Perennials For Pots

In my experience, growing plants in pots can be really rewarding. Not only do they provide colour for many months, pots are perfect for anyone who lacks time, space, has difficulty in moving around or who want to hide something unsightly.

Trifolium repens & low spreading thyme

When choosing plants for pots most gardeners select a combination of brightly coloured annuals. These will bloom from July to September, but die when the first autumn frosts arrive. To keep them looking good annuals need to be frequently fed, watered, and deadheaded. If this is all too much an easier option is to grow perennial plants. Perennials need less feeding and watering, and being perennial they will come back year after year. They are interesting from the minute they emerge in March or April until they fade in October or November. I have kept perennials in garden pots for many years, and being a nurseryman I know that all perennials can be grown a pot.

Plants for early spring colour in pots

Winter and early spring is a time when everything looks deserted and pots that sit around the garden look abandoned. To rectify this plant them up with evergreen Bergenias, or black leaved ophiopogon and under plant with spring flowering bulbs such as small flowered narcissus or bulbous irises like Iris ‘Spring Time’.

Iris 'Spring Time'

Iris ‘Spring Time’

Plants for pots in shade or semi shade

If you have an area that does not get much sun, perennials are a perfect choice. For all season colour I grow Bergenias and Hellebores. These cope well in shade, have evergreen leaves and flowers early in the year. Hostas are good for later colour, and growing them in pots largely thwarts leaf-munching slugs. One of my favourites is ’Patriot’, with mid-green leaves thatare broadly edged with white. This has been in the same pot for four years. All I do is feed it occasionally (especially in spring) and water it when the soil looks dry. In a big, blue glazed ceramic pot I grow Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’. The enormous greenish yellow leaves look great against the blue and at the base a wood violet, Viola labradorica with purple leaves and flowers, has self-seeded itself. Heucheras are good in pots too. The handsome hummocks of fig-like leaves come in a wide selection of colours from orange to purple and lime green. For beautiful flowers I recommend Hemerocallis (daylilies) with large, lily- like flowers that range from white to purple.

Viola labradorica underneath Hosta ‘Sum & Substance’

Plants for hot spots in the garden

As gardens are for relaxing in, pots are often placed in the warmest spots where the compost is likely to dry out quickly. If you don’t want to water constantly Agapanthus (Blue Lily) is a good choice. These are great for creating a focal point and produce open balls of starry blue or white flowers from mid summer onwards. Being South African they thrive in heat and don’t like our cold, wet winters, so I over-winter them in a greenhouse to keep them perennial.

Agapanthus ‘Headbourne Hybrids’

Another plant that looks great in a pot of its own is Verbena bonarensis. If you like to cluster pots together, as I do, this is ideal for placing at the back where the very tall, slender stems of small violet flowers will attract bees and butterflies. Shorter grasses are also happy in pots. I’ve had the lovely yellow and green striped leaved, but difficultly named, Hakonechola macra ‘Aureola’ in a pot for many years. All it gets is a hair cut every spring.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Shorter perennials are useful for combining in large pots. The purple perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ looks good with the shaggy white, heavily scented flowers of Dianthis ‘Mrs Sinkins’. They both have lovely silver leaves. An unusual combination is the tall, red clover, Trifolium repens planted with low growing, silver leaved thyme and dwarf, autumn flowering Sedum ‘Bertram Anderson’. When the trifolium has finished flowering I cut it right back so that other plants can take centre stage.

These are just a few ideas of what you can grow, the choice is endless and I have not even mentioned penstemons, ajugas, geums or achilleas. Just remember to select plants with attractive leaves and flowers, grow them in a good, soil based compost, and you should get years of pleasure.


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