The best perennial plants for pots

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine' from T&M

Perennial Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine' gives glorious bursts of summer colour
Image: Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine' from Thompson & Morgan

Perennial patio plants make fantastic, cost-effective container displays year after year. Whether you want colourful flowers for a sun-drenched patio or interesting foliage for a shaded courtyard, there’s a plant to suit every garden. Here are some of our favourite perennials for patio containers. 

The best evergreen perennials for pots

Cordyline 'Superstar' from T&M

The evergreen foliage of cordyline 'Superstar' is beautifully structural
Image: Cordyline 'Superstar' from Thompson & Morgan

Evergreen foliage plants provide leafy interest throughout the seasons and most are happy in partial or full shade, such as a north-facing patio. A good choice for low-maintenance gardens, go for a mixture of gold, maroon, silver and variegated leaves. Here are some evergreen perennials to try:

  • Fatsia. Fatsia japonica makes a fantastic solo specimen with its large palmate glossy green leaves. Or try Fatsia japonica ‘Spiders Web’ which has pretty silver-rimmed foliage. A good choice for shady areas, it produces attractive summer flowers and black fruits in autumn.
  • Bamboo. Planted in large containers, the fast and structural growth of bamboo creates privacy and adds height to your outdoor space. Black bamboo has attractive charcoal stems and umbrella bamboo holds an Award of Garden Merit for its interesting foliage.
  • Cordyline. Especially good for containers in coastal gardens, these hardy perennials have excellent tolerance to salty air. Try ‘Pink Passion’ for startling pink leaves, or Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ for lovely cream-edged foliage. 
  • Grasses. Many of the carex varieties are perfect in mixed container schemes. The breezy silvery foliage of ‘Amazon Mist’ spills over the edge of pots while the thicker, gold-tinged leaves of ‘Evergold’ brighten up grey winter days. Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' has black strappy leaves which look great alone or as part of a mixed pot. 
  • Euonymus. Euonymus fortunei'Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ have brightly variegated foliage. Low growing leafy shrubs, they look fantastic when planted solo in containers.
  • Semi-evergreens. Ferns like Dryopteris wallichiana 'Jurassic Gold' lose their golden and bronze fronds whilst producing new growth in the winter months. Heucheras are also semi-evergreen foliage plants that come in a wide range of colours and make good fillers for perennial containers. 

The best deciduous perennials for pots

Hosta 'Patriot' from T&M

Deciduous shrubs make an excellent display
Image: Hosta 'Patriot' from Thompson & Morgan

Deciduous perennials give a glorious display during the summer months, then die back briefly during the winter. Here are our top picks:

The best drought tolerant perennials for pots

Lavender 'Mini Blue' from T&M

Lavender is a great choice for a dry sunny spot
Image: Lavender 'Mini Blue' from Thompson & Morgan

Lots of perennial plants originate from hot, dry climates, making them particularly suitable for sunny patios. They’re very forgiving plants and will survive a few missed watering sessions, although they won’t tolerate completely drying out for long. Here are our top drought-tolerant perennials for containers:

  • Grasses. Stipa tenuissima produces billowing thread-like foliage in clouds up to 60cm tall. Festuca glauca is more compact at 30cm, with stiff, ice-blue foliage and short flower spikes.
  • Eryngium. With architectural blooms in electric blue, Eryngium 'Blue Steel’ is a cool choice for containers. Pollinators flock to the flowers.
  • Lavender. A Mediterranean classic, lavender has lovely mauve scented flowers and evergreen grey/green foliage. Go for ‘Hidcote’ for an English classic, or try French lavender ‘Twin Summer’ for its large ruffled flower heads.
  • Sedum. Sedum takesimense 'Atlantis' is an award-winning, low-growing variety, developed to look good in pots. Lovely variegated cream and green foliage is the perfect backdrop for summer flower spikes. Sedum 'Sunsparkler Dream Dazzler' is a brand new variety with startling pink foliage. 
  • Salvia nemorosa. Enjoy spires of tiny flowers from the tidy clumps of leaves from your Salvia nemorosa all summer long. Plant 'Caradonna Pink Inspiration' for pale pink flowers and 'Salvatore Deep Blue' for deep true blue.

The best winter hardy perennials for pots

Festuca 'Sunrise' from T&M

The evergreen foliage of Festuca 'Sunrise' is a welcome sight in winter
Image: Festuca 'Sunrise' from Thompson & Morgan

These perennials have been chosen for their lovely flowers or fantastic foliage and stem colour during winter. Here are some top choices for hardy winter patio displays:

  • Hellebores. These low-growing plants produce large single or double flowers through late winter and into spring. Preferring dappled shade to full sun, go for hellebore ‘Double Black’ for deep maroon-black flowers or ‘Green Marble’ for contemporary lime green blooms.
  • Daphne. Fragrance is the main reason to plant a daphne. The evergreen, variegated foliage of Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ looks fantastic in a large container, and the flowers that appear between January and April fill your outdoor space with a powerful scent.
  • Cornus. Shrub Cornus, known as dogwood, produces brightly coloured bare winter stems after losing its leaves in autumn. Go for Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' for pink and orange stems, and ‘Buds Yellow’ for golden stems. Plant in a large container with plenty of good quality compost.
  • Spring flowering bulbs. Go for early flowering snowdrops, crocus, iris, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips for a wonderful container display on your patio. Pair these early spring-flowering bulbs with other evergreens for long-lasting interest. 

All you need to do now is grab your trowel, and get out into the garden. If, after years of top performance, your perennial eventually outgrows its pot, just plant it out into the garden or give it to a friend. Share your photos with us via on Twitter or Instagram using #YourTMGarden. We love to hear from you!

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