Our Best Container Gardening Ideas

Table of Contents

Herb Appeal

Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mark Thompson

Rethink your porch planting with a container that proves there’s elegance and purpose in simplicity. Fragrant rosemary, basil, and lemon grass accent soft blue plumbago in this tabletop setup. The best part? While the scent appeals to garden party guests, it could also help keep pests at arm’s length.

Start with a young lemon grass plant positioned in the center of the pot. Then add the flowering plumbago around that. On the outermost edges, fill in the gaps with basil and rosemary, alternating the two if you wish or placing them on opposite sides of the container. Clip (and use!) the basil frequently—this will help it grow and keep it from overtaking the rest of the display.

Orange Crush

David Hillegas

Make bold foliage the focal point for a late-summer container that steals the show. This easy-care, end-of-season planter uses vibrant ‘Rustic Orange’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), identified by its rusty-hued leaves that will last until the first frost. The filler in this space-saving pot is ‘Compact Hot Coral’ SunPatiens (Impatiens sp.), which has tiny tangerine blooms and dark, shiny leaves that contrast nicely with the bronze-toned coleus. Finally, the ‘Yellow Moon’ wishbone flower (Torenia sp.) adds even more lush greenery to the arrangement and offers petite yellow petals with purple throats—this is a thirsty container, so you’ll need to make sure it stays well watered. Place it in full or partial sun.

Made for Shade

David Hillegas

A simple-to-follow formula is all you need to create drama in a container. Here, it takes only four plants to convey the sweeping illusion of a floor-length gown. The key to pulling this off is starting with an elevated planter, so the vibrant ‘Celebration’ and ‘Florida Sweetheart’ caladiums pop at eye level. Clusters of white wishbone flower fill the empty spaces between the caladium stems and conceal the actual container, meaning you can use just about any freestanding vessel. The final attention grabber is the graceful creeping Jenny spilling over the sides.

Position this planter in the shade for a gorgeous, easy-to-maintain display—also, remember to water regularly.

Traditional Freestanding Container

Alison Miksch

These porch-step containers begin with bright pink and yellow zinnias—think ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’ or ‘Magellan Salmon’ is one of our favorite flowers for its beautiful, round shape. Cool-colored filler flowers, such as purple verbenas and blue calibrachoas, are added to create contrast with texture and color.

To make this container garden even simpler, opt for inexpensive plastic planters that are weatherproof and easy to move around. Grouping your containers in a tight space can help to create a homey, mini-garden vibe. Plus, all of these incredible colors intensify when placed side by side. You’ll love to walk up to these bright wonders.

Traditional Hanging Container

Alison Miksch

This woven wicker basket is a natural way to decorate a bare wall in an outdoor space, and it will look just as beautiful whether you set it against brick, timber, or concrete. Pink zinnias and yellow tuberous begonias are the focal points of thrillers. You’ll love the variation between the tighter, round zinnias and the softer, open petals of the begonias.

Blue Cape plumbago and golden lantana add a hint of drama—these are the fillers. Finally, with its delicate, well-known shape, English ivy cascades over the side—that is, the spiller, which gives this beautiful hanging container a sense of movement.

Traditional Tabletop Container

Alison Miksch

If you need proof that a plain and straightforward planter has the power to brighten up what could be a dull backyard side table, then look right here. This container’s copper sheen complements the fuchsia zinnias rather than competes with them. Yellow calibrachoas—like little petunias—spill over the container’s edge.

Subtle splashes from purple verbenas create another unexpected yet robust focal point in this outdoor garden conversation space. If you want your planter to have this beautiful feeling of flow, select a trailing calibrachoa for this container—it grows lower than the mounding version.

Modern Freestanding Container

Alison Miksch

A planter in a faux-lead finish is a timeless choice, but the cylindrical shape of these tall fiber clay urns gives them a distinctly modern, clean, geometric feel. This styling can work well in any decor because it focuses on familiar forms. Choosing a neutral tone or texture for your container helps bring out the unique natural beauty of the color of the flowers and foliage pop. Here, a string of pearls creates plenty of architectural drama through their unique shape, while purple calibrachoa and blue ageratum add just the right dose of brightness to add depth to this subtle arrangement.

Modern Hanging Container

Alison Miksch

Hanging containers are a simple way to bring gardens to limited spaces or to add beauty to your area in simple yet unexpected ways. For this unique design, a mix of structural succulents gives the arrangement a bold internal architecture and takes center stage in a simple hanging fiber clay planter. A purple fan flower punctuates the lush greenery.

The fan flower is unique because all its blossoms have segments on one side. In the Tropical South, these plants can also be evergreen. Given their bold, bright color, they offer a refreshing contrast to the deep, dark container suspended in the air.

Modern Tabletop Container

Alison Miksch

This ingenious organic look contrasts a modern container’s strong, stark lines with natural plants’ soft, ripple-in-the-breeze movement. A carefully curated selection of beautiful containers embodies this well-designed outdoor oasis’s warm, rich metal tones. The handsome planter on the mantel has a slate-like finish and blends various succulents with the pink plumes of ‘Joey’ Ptilotus, a bottlebrush plant native to Australia. Large-leaved kalanchoes and dwarf golden arborvitaes form the base of this masterpiece, which can grace this mantel just as easily as it could highlight the center of a backyard dining table.

Rustic Freestanding Container

Alison Miksch

This sturdy galvanized metal washtub—a flea market gem—is filled with overflowing beauties—a hearty mix of lantanas and impatiens. Arranged with maroon Joseph’s coat, green coleus, and yellow creeping Jenny, this dense container greets guests or highlights a back porch with a sense of joy and happiness.

Coleus varieties, first introduced into Europe in the 1700s, are popular as plant choices. Given their tropical history, they are not particularly cold-hardy, so don’t plan to add them to a container too early in the spring.

Rustic Hanging Container

Photo: Alison Miksch

The most important key to this rustic aesthetic is not over-planting the container. You will surely love the look of this arrangement when you give the flowers space to breathe. This weathered, rusty metal bucket—another great flea market find—is studded with periwinkles, the profusely blooming Rieger begonias, coleus, and other annuals. But what it is not is overcrowded, which could keep the plants from getting adequate light.

Try suspending this arrangement on a branch for even more rustic, Southern-inspired charm—this will add to the casual, easy-does-it feeling.

Rustic Tabletop Container

Alison Miksch

A simple galvanized-metal toolbox is an unexpected container-gardening vessel that fits into an all-natural springtime setup. Here, it showcases a classic arrangement of bright green spearmint, red geraniums, and white sweet alyssums for a container that feels both light and fresh. Thanks to the built-in handle, you’ll also love the ease of moving this around the garden. What you’ll love the most, though, is the rustic charm of the weathered metal contrasting with the soft and subtle colors of the flowers. This arrangement is a beautiful study of hard and soft elements in container garden design.

Romantic Freestanding Container

Photo: Alison Miksch

Sit back and imagine this classic cast-metal urn in a dreamy garden or on a light-filled screened porch. The pot itself is styled with classic Victorian lines, giving it a romantic element, but it is the arrangement that truly makes it magical.

The key to designing this look is combining contrasting textures. The combined arrangement creates a cascade and crescendo of bright colors. This selection includes a loud celebration of grassy cordyline, puffy pink dianthus, dainty blue lobelia, and more. Set against the beautiful shape, the simple monochrome tone of the vase creates a show-stopping container for your home garden.

Romantic Hanging Container

Alison Miksch

This romantic container garden captures the feelings of magic and mystery through its bright colors and beautiful sense of movement. To achieve these effects, you’ll want to try varying the scale of flowers and greenery to produce the wildly untamed, “growing in a garden” feel that keeps this basket relaxed.

Beginning by selecting this sphagnum moss-lined metal hanging basket, larger dianthus blended with smaller petunias and variegated English ivy, and tiny baby’s tears dangle over the sides. The effect is the sense of beauty in bloom, bursting forth in wonder from this colorful basket.

Romantic Tabletop Container

Photo: Alison Miksch

Planting in layers is an integral part of putting together this stunning container. The handmade bowl, made of concrete and recycled materials, provides a delicate addition to this gorgeous centerpiece. Its wide shape accommodates many of the same flowers and plants used in other romantic containers, just in a more whimsical display that looks like a flourishing flower arrangement.

If you select flowers like dianthus, you will undoubtedly be starting this romantic tabletop container with the right colors, tones, and shapes. Its impact will be elegant and beautiful. Settle in at the table for an evening drink or a casual conversation, and let the romance blossom.

Romantic Wall Swag Container

Alison Miksch

This abundantly vibrant design puts the flowers in the spotlight. These will literally and figuratively be a beautiful sight. The sleek container, perched atop a painted brick wall, is covered by the overflowing blooms, which include sweeping pink petunias, super-delicate baby’s tears, and rounded clusters of rose pink dianthus.

This arrangement focuses entirely on the flowers—the hidden container merely offers grounding support. Depending on your design, you may even wish to consider a series of these containers as a way to highlight a garden wall and bring color and emphasis to something you might have previously wanted to ignore.

Geraniums Built for the South

Laurey W. Glenn

Southerners used to have to choose between geraniums that could handle high temperatures and humidity and those that produced lots of flowers. But this sad state of either-or is no more since developing the Calliope-series geraniums, offering the best of both worlds.

This one’s called ‘Dark Red,’ and it forms the centerpiece of a container filled with bright color and subtle greenery. Here, the filler forms a backdrop to the bold geraniums and adds height, while the weathered container gives a sense of contrast against the masonry-and-mortar design elements of the courtyard. Let these geraniums burst forth with color in your Southern garden—temperature and humidity are no problem!

Bring On the Sun

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Here it comes—a beautiful container in the sun, that is. This high-drama, low-maintenance container spotlights ‘Variegated Spreading Salmon’ SunPatiens, but leaves room for a foxtail asparagus fern and a six-inch pot of ‘Neon’ pothos.

Everything is set in a glazed-ceramic container, its bright green finish complimenting the natural colors of the plantings—a beautiful example of a container garden aesthetic that keeps it simple. Let the SunPatiens, a strain that resulted from a cross between a New Guinea hybrids and a wild species, be this arrangement’s bright, central focus. Then, let everything else help them shine.

Show Your True Colors

Laurey W.Glenn

Everyone in the South understands that college sports are a fun-filled family pastime, and what better way to show and share your team spirit than to bring your favorite colors into your container garden?

This beautiful plant design in this LSU-themed container thrives in part sun and moist potting mix. You’ll find a range of shades of purple, from bright and bold, to subtle and sublime, all set in a celebratory container. You can take this idea and substitute the colors of your favorite team for a seasonal celebration that brings together nature and culture—and what could be better?

Summertime Flair

Laurey W. Glenn

Let’s hear it for the elephant’s ear! Its oversize leaves—the secret to this stately combination—create drama through scale. And they allow you to fill in the blanks with tiny, colorful flowers. This arrangement is set in a concrete urn with an aggregate texture to give it a weathered, antiqued finish. You’ll love how the delicate flowers soften the feel of the pot itself.

One of the beautiful wonders of the elephant’s ear is that it flowers first, and then fruits. The fruit makes the stem look like corn on the cob. Whatever you think, it looks gorgeous in your summertime container.

Meet Miss Lantana

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Lantanas bloom in a slew of sunny colors from spring to fall. Plus, its nectar-laden flowers attract pretty butterflies like moths to a flame. This beautiful plant is native to America, so if you want to focus on plants that will attract or entice wildlife, this can be a good choice.

Lantana is also generally resistant to deer—they don’t find it particularly attractive, even though you will. So plant a container or two of this beautiful, durable plant, then sit back and wait for your fluttering-winged visitors to arrive.

A Quick Container Combo

Laurey W. Glenn

This deck-top container garden is a study in variation in similarity, proving just how beautiful the simple repetition of a shape or color can be in creating a relaxing outdoor space. Here, three ceramic containers in a subtle shade of turquoise hold a variety of beautiful plants.

In the largest pot, working from back to front and tallest to shortest, densely plant ‘Liberty Classic Yellow’ snapdragon, ‘Bouquet Rose Magic’ dianthus, and ‘Tickled Pink’ veronica. Place ‘New Look’ dusty miller and ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum in the front to trail over the edge. Pack a powerful, single-note punch in the two smaller pots by planting ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ petunia in the midsize container and more sedum in the smallest.

Tulips, Pansies, Ivy, and Fern

Photo: Helen Norman

Your garden will seem wild, and it will undoubtedly be full of life when you have some ‘Tiger’ fern (a selection of Boston fern) in your container garden. Pair it with your tulips, Lavender Blue’ and ‘Purple Wing’ Plentifall pansies, Acorus, heuchera, and variegated ivy.

These shaped concrete pots enhance any outdoor environment. Their angled geometry pairs well with their tops’ color and movement sprouting out. Let the plants grow and flow—the containers keep them just where you want them, creating a great harmony of color, and, as they drape over the edges, you’ll see where Plentifall pansies got their name.

Warm and Cheerful Trio

Melina Hammer

Heat-tolerant geraniums, calibrachoas, and mecardonias in bright red, yellow, and purple shout a welcome in a cheerful way. For the most part, we’ve filled these whitewashed pots to burst with a single color, showing how to create harmony from the variations between each element.

This approach works well, creating a single environment for each container, making the task of watering and fertilizing and sun more simple. Whatever plants you choose, make sure they thrive in similar conditions. All three of these plants are heat-tolerant, making them perfect for grouping together.

Bargain Blooms

Steve Bender

One of the best ways to keep your garden looking fresh is to take advantage of seasonal sales at your local nursery and stock up on popular plants. And, since you want them to look beautiful until it is time to make them permanent additions to the landscape, keep them in their nursery pots. Then, display them in galvanized buckets on the porch until you are ready to plant them in your garden. You can easily recreate this look with gerbera daisies, salvias, shasta daisies, daylilies, and sweet potato vines. Look for similar pots at gardening or home-supply stores.

Grow Daffodils in Containers

Photo: Roger Foley

This tip is a great way to get plenty of punch from just a few dozen daffodil bulbs. You can move containers wherever you need color on a particular day, be it your front door, porch, steps, or patio. As soon as the bulbs finish blooming, plant them in the garden. No bulbs are more straightforward for container growing in the South than daffodils, and few bulbs signal the arrival of spring more readily than these.

These daffodils, planted in classic terra cotta pots, look fantastic but work in any container, from traditional to modern. Choose whatever works best in your garden.

Add a Tropical Punch

Melina Hammer

Are you dreaming of summer vacation, but the only thing on the horizon is more heat and humidity? This container garden may not be a balmy getaway, but bringing warmer weather to your doorstep is a breeze with this combo. This beautiful container with a water-inspired glaze has a gorgeous array of plants that burst like a sunburst on a bright day.

You’ll love giant-leaved, sunny ‘Maui Gold’ elephant’s ear and heavily blooming, fiery orange SunPatiens. The velvety, fragrant citronella plant and purple iridescent Persian shield provide nice tropical color. Add a heavenly skirt of angel vine to spill down the sides.

Brighten a Shady Spot

Laurey W. Glenn

You’ll be planning window boxes everywhere once you see how beautiful and simple this arrangement is—and how much it brightens this once-empty shady space on the side of the house. ‘Aaron’ caladium, holly fern, ‘Key Lime Pie’ heuchera, ‘White Nancy’ Lamium, ivy, and light pink periwinkle come together in this eye-catching window box.

This container box emerges in a subtle sea of layers, each adding depth and color to the other. What is so unexpected is how easily this box stays in a palette of greens and yellows, relying on tone and variation to create a melody of color and shape.

Fill a Big Container

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

The pitchfork may suggest a bit of Grant Wood’s American Gothic—but the stand-out star is the freestanding flower container. Here, we make a statement with this large, overflowing planter that can work equally against a blank wall, at the perimeter of a parking court, or on the edge of a terrace. Fill it with ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, coleus, ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ petunia, and geranium. The weathered will only add more patina over time. Let it happen. This oxidation is part of the beauty of natural materials like wood—and this beauty is only enhanced further by vibrant flowers.

Snapdragons, Penny Violas, Tulips, Parsley, and Ivy

Photo: Ralph Anderson

One of the beauties of container gardening is the ability to create visual variety. Containers are the perfect canvas for a unique color, texture, and composition approach. These showy snapdragons add height to your containers in a cacophony of bold colors. They pair well with a mixture of flowers that will act as your fillers and spillers, including Penny violas, tulips, parsley, and ivy.

Each has its wonder and surprise, rich with color, tone, and texture. This container garden feels incredibly expansive without taking up a great deal of space, so it works well in any number of locations.

Collard Greens

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Yes, you read that right—Collard greens are one of our picks for a fantastic container garden. Easy and versatile, collards have graced Southern gardens and tables for generations. A cousin to kale and cabbage, these nutritious, leafy greens thrive in the cooler weather of fall and early spring.

Durable, versatile, and beautiful, they are also incredibly visually enticing and imbued with many tonal variations. They work well in different-sized containers. This galvanized-metal tub is filled with collards, creating an intimate container garden. Use them in situations where you want simplicity to come to the fore.

Pink Nature-Inspired Planters

Melina Hammer

The natural hues of the sweet potato vine and pennisetum make the trio of pink geraniums, petunias, and angelonias pop. Petunias look incredible in containers because they come in a fantastic array of colors.

They’ve also adapted to grow well in the humid Southern climate and often bloom continuously from spring until fall. Take advantage of all the eye-stopping excitement that will bring to your front porch. Here we’ve used three sizes of pressed-metal planters with decorative embossing and a copper-toned finish to hold these incredible container fancies.


Robbie Caponetto

Choose a glass container with an opening wide enough for your hand to make a terrarium. Gently add an inch or two of washed, fine gravel. Top gravel with a thin layer of activated aquarium carbon. (You’ll find both items at your local pet store.) Next, add moistened potting soil, and you’ll be ready to plant.

Create a collection of plants, or showcase just one. Good choices include ferns, succulents, mosses, miniature moth orchids, African violets, and kalanchoes. How often you need to water or fertilize your terrarium depends on the type of plants you choose, but this is a beautiful way to enjoy container gardening.

Evergreens and Annuals

Southern Living

One challenge with container gardening is retaining visual beauty through changing seasons. This thoughtful approach puts that problem to rest. The solution is to think of every container as having a “keeper”—a durable plant that continues from season to season—with a plant that may require more attention.

For this beautiful pair of urns, we’ve partnered colorful annuals with an evergreen for an established planting that can still change from season to season. With ivy spilling over the sides and ‘Pandora’s Box’ violas providing bold tones, these planters offer a lot of excitement. In general, violas are more tolerant of temperature variation than botanically similar pansies.

Bring on Spring!

Photo: Hector Sanchez

This container is as sensual as it is beautiful. It combines a burst of daffodils with bold hues and fragrant seasonal blooms for colorful containers that keep giving. This trio combines floriferous ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’ calibrachoa, the fragrant ‘Snow Princess’ sweet alyssum, and cool-weather ‘Sunsatia Lemon’ nemesia.

Tonally, these bolt towards the warm end of the color spectrum and are rich with deep oranges and yellows, tempered by touches of white throughout. Even separately, every one of these would be a visual delight. Together, the interplay is exhilarating.

Pansies, Grass, and Ivy

Southern Living

To truly celebrate the joy of container gardening, take the time to change your containers to reflect the season’s colors. This fantastic arrangement of bold, bright pots, orange pansies, violas, and Panolas provides a warm autumnal greeting to everyone you welcome to your home. It is always important to experiment with composition to make a growing garden a visual delight. Try pairing colorful and distinctive flowers like these with a textural plant, like grass. You’ll love the lush, full carpet of green that the grass creates, punctuated by the bright bursts of color from the flowers.

Magnolia, Spider Plant, and Caladiums

Southern Living

You’ll be phobia-free about welcoming these spiders into your home—spider plants. To create this flowing composition and add color throughout your garden, Red ‘Freida Hemple’ caladiums, a spider plant, and a ‘Little Gem’ Southern magnolia decorate a large pot in the corner. This arrangement helps hide a downspout and fills the space with bright beauty.

Working with the idea that repetition creates rhythm and builds a harmonious container garden, smaller pots of the same caladiums tie the grouping together. The boldness of the plants contrasts with the simple, neutral containers. Think of using natural tones in stone and off-white for these outdoor container compositions.


Southern Living

Container gardens are perfect ways to highlight the elegance of simplicity. This succulent garden is an example of having individual plantings in single containers, allowing each to reflect its unique leaf shape and form complemented by the architecture of the container.

Using various decorative ground covers jazzes up your potted plantings—these are enhanced with beautiful selections of natural stone. The highlight of this design is a potted blue agave surrounded by pebbles, serving as a living sculpture on this deck. The smooth stones inside the container reflect the larger stones around its base, creating a synthesis inside and out.

Mixed Succulents

Southern Living

Using plantings is a simple but sophisticated way to enliven your outdoor table. Drought-tolerant plants are the perfect go-to for hot, dry climates. This shallow bowl of mixed succulents makes a great centerpiece, creating a mixture of tones, shapes, and textures. When considering this arrangement, echeverias, sedums, and other similar plantings work well.

Look for types that will create visual interest as they grow, and consider containers that can make long, shallow, and low spaces for these great green wonders to develop. You’ll love how harmonious these succulents are together. They are terrific low-maintenance plants that will last until frost.

Grasses and Caladiums

Photo: Joseph De Sciose

Sometimes design is all about the form rather than the function—like when plants with distinctive visual features create amazing sights in a gorgeous garden setting. For such an approach to work, you’ll have to pay special attention to how the forms work together.

For this design, textural plants construct a beautiful sense of high drama. This homeowner helped to create this sensation by adding spiky and vertical plants, such as ornamental grasses and caladiums, to her pots. Against the vast, multileveled, linear expanse of her back garden, with its beautiful pool, she created a sense of lightness and height simply by using plants that always reached the sky. Let your container gardens aim high!

Sweet Flag and Creeping Jenny

Photo by: Van Chaplin

If tempted to let your container garden run just a little wild, then plantings like these may help create that perfect sense of the cultivated mess. Just plan to allow your plants to spill out of their container. A generous planting of golden variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) fills this kettle with golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) trailing out and onto the gravel below. One container lifts the eyes while the other gently creates a delicate, soft carpet of green that creeps towards a comfortable seating area. This garden is not entirely wild, but it is just rugged enough.

Tiny Succulents

Photo: Van Chaplin

Bigger is not always better, and using any of these tiny succulents is a case in point why. Rather than overwhelm small spaces with extensive plantings, here is an excellent lesson on using containers to fill bare spots in your garden.

This concrete planter, tucked into a planting of dianthus, is filled with tiny textured succulents, pulling you in for a closer look. This arrangement creates a contemplative moment of intimacy and pause, a time for simple reflection, and a sense of communion with these delicate plants.

Lettuce and Ornamentals

Ralph Anderson

Using unique containers like vintage wooden boxes and buckets is a great way to bring harmony and symmetry to any container garden. These containers, not designed with plantings in mind, need to be transformed into functional pots by drilling drainage holes before use.

For a new take on the living and eating local approach, this variety of planters mixes harvest edibles, like lettuce, but also decoratives, like marigolds and geraniums.

Rosemary Topiary

Photo: Helen Norman

The historical term for a classically designed French garden is a parterre garden. England has some of its most famous examples, including the fabulous geometric garden at Hanbury Hall. This container garden, with its formal structure and arrangement, takes both its inspiration and design from the parterre garden design concept—but the container gardening part of the process is still straightforward.

Regardless of your overall garden design plan, you can add height to the center of any flowerbed by placing a vertical potted plant in its middle. This approach is sensational because it uses traditional techniques but includes new, time-saving gardening innovations.


Dawn Marie

Mandevilla is a beautiful, bright flowering and climbing vine found throughout the South. Mandevilla can thrive in containers. These plants can grow more than 10 feet a year and bloom continuously from spring until the first frost. Given its tropical origins, it revels in hot weather. In the coastal South, mandevilla may survive the winters, but container plants can be moved indoors in areas with colder climates.

Hanging Fern Container

Keen Eye Marketing

You can add charm to a great front porch space with hanging ferns—a quintessential feature for any Southern porch. Cheery containers also add inviting color to this architectural essential. Get containers filled with ferns, dress the porch swing for company, set the rockers out, and enjoy a gorgeous summer evening. Your container garden makes every minute in this family-friendly space even more beautiful.

Trailing Petunias

Southern Living

If you are looking for a simple but fantastic summer gathering decorating idea, one of the best is to add color to your outdoor party with potted plants. In the heat of the season in the South, there’s no need for a patterned tablecloth here. Potted petunias will add all the beautiful color you need under the glass-top dining table and make a show-stopping, sensational and unexpected addition to your outdoor party decor. These planters have a simple curved wrought-iron base that works well with the simple glass top of the table, but you can match the container to your design and decorating style.

White Impatiens

Steve Bender

Using white to lighten your garden is a great way to let the plants’ tone be the neutral foundation for your design. Several large pots of white impatiens brighten a shady corner with hundreds of blooms.

Planting a single style in a container can help to tie your outdoor space together. If you plan to grow several different container garden features, consider choosing separate planters for each or a single container to create a sense of harmony.

Lettuce, Violas, and Mums

Photo: Southern Living

Although they may not be the first thing that comes to mind, don’t ignore edibles when selecting your planting materials. Different lettuce varieties have beautiful colors and textures, can add visual interest, and provides a surprise to your container gardens—and your kitchens.

Here, several leafy edibles mix with violas and mums. These leafy greens will surprise people who wonder what plant is creating the beautiful colors in your containers—and using them as a centerpiece on your dinner plate will be just as surprising.

Purple Fountain Grass

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Layered, loud, and filled with color and excitement, purple fountain grass spills from its container. The purple fountain grass blooms in summer and can continue blooming into fall, giving this container wonder from season to season. Adding pumpkins near your containers adds idyllic fall quality to your front porch. Put it together and let its radiance glow.

Variegated Boxwood and Violas

Southern Living

Contrary to popular belief, not all boxwoods are dark green—nor are they shaped into topiary or complex geometrical forms, even though they easily can be. A popular choice for container gardens, known as variegated American boxwood (‘Elegantissima’), has green leaves accented with white.

White violas, highlighting and reinforcing the color of the boxwoods, illuminate this garden corner, and the larger planters blend with the boxwoods. Everything is tied together with the consistency of the terracotta pots. These are simple, natural, and reflect the brick pavers.

Colorful Mixture

Southern Living

Containers can be a simple yet sophisticated way to soften a hardscape. The various colorful flower intensifies the landscape’s beauty. Plant flowers in several containers, creating visual consistency throughout the arrangement.


Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

Find a simple planting scheme, and stick with it until you’ve found the perfect amount of containers to make it beautiful—don’t think your container garden needs every type of plant imaginable. Instead, repeat your favorite plants in containers and flowerbeds. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of these simple containers set against the natural wood stairs. Pots of bright violas in various shades of purple spill over and out of this two-level container creating a lush, fluid, yet consistent look.

Raised Containers

Hector Manuel Sanchez; Design: Julia Berolzheimer

If you like architectural elements or details on some of your containers, you can elevate them for more of an impact. Shelves host a range of layered containers in this informal garden. Some plants cascade over the sides, creating a whimsical sense of movement and echoing the rustic atmosphere of the everyday garden.

Coleus and Lantana

Southern Living

Finding plants with the right combination of beauty and durability for withstanding a harsh climate can be a challenge. Coleus and lantana fit right in with the South’s increasing appetite for hot, cheery, assertive colors that stand up to heat and humidity. With suitable types of coleus, you’ll find them to be tough and tidy, and you’ll also get beautiful leaf shapes—something that makes a plant even more enticing for a small container.

Pair those shapes with tight clusters of lantana flowers and get an incredibly intriguing arrangement of visual exhilaration dressed up as a simple gardening idea.


Southern Living

Mint, admired for its flavor and aroma, can be an incredible herb to grow in a garden container. Its bright green leaves bring in a pop of color. Left uncontrolled, however, mint tends to overrun an outdoor space. With this in mind, you will want to keep this invasive herb in kitchen garden pots.

Pick your mint based on the flavor you want and whether you’d prefer it for tea or flavoring food—you’ll be thrilled by the variety of mints available.


Southern Living

Caladiums are one of the most popular plants in the South for creating beauty in difficult-to-grow-in shady places. Caladiums—a tropical plant native to America—have incredible foliage that can have blotches of red, rose, pink, white, and more. Some of our favorite caladiums include ‘Pink Symphony,’ ‘Iceberg,’ ‘Miss Muffet,’ and ‘Candyland.’ Incorporating planters into your landscaping plan brings this beautiful plant into your hardscape. This poolside scene includes a trough-like container built right into the bank. Fill it with a colorful array of caladiums, and you will have created a poolside tropical oasis.

Blue Lily-of-the-Nile

eugenesergeev / Getty Images

Lily-of-the-Nile makes a big statement and is a beautiful plant to pair with subtle tones and colors. Agapanthus, described as blue, comes in various colors, from a deep blue to a pale blue and seemingly every shade in between.

If you want to know which color blue the plant is, you will need to choose one that has blossomed if only identified as ‘blue.’ The gorgeous blue flowers in any shade and evergreen varieties create a spring-like atmosphere year-round.

Variegated Agave, Lavender, and Japanese Roof Iris

Photo: Van Chaplin

Variegated Agave, native to southern Texas and eastern Mexico, is a spreading ground cover that grows to about a foot tall and, left uncontained, would spread to roughly four feet wide. It becomes the perfect planting in a container, depending on your needs.

A similar height, the Japanese Roof Iris—so named because it was popular to plant this on cottage roofs in the island nation—brings a gorgeous violet-and-white flower to this container delight. During your garden design, plan to vary the heights of your containers for greater visual interest. This garden features planters in various scales and materials, adding to its eclectic cottage personality.

Mixed Greens

Photo by: Ralph Anderson

Within a design scheme best described as rustic meets semi-modern, smooth metals and natural woods combine into one harmonious whole. Rather than stick to a rigorous, single-plant approach, a series of textural leaves gives a more modern look. An assortment of plants in shades of green anchors the backyard corner and adds depth to the small space. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the comfortable bench near this incredible container garden wonder.

Coleus and Ivy

Photo: Roger Foley

This container sits in a natural environment on a table of weathered wood, which is a perfect lesson in best framing colorful plants with a textured background. These vibrant coleuses provide a pop of color among textural grass plantings. Plants with bold but often or predominantly monochrome foliage, such as coleus, can work well in a classically shaped planter such as this one with Roman and Rococo influences. Resist the urge to sand or sandblast containers such as these if they are structurally sound—brush off any loose debris and leave their history and finish to shine through.

Cilantro, Parsley, and Chives Garden

Photo: Ralph Anderson

Having fresh herbs at home can be much simpler than purchasing them at a store. Transplants of cilantro, parsley, and chives are at their best in the late winter months, both in containers and in the ground. Plant them in a shallow box, as pictured, and use them as an outdoor centerpiece. They will grow wonderfully well together, and you’ll have as much or as little as you need on hand—top a wide range of delectable dishes fresh from the oven with herbs from your garden.

Label your herbs so you can grab a handful whenever you need it. These raised-bed container gardens should produce plenty to share with family, friends, and neighbors.


Van Chaplin/Styling: Scott Martin

Potted boxwoods don’t require using the hedge clippers, although you can train these plants into any shape you’d want. These plants offer a formal elegance with the simplicity of minor maintenance. Boxwoods can generally be drought tolerant, and you won’t have to fertilize them too often. This sizeable American variety creates a living wall in a line of concrete planters—a process helped by simultaneously planting the boxwoods in identical planters. These simple tips will make your boxwood container garden easy to maintain but even more accessible and beautiful to behold.

Cascading Geraniums

Ralph Anderson

Great growers like these Mini Cascade ivy geraniums ensure you’ll never doubt your plant selections. Geraniums withstand the South’s harsh summer heat and keep on blooming. This flower work wonders as part of a hanging container garden, blossoming into a rich and verdant cascade of flowers spilling over and out of their planters. You’ll be excited by the rush of color but even more thrilled with how simple these cascading geraniums are to maintain.

Hens and Chicks

Van Chaplin

These beautiful low-growing Hen and Chicks plants fill this vintage metal planter. The silver undertones of the leaves mirror the copper finish of the tub. The Southern Living Garden Book describes Hen and Chicks as Mexican natives with ‘rosettes of fleshy leaves,’ which is simply the perfect description for these succulent perennials. Available in a wide range of colors, you can choose the Hen and Chicks that best fit the tone of your container garden. Or, mix and match to your heart’s delight and revel in their subtle variations.

Annuals and Trailing Ivy

Van Chaplin / styling Leigh Anne Montgomery, Rose Nguyen

For big impact, use big pots. They’ll accommodate more, and added soil means they won’t need watering as often—this simple advice is the best tip when creating a large-scale container garden.

Trailing Algerian Ivy is the perfect choice in this case, with its large, broad leaves. It is also an aggressive grower. The other ideal plant selection here is the Needle Palm, which may be the hardiest plant in the world—so Southern summers won’t challenge this robust palm. Add in some colorful annuals, and your containers are full, fun, and fit for anything.

Purple Pixie

Ralph Anderson

Try planting ground cover in a pot. ‘Purple Pixie’ Loropetalum shrub combines showy pink flowers in spring, deep burgundy evergreen foliage, and a pronounced weeping form. It reaches one to two feet high and four to five feet wide as a ground cover. Placed in a container, a one-gallon plant in a 24-inch-tall pot will completely hide the vessel in just a couple of years. This plant is a great way to give visual structure to your garden without making decisions regarding more formal architectural elements when you prefer to focus on softer, more natural forms.

Snapdragons and Pansies

Photo: Ralph Anderson

Similar-looking plants will reveal subtle differences, but often different-looking species will also share many commonalities. If you adopt this approach to your container gardening, you’ll find that grouping flowers by form or color is a great way to rethink your planting approach if you tend to keep your flowers all the same.

Instead of only one flower, use several flowers of the same color for a more significant impact in a small planting. Tall snapdragons, medium-size pansies, and trailing vines are a happy mix in these terra-cotta planters.

Impatiens and Dwarf Spruce

Ralph Anderson

It is nice to use colorful flowers, such as pansies, to accent porches and entryways or to use as filler flowers. They subtly enhance any garden container. Here, a skirt of yellow pansies surrounds dwarf spruces. The dwarf spruce is also well suited for container gardening.

The ‘Tiny Tower,’ for example, grows to a total height of only four to six feet tall. These beautiful, small trees also have soft, bright green needles when they are young and color to a gorgeous silver-green as they mature. You may need to gently prune this spruce into shape, which will help to promote slow growth and a dense form.

Mixed Succulents

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

When selected thoughtfully and planted judiciously, a living arrangement of succulents demands little care and will last for years. The color of these containers, with the sandy, natural shades of the terracotta planter, brings out the colors in the plants.

Succulents enliven any space, but they work particularly well in hot, dry climates. They are also drought-tolerant plants. Consider echeverias, sedums, and other succulents when planning a mixed succulents container. They will all become even more beautiful with age.

Pansies and Violas

Southern Living

As much as we love pansies and violas, they don’t exhibit a lot of height. This floral choice means you have to use containers to give it a sense of elevation or increased height. Give them a lift by perching pots on benches and tables or placing them on your steps. Then leave your pansies and violas to brighten the space through bold color and soft blossoms. Grouping them will create even more interest, so use more than one container. Go big, go bold, and go colorful.

Variegated Silver Grass

Hector M. Sanchez

Planting grasses in a container is a simple way to include them in your garden while keeping them under control. This technique allows you to bring their bold verticality wherever you like.

Grasses in containers can also add soft texture and billowing form when placed directly into a border. One of our favorites is the beautiful ‘Morning Light’ silver grass. It lights up in the garden as the sun strikes its foliage. You never have to worry about silver grass running because it clumps, but planting it in a container creates a bold focal point for its animated stalks.


Photo by: Van Chaplin

Succulents equal low maintenance. For this simple container, fill a vintage sorghum pot with cold-hardy succulents that bloom in the fall. Pair them with flowers that attract masses of bees and need little water.

You’re helping the natural ecosystem by encouraging bee activity—nature’s pollinators. That’s smart container gardening. Since the container itself, a vintage sorghum pot, is also repurposed, this is a beautiful way to approach your rustic backyard container garden.

‘Mona Lavender’

Ralph Anderson

Don’t confuse plectranthus, or ‘Mona Lavender,’ for the lavender you think of when you imagine the beautiful-smelling plant filling the fields of Provence. This gorgeous natural wonder shares its color but is not the same plant. Use a pot of ‘Mona Lavender’ plectranthus as your container garden to add an unexpected pop of color to any outdoor space. It will brighten the shorter days of fall and add wow to your yard.

Begonias and Dichondra


Begonias are perfect plants for outdoor hanging containers and will grow particularly well in containers in general. The ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia drips with flowers throughout the summer and fall. For an even more exciting container, combine it with ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra for a splash of color against shimmering foliage. You will marvel at the dichondra’s heart-shaped leaves, and its silver-toned leaves will glisten.


Van Chaplin/Styling: Scott Martin

One of the most exciting ways to create a boxwood garden is to make subtle changes to varieties of the same plant. For this design, English boxwoods grow in the ground surrounding a terracotta pot planted with an American boxwood.

When planning your boxwood garden, particularly if you plan to use containers, be sure they will be well drained and can be kept fungus-free.

Also, Southern gardeners face specific challenges. Choose boxwoods best suited for hot and humid climates, be aware of insects that may wreak havoc on boxwoods, and check your site’s exposure before planting. Follow these simple steps and reap the rewards of a beautiful boxwood container garden.

Leyland Cypress

Photo: Van Chaplin

Get creative with your containers. This living gate rolls open to let you in and moves closed for privacy. The structure starts with a galvanized horse trough filled with soil and planted with arborvitaes. A wooden brace attached to an old piano dolly on the bottom allows the container to move with little effort.

Spider Plant, Impatiens, and Ferns

Southern Living

Your garden is a creative palette, and garden design is your paintbrush. One of the best ways to create a beautiful composition is to hang your baskets in unexpected places. This container is a medley of plants that grow in various shapes and heights, creating a unique array of delights.

A hook installed in a tree branch holds this basket featuring a stunning combination of plants that will work wonderfully in the shade. You’ll love how many of them spill over the basket and drape in the wind.

Purple Heart

Photo by: Ralph Anderson

Purple heart is a beautiful ground cover, but it can tend to run and become invasive. As the focus of a container, it fills to a beautiful, bold color and a lush fullness.

Create opportunities for container gardening by building planters into your hardscaping any time you do a creative outdoor project. In this innovative design, they have taken the edge off—a large, round planter filled with Purple Heart softens the corner of this wall. Let it become a feature, and let a plant-like purple heart be its focal point.

White Flowers and Dark Foliage

Antonis Achilleos; Produced By Buffy Hargett Miller

Since opposites attract, this contrast study is an excellent combination of form and function. White flowers and black-green foliage are dramatic, echoing a Gothic style. The addition of the planter also creates another opportunity for visual creativity.

Use this to bring in colors and tones that might otherwise be missing from your garden or to bring in shapes and textures you’d like to repeat or reinforce. However you proceed, these stark opposites form a harmonious whole, leaving the plants to sing.

Raised Baskets

Photo: Van Chaplin

Flowers don’t have to grow at ground level. Get face-to-face with your containers by literally putting them up on a pedestal! Eventually, the plantings will grow over the containers and obscure them completely, leaving the plants to float over the pedestals.

For this garden, sleek geometric poles provide an elegant contrast to the wild excitement of the plants. Still, you may choose a pedestal that complements whatever design aesthetic you prefer for your style. Top it with a suitable container, and enjoy the visual variation.

Coriander, Rosemary, and Thyme Garden

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Having fresh herbs on hand means you can always add exquisite tastes to your home-cooked meals. Simplify your shopping list by planting a tiny kitchen garden in a pot. Easy to create and simple to maintain, you will love the fragrances and flavors contained in this display, including coriander, rosemary, and thyme.

Coriander—often called cilantro—is beautiful in salads and salsas. You can plant rosemary according to your flavor preferences. (There is one known as ‘Chef’s Choice’). Thyme makes a delicate seasoning. Since you’ll have this all at your fingertips, plan your weekly recipes to take advantage of everything these great herbs can bring to your table.


Westend61 / Getty Images

If you’re not yet color confident, choose one flower you love in a favorite shade, and stick with it. For more texture and interest, add foliage that complements the color of your flowers.

In the South, pansies may bloom through the fall and winter in the proper zones, so this can be a great way to bring unexpected color to your garden in your coldest season. Choosing a single color doesn’t mean you won’t experience variety—try choosing different flower types that bloom in the same color.

Irises and Begonias

Container Design by Mark Thompson; Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Plant an attention grabber with a creative combination. Japanese roof irises—known as such because they were traditionally grown on the roofs of Japanese cottages—can thrive in those conditions. Begonias, native to tropical and subtropical regions, work well partnered with these irises. They propagate well. If you plan to use begonias in a hanging basket in your container garden, consider a trailing or climbing variety, like the hybrid ‘Potpourri.’ Dragon Wing begonias will also do well in your containers. Select your favorites, and enjoy their beauty.

Mums, Marigolds, and Peppers

Photo: Van Chaplin

Cluster containers in one space for high impact. Look at the group as a whole composition, and plant it as a cohesive unit with complementary and repeated colors. If you aren’t confident choosing colors, think of your plants as you might think of an artist’s color wheel or color chart. Paint chips from home improvement stores can also suggest how you might like shades and tones together. Then, select your plants and your containers to create the feeling you love in the space that makes you feel comfortable.

Tip-Top Shape

Robbie Caponetto; Produced by: Mark Thompson

Always a classic, the topiary’s proper form hails from iconic gardens, and it provides order among rambling plantings. But an evergreen topiary like this ball-form spruce is also a hard worker, going strong through fall and winter.

Pair it with the ‘Orange Marmalade’ firecracker flower, and it will feel at home on the porch during the changing seasons. Firecracker flowers are ideal from late August through early fall as their colorful blooms continue to shine even when most other summer flowers are dying. If your area gets a final heat wave, the firecracker flower will take it in stride as long as you keep it watered. Leave the firecracker flower until the first frost, when it will die off. Then swap in tougher, cold weather-friendly blooms like mums.

Multicolored Violas

Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

Simply adding a bicolored viola to this planter is a way to create a bold sense of visual interest while keeping all of the ease of maintaining this container garden. This planter has a weathered look, bringing a sense of history and drama to the quiet softness of the flowers themselves. When considering this approach to your garden, look for a single planter that can form the centerpiece and complete your design around it.


Photo: Van Chaplin

Sometimes your container garden can focus as much on its structures as it does on its plants and flowers. With creative thinking, you can repurpose large pots around your yard. This unused pot fountain was repurposed as an accent table and stood for a cheerful container planting.

In a similar vein, low columns can also form pedestals for containers. Look in antique stores, salvage yards, and related locations for unexpected finds that can ground your garden with creativity and history. Then, think outside the container and create new pieces that are uniquely yours.

Hanging Annuals

Robbie Caponetto; Producer: Mark Thompson

An outdoor room, like the space created under a pergola, can be a welcoming place to mix your containers. Combine complementary colors and plantings to ensure you will have the feeling of a unified, welcoming space that you can settle into on a warm, sun-filled summer afternoon.

Hardscaping defines a space for seating under the pergola, which well-placed containers will soften and enhance. Then, sit back and listen to the sweet chirp of birds, watch the butterflies, and enjoy the fragrances from your beautiful container garden.

Grape Hyacinths and Daffodils

Photo: Tom McWilliam

Daffodils are container-friendly options for spring plantings and are quite literally some of the most-prized bulbs in the South. Increasing yearly, they can fill a container naturally. They also require minimal care. But most of all, they’re gorgeous—they’re available in colors including white, salmon, pink, orange, apricot, and red. Pair them with other spring bloomers with similar conditions, such as grape hyacinth. The grape hyacinth will grow between six inches and a foot tall, leaving the daffodils to soar above.


PraewBlackWhile / Getty Images

Landscape petunias—new hybrid petunias well suited to growing conditions in the South—are a great choice if you want to include these flowers in your container gardens. All petunias need good drainage, which growing in a pot (with at least one hole in the bottom) provides. Be sure to use a cascading variety for a luxurious planting.

Whether your petunias are mounding or trailing, you’ll have dense flowers. In most places—and the South—they’ll bloom from early in the spring until late in the fall.

Romantic Stair-Step Pots

Photo: Hector M. Sanchez

These beautiful containers can make every step up your stairs a lovely experience. If you choose similarly colored containers, you will let the flowers do all the talking. The containers are in soft neutrals for this beautiful arrangement, while the blooms bring the heat. The ‘Caliente Pink’ geraniums, ‘Surfinia Rose Veined’ petunias, and ‘Techno Heat Light Blue’ lobelias create a soft and feminine color palette for this doorstep welcome.

Geraniums, petunias, and lobelias will thrive in similar conditions, so caring for this bright container garden will be simple. Step up to this gorgeous arrangement today.

Hanging Geranium Container


The cascading form of ivy geraniums makes them ideal for hanging baskets and window boxes. The ‘Sophie Cascade’ geranium variety fills this basket, which billows over the edges, creating a rich cloud of leaves and blossoms. Ivy geraniums are often used as a spiller plant in container gardens, giving life and movement to any arrangement.


Southern Living

Impatiens are one of the best flower options that can take heat and humidity, making them the perfect choice for container gardens in the South. Although they love the shade, as long as you keep impatiens well watered, they can manage some sun. Some hybrids like the ‘New Guinea Hybrid’ will tolerate bright light. This design uses lush mounds of potted impatiens to fill large, low containers. Kept pinched back, your impatiens will remain full and bushy, and their blossoms can last until the first frost.

Boxwood Topiaries

Robbie Caponetto; Produced: Mark Thompson

Get out the wire patterns and get ready to make some fantastic shapes because once you have boxwoods in your container garden, you will want to give them their own unique identities. Boxwood’s willingness to be clipped, shaped, and trained makes it the perfect candidate for a classic topiary. There are guides for learning tips and tricks to achieve the ideal topiary design. With skill and patience, you’ll soon have your boxwood topiaries in tip-top shape.

Red Rice

Red Dragon Rice grows tall, leafy spindles that can add touches of color to a simple container garden setting. Here, a chicken feeder planted with ‘Red Dragon’ rice makes a novel addition to this deck railing. The rice requires a high degree of moisture and does not tolerate cold at all, so consider this plant an annual. And while it is colorful and beautiful, it also should be planted judiciously. Red dragon rice is a weed in rice-growing areas—it is okay to grow it elsewhere.


Steve Bender

Calibrachoa looks like a miniature petunia. Forming a trailing mound, it’s perfect for pots and hanging baskets. Ensure your calibrachoas have good drainage because they require it—thriving more in containers than garden beds. You’ll love the names of your calibrachoas, too. The Million Bells, Mini Famous, Cabaret, Can-Can, and the positively powerful Superbells are just a few of your choices. So whether you want to ring a ton of bells, have a little fame, do a little dance, or see a show, these are the perfect solution for your container garden.

Coleus and Fan Flower

Southern Living

Unlike cut blooms, a living flower arrangement planted in a container will give you color and beauty for months. Combine plants that thrive in the same growing conditions and offer colors and textures that complement each other. These six plants do precisely that. The coleus is perfect for adding color to pots and loves shade. With all its segments on one side, the fan flower brings a unique shape to any garden container. Joseph’s Coat, described as having ‘wonderfully gaudy foliage,’ brings color like bright fire to any arrangement.

Grasses and Succulents

Southern Living

Grasses and succulents have excellent contrast, making the perfect visual and textural combination for a container garden. Begin with something called ‘Amazon Mist’ sedge grass—not grass at all, but from a different plant family—which combines wonderfully with creeping sedum and purple echeveria for a container planting that varies. Here, the echeveria brings in tones of red, orange, and purple, all of which pick up and play off similar tones in the sedge. The low and full succulents also contrast the sedge’s light, airy, and wavy texture.


Photo: Ralph Anderson

Lily-of-the-Nile performs incredibly well in a container and can stay in the same pot for years. It doesn’t mind crowded roots, meaning that this plant will require less maintenance than others. Lily-of-the-Nile can live in full sun or light shade, so you’ll have great choices for where you can locate your containers. Given their range of incredible blue hues, these look beautiful near pools. Some named types may eventually grow to be as tall as three feet.


Steve Bender

Think of mandevilla as your favorite winding climber and one that is perfect for the humidity and climate of the South. Mandevilla flourishes in containers. The containers can even provide the foundation from which your mandevilla can begin a decorative journey across your pergola, porch, or canopy.

Mandevilla will grow ten feet a year in the right conditions. All the while, you’ll enjoy its beautiful blooms from spring until the first frost. Then, if possible, you can bring this beauty in for the winter and have it ready to bloom again next spring.


Southern Living

Give your containers a boost. The shared materials for the planters and the regularity of the boxwoods add an internal harmony to the container garden’s composition. You might wish to consider these approaches when developing your garden design.

Ivy, Ferns, Impatiens, and Caladiums

Photo: Alison Miksch

A container that looks immaculate does not mean sourcing an antique or making an expensive purchase—although you may want to look at some beautiful, historical containers.

If a simple approach that only looks like it costs a pretty penny is more your style, there is always a way to update your standard plastic planter. A gel stain applied to this pot creates a more rich finish. It’s filled with a selection of ivies, ferns, impatiens, and caladiums for a bold, multilevel, elegant, and affordable container design.

Purple Fountain Grass and Coleus

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Purple fountain grass looks great in containers. Its vertical shape creates an exclamation point in the border. Then, its purplish-red leaves and fall plumes combine well with the orange-red coleus. This grass and coleus are not winter-hardy in most areas, but new plants bought in spring are inexpensive and quickly grow, so that you can enjoy this pairing from early spring until late in the fall. You’ll have its beautiful memories to get you through any harsh winters, and the anticipation of it growing again will have you excited to be back in your garden at the first opportunity in the spring.


Southern Living

There are three classes of caladiums—fancy leaf, strap leaf, and dwarf—and all three will work in containers. Once established and meeting their basic needs for water and fertilizer, they should thrive. The colorful foliage of caladiums has tons of drama. Pots containing three different caladiums add color and variety to this entry in summer. From left to right: ‘June Bride,’ ‘Pink Gem,’ and ‘Aaron.’ You can probably find a wide range of caladiums at your local garden center. Still, if you need to find a more comprehensive selection than what may be locally available, caladiums are also available online.


Photo: Van Chaplin

An easy way to add color to your garden is to integrate potted plantings of annuals. These containers of petunias surround a trellis of climbing vines. Some petunias grow from seeds and some from cuttings, but Southern gardeners treasure all petunias. If you choose white petunia, its fragrance will be intoxicating. Surfinias, a type of petunia, will enhance your garden. You’ll be amazed when they bloom all along their stems. Whatever your preference, petunias will beautify your backyard spaces as part of your favorite container gardens.

White Flowers and Silver Foliage

Photo by: Ralph Anderson

Despite their name, window boxes needn’t be hung only below windows. This charming barn gets even more character from being accented by window box plantings. Using whites and silvers for neutrals, the homeowner then accents with bold and bright pops of color, including selections from each of the primary colors—red, yellow, and blue.

Tulips, Pansies, Foxgloves, and Grasses

Photography Van Chaplin

You won’t have to tiptoe around these fantastic plantings. Instead, you can create beautiful pathways through your container garden with these simple, architectural containers. When planning your flowerbeds, buy extra plants for accents. Not only do the containers look great, but also they complement the colors of the adjacent walk.

One of the unique plants in this arrangement is a low-growing foxglove that will give the container some height without becoming too overwhelming. It also brings a lovely purple, creating complementary colors to many other flowers within these containers.

Large Succulent

Photo: Ralph Anderson

If you are in the correct zone for this type of planting, stick with easy-care options in containers to prevent you from spending all of your time watering. Succulents and bougainvilleas need little care. You can choose succulents that grow to create a sense of scale and drama, such as agave or aloe. Depending on your choice of succulents, some may grow as tall as ten feet high, so know their potential when planning your container garden. Then, prepare for a beautiful sight.

Petunias, Begonias, and Cypress

Southern Living

Multiple containers offer opportunities to layer texture and color in your plantings. If you plan to use this approach, have it in mind and prepare your structure before doing your planting. Terracotta pots work particularly well for this application because they will allow moisture to transfer from one pot to another. When you water the upper tier, you may still get some benefits below. Plan a variety of colors in each to create visual harmony and interest.

Twinspurs, Violas, and Kale

Laurey W. Glenn

By the end of winter, people are ready for spring. March weather is unpredictable, so try the prolific pink blooms of ‘Strawberry Sundae’ twinspurs (Diascia hybrid) for those cool days. Twinspur loves this weather so much that it goes dormant in the summer heat. Hardy violas and kale will make spring seem like it has sprung, as each of these plants will work together to maintain their shape and color. They will keep looking great even when temperatures fluctuate.


Photo: Ralph Anderson

Forgiving succulents are heat and drought-tolerant, so they’ll look great all summer. There are many novel ways to plant succulent containers, mainly since they are resilient. Terracotta pots work particularly well since they transfer moisture well and help succulents retain water. They also share a desert color palette with succulents, making the two appear a perfect match. You may group a variety of succulents or create a container for your garden filled with a single type. Water carefully and selectively. These resilient plants will reward you with a beautiful container garden.


Ralph Anderson

Using evergreen plants in a container means you will always have a base that will look good for years. Once establishing this element of your container, you can fill it in with beautiful plants that may need more attention, but that will be easy.

Choose something like a cast-iron plant, and then add some caladiums, impatiens, and even a creeping fig. This arrangement will give you the classics to thrill, fill, and spill. Any shade-loving combination that works well in a container can add color to an entry. If you need more structure or balance, create an additional container of the same size and materials, or complement the group with a smaller plant.

Go For Gold

Laurey W. Glenn

You’ll feel the power of gold when you combine the beauty of these three containers in your garden. These bright blooms of ‘Ogon’ golden sweet flag, ‘Matrix Yellow Blotch’ pansies, and ‘Penny Clear Yellow’ violas will make your pots and flowerbeds glow.

Choose containers of similar materials but varying heights to create visual interest, and then tie everything together through the use of the shared tones of your plants. You will love how bright and bold these flowers are. You can add height by including grasses in one of the plants or mixing in some filler.

Easy-to-Maintain Miniature Garden

Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

When filling a show-stopping window box, don’t hesitate to use small evergreen shrubs or perennials, which last throughout the seasons. These work well in window boxes and provide sustained and consistent color. In the fall, turn to mums, kales, pansies, violas, and snapdragons for color, and then add a few daffodil or tulip bulbs for a bold burst of excitement in the spring.

Be sure to include something that can spill over the edge of the window box and assure a sense of movement and excitement. Keep the evergreens trimmed as necessary—you’ll love how restrained they look against the bold splashes of color.

Potted English Ivy Topiaries

Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Combine several English ivy topiaries and a clipped lemon cypress to accent a garden table. You’ll be able to sit down yet feel as if you are strolling through a classic parterre garden. Mix spirals, globes, columns, and lollipop shapes of varying heights—you’ll love how simple it is to help these topiaries maintain their beautiful forms. Unify the look by planting everything in terracotta pots.

Eat Your Greens (and Reds)

Helen Norman

You can have fresh salad daily if you carefully plant lettuce in your container garden. Plant colorful red and green Wildfire mix lettuces in a sunny spot near the kitchen, and you will be mixing up everything from a classic Caesar or Nicoise salad and everything in between.

These containers will make it easy to prepare salads with your fresh harvest. Pair this with other leafy edibles, and you can have a container garden filled with freshness right in your backyard. This arrangement is an easy way to eat locally—you can’t get much more local than in your own home.

Tough-As-Nails Perennial

Rob Cardillo

Tough-as-nails perennials are great when you want plants that can endure difficult backyard conditions. Yellow Acorus, lime green euphorbia, purple viola, variegated ivy, and pink Lenten rose to make this container pop. Try a seasoned approach if you want containers to look their best for the longest. Combine Lenten roses with these three great plants (hostas, daffodils, and black mondo grass), and you will achieve maximum curb appeal with fantastic durability.

Beat the Heat

Helen Norman

Sometimes a single container can be all it takes to transform an outdoor space from dull to divine. This container, filled with ‘Baby Tut’ dwarf papyrus, elephant’s ear, sweet potato vine, and ‘Vogue Audrey’ mandevilla, is the ideal focal point or space filler in an area that receives full to partial sun. Any variety of these plants will work wonderfully well together. Focus on color, texture, and shape to create an outstanding arrangement in your preferred container. They all do well together, and their beauty will beat the heat.

Edible Garden

Photo: Troy Rhone

Surrounded by a skirt of dwarf mondo grass, this ornate planter filled with an assortment of herbs provides a striking focal point in the middle of the diverging walks. This approach is remarkable because you can select your preferred herbs to fill the container—choose ones that grow well in similar conditions. Prepare to enjoy just-picked tastes and aromas from herbs directly from the garden to your favorite dishes.

The scale of this container contrasts beautifully with what it contains, so fill it full and let them grow. Then, pick these fresh herbs frequently, and savor every delicious bite.

Hostas, Violas, and Blue Phlox

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Consider using a cast-concrete pool for a miniature garden. You’ve probably already considered these for many other garden design applications, but they are far better suited to container gardening than you might have imagined. Because these pools accommodate plumbing, there is already a hole in the bottom to allow for drainage—place plants like hostas, violas, and blue phlox in your container. They’ll grow wonderfully in their new planter.

Beautiful Baskets

Laurey W. Glenn

Hanging baskets follow the same recipe as containers for plant care. Instead of an upright thriller plant, you want more spillers and fillers.

Calibrachoa in red, purple, and yellow can fill out fast with blooms that look like miniature petunias, making a container overflow with interest quickly. It also covers the container, making the flowers, rather than the container itself, the center of attention. Consider planting calibrachoas by color or mix the varieties, depending on your design plan and personal preference. Either way, your hanging baskets will be attention-grabbers.

All Fired Up

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Take glorious fall color to your door by mixing the blazing tones of orange and yellow with cool shades of purple and blue. First, encircle a copper container with a bittersweet wreath (fresh or faux). To contrast with the orange berries, add ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum and the regal hues of purple cabbage. Spice up the center with ‘Calypso Orange’ ornamental peppers and ‘Cosmic Yellow’ cosmos. Crown the look with a halo of Mexican bush sage. Stack pumpkins on the steps for additional color. Provide full sun and moderate water, and the display will flourish through the fall. Plant the sedum in your yard to continue the growth when it’s time to transplant.

Poinsettia Tree Container

Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson, Laurey W. Glenn

To create a poinsettia tree, first cut the larger blooms, leaving about six inches of stem. Sear them quickly to stop sap from dripping. The sap should bubble under the candle flame, and the ends of the stems will turn black. You may also need to sear the points along the stems where you removed larger leaves. Insert each seared stem into a water-filled florist tube. Stems are hollow and will absorb water after being seared. Place the stems into the base of the ivy topiary. Then repeat this process with the medium-size and smaller poinsettia blooms, cutting the stems to four inches long. Insert blossoms into the topiary, working your way toward the top. Once it’s complete, care is simple—add water to the tubes every few days, as needed.

Fire Up Fall with Color

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Go-to grasses and can’t-fail lantanas mark the advent of a bright new season. And the coming of fall doesn’t mean the end of container garden beauty. It simply means planting with attention to detail and location.

Consider moving your planters indoors. Plants like fountain grass are sun-loving and forgiving. Add some lantanas or sweet potato vines for color, thrill, and excitement. Focus on your fall containers too. Use bright pops of color, particularly if you plan to bring your containers inside. Or, use a clean neutral, like black or white, and let the flowers and foliage shine.