Container Gardening with Flowers

Choosing the Best Perennials and Annuals for Containers

May 18, 2020
Flower Container
Catherine Boeckmann

Container gardening with flowers is a great way to instantly introduce color, fragrance, and beauty into our lives. It makes flowers part of any landscape—even on a deck, patio, porch, or balcony! See our tips for growing flowers in containers.

The Best Flowers for Containers

Perennial Flowers

Perennials offer some of the most beautiful flowers out there—with the added bonus that they’ll come back every year! Here are some of our favorite perennials suitable for containers:

  • Astilbe
  • Bee balm
  • Bergenia
  • Bleeding heart
  • Coneflower
  • Evening primrose
  • Daylily hybrids
  • Hostas (dwarf or miniature varieties)
  • Maltese cross
  • Salvia
  • Speedwell (Veronica)

Annual Flowers

Annuals are stunning in their own right, and their benefit is that they are easy to mix and match. If you don’t like how they look one season, just try again with different annuals next year! Some of the best annuals for containers include:

  • Begonia
  • Browallia
  • Coleus
  • Coreopsis
  • Dusty miller
  • Fuchsia
  • Lobelia
  • Marigold
  • Morning glory
  • Nasturtiums
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Portulaca
  • Snapdragon
  • Statice
  • Sweet alyssum
  • Sweet pea

Photo: The flowers and plants in the flower container shown above!

Container Gardening Tips

  • Be sure that any container you use has drainage holes.
  • Avoid small containers. They often can’t store enough water to get through hot days, so will need constant care. Large pots also insulate roots better.
  • Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better. Consider a plastic pot inside a larger clay pot to get the best of both worlds!
  • New, lightweight materials, such as fiberglass, plastic, or foam composites, make moving pots easier.
  • Use soil-free potting mix; not only is it light, but the fluffy blend provides roots with more oxygen and nutrients.

How to Plant in Containers

  • To plant, place the container where you want your flower to grow. Be sure it receives enough sun.
  • Add a one-inch layer of fine gravel, horticultural charcoal, or clay pot shards to the bottom of the container so that water doesn’t collect.
  • Fill the container ⅔ full with soil-free potting mix.
  • With your hands, make a hole in the potting mix about the diameter of the pot.
  • Knock the flower out of its pot, spread its roots slightly, and place it in the hole.
  • Add more potting mix to bring the level up to 2 inches below the container top.
  • Water gently, press the mix to reduce air pockets, add more mix if necessary, than water again.
  • Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.
  • Keep the planting medium moist. The container plant is totally at your mercy for water.
  • As winter approaches in cold climates, you’ll need to store the container flowers inside.

See our library of Growing Guides for more information on growing and caring for the most common garden flowers.


This article was originally published in 2009 and is regularly updated.


Reader Comments

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Water pruned roses in a pot?

Have a potted rose plant in Southern California. It’s been pruned but now I’m not sure how to care for it during the winter months. Does it need to be watered regularly, etc.?

Re: Dahlias

Can you give tips for growing Dahlias in pots! mine is alive but barely...... thanks

Dahlias in pots

The Editors's picture

For pots, make sure dahlias are placed in a place that gets plenty of light. That is usually the reason for dahlias. Also, if you’re potting, make sure you’re not adding too much nitrogenous fertilizer. 

Seed germination

Respected sir
I am Biswanath, I’m living in mumbai, india. I have purchase sum “Calla Lily Seed”
But I do not success to germination it over one and half month.
Please give me some suggestion about calla lily seed germination.

Best flowers to plant in the shade in San Antonio Texas

I Have 5 large clay pots and want to plant flowers on my patio which is shaded only get 2 hours of sun each days what would be the best flowers. I live in San Antonio Texas.

Caladium, bee balm, lenten

The Editors's picture

Caladium, bee balm, lenten rose, and astillbe are good plants for shade.

I have a beautiful flowering

I have a beautiful flowering bush by my swimming pool. It is covered with orange "trumpets" all summer. I don't know the name of this plant, we just call it a trumpet vine. People ask me for something to grow this plant at their home. I collected some seed from the now dried pods and put them in small glasses with water. Now they have begun to sprout. My question is, now what? Do I transplant them in potting soil in plastic pots? Do I keep them indoors all winter? My wife says that since new ones have sprouted in the spring, obviously from seeds spread from the original big plant, should I put the pots outdoors in the winter? I live at 2300 feet up in the Sierras, and it very rarely gets below freezing here, but does sometimes go down as low as 28 degrees. Should I water them if they are indoors? Should I put them in sunlight or is normal indoor light in the winter okay?

There are several varieties

The Editors's picture

There are several varieties of trumpet vines and many are invasive. These are best grown in pots to keep them from spreading. One is called trumpet creeper (Campsis Radicans). It can grow 30-40 feet in a season, with a trunk several inches across. A close relative is the cross vine (Bignonia Capriolata). It is also called trumpet flower, or trumpet vine. The vines are shorter and the flowers are smaller. Plant some of the seedlings in pots outside and keep some in pots indoors. If you have seeds left you can plant the seeds outdoors in the spring.

Very good tips for container

Very good tips for container gardening with flowers...........Thanks.

I planted flowers in

I planted flowers in containers and now they are all greenery and no flowers. what should i do?

Hi Jennifer, Flower blooms

The Editors's picture

Hi Jennifer, Flower blooms depends on soil, amount of sun exposure, variety of flower, fertilizer, and many more factors. If it helps, here are some "best bets for window boxes" and growing tips:

Will a window box be good for

Will a window box be good for Forget-Me-Not? If not, what's the best size pot for it?

Yes, a window box would be

The Editors's picture

Yes, a window box would be lovely for forget-me-not flowers. You may also enjoy our article on the best plants for window boxes:

Can i keep plants in their

Can i keep plants in their pots and just plant the pots in the garden so that i can take them out easily in the winter.

A few questions bout the bare

A few questions bout the bare root rose.

My hubby just bought me a bare root rose a few days ago. I put the bare root rose in a large plastic flower pot. Plus I pour some good all natural fertilizer in it a few days ago. The instructions said to water it twice a week, and fertilizer every 2 months too. Plus my hubby has also cut off the black cane of the bare root rose. I a. Following the instructions. I am waiting for results. I have done a lot of research on the bare root rose. Thanks.

What to do when my area only gets bout maybe 4 or 5 hours of sunlight? For the bare root rose.

How do I take care of the bare root rose on a daily basis?

What do I do to hyacinths

What do I do to hyacinths when they have dried their flower and are done with their fragrant days?

Keep the green leaves intact

The Editors's picture

Keep the green leaves intact as they are gathering energy for the bulb for next year's growth. Once the leaves died down, you can dig up the bulbs if you need to store for winter. See this page for more information.

are metel containers suitable

are metel containers suitable for potting flowers?

The benefits of metal

The Editors's picture

The benefits of metal containers: strong and non-porous (so it will hold moisture). It's not natural, but we do like the weathered look. The downside: metal conducts heat, exposing roots to rapid temperature fluctuations. This is more of an issue for vegetables than flowers; you can always line the pot with plastic.

I live in a ground floor

I live in a ground floor apartment in Reno, NV, zone 7, (I believe), my neighbor cut down the large shrub that was shading my west wall, I can only plant in a long, narrow container (about 12 to 15 inches wide and five feet long). Any suggestions for the hot summer sun to shade my west wall? (I do not want to grow a really heavy vine, as I do not have a really good way to support it). Thanks, Dar

Hi, Dar, This is a puzzle. In

The Editors's picture

Hi, Dar, This is a puzzle. In fact, the circumstances of your situation—the space configuration, the potential height of a shrub or tree, and more—cause us to be a little hesitant to advise you of any particular plants, but instead to suggest that you visit a local nursery or garden shop, perhaps with a photo at hand, and see what the experts there would recommend. There might be some local "exotic" plants that thrive in your climate that we are not aware of.
But we are curious! If indeed you do this, please tell us what your local resources recommend. Best wishes!

Try scented geraniums. My

Try scented geraniums. My favorite ones smell like a walk through the forest, but you can also get varieties that smell like lemon, mint, nutmeg, apples and roses. Speaking of which, miniature roses are good in pots. Rosemary is another herb that you must have. I am growing a big patchouli plant which gives off its famous scent, especially when it's watered.

I love scented geraniums!

I love scented geraniums! Where did you find a patchouli plant? Can I get a cutting?!

any ideas for fragrant

any ideas for fragrant perennials for pots?

 It depends on your climate

Catherine Boeckmann's picture

 It depends on your climate but here are some suggestions: Fragrant Echinacea (Cone Flower) and Heliotrope, Sweet William, Lavender, Creeping Jenny, Forget-Me-Not, Phlox, Primrose, and Creeping Thyme. Have fun exploring what works for you!