 10, heavenly bamboo provides amazing color all year round, beginning with bright red foliage in spring and creamy white blooms in early summer. The flowers are followed by clusters of green berries that soon turn bright red. As the season progresses, the foliage turns bluish-green before fading to pale green, then back to red and pink in autumn.

10. Dwarf mugo pine (Pinus mugo var pumilio) – Dwarf mugo pine is a slow-growing, sun-loving evergreen, prized for its dense, dark green needles. This hardy conifer, which reaches mature heights of 3 to 5 feet, is suitable for zones 2 through 8. A large, sturdy container is useful, as dwarf mugo pine can eventually spread to widths of 6 to 10 feet.

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