With potted patio plants, container gardening allows you to enjoy the benefits of a broad range of garden plants, even in a small outdoor space.
Container gardens are versatile, attractive, and easy to care for, making them excellent additions as patio plants.
In this article, we will discuss a dozen top outdoor plants for patio picks for creating a container garden that delivers a powerful visual impact.
- Plant Containers Put YOU In Control
- Patio Planter Ideas – Tips For Selecting The Right Pots For Your Container Garden
- 12 High Impact Container Patio Plants
- #1 – Elephant Ear (Colocasia)
- #2 – Coreopsis
- #3 – Flowering New Guinea Impatiens
- #4 – Cosmos
- #5 – English ivy (Hedera helix ivalace)
- #6 – Emerald & Gold (Euonymus fortunei)
- #7 – Skimmia japonica
- #8 – Geraniums & Pelargoniums
- #9 – Clematis
- #10 – Hosta
- #11 – Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
- #12 – Pittosporum tenuifolium
- Patio Trees And Flowering Shrubs For The Backyard Patio
- 13 Tips For High-Impact Decorating With Container Gardens
- Good Planning & Careful Work Create Container Gardens That Pop
We will also share tips about choosing the best plants for big pots outside, help you choose the right containers, and set up your garden. Read on to learn more.
Plant Containers Put YOU In Control
With container gardening, you can enjoy flowers, vegetables, and even growing dwarf versions of trees and shrubs. Imagine the possibilities for topiary plantings!
If you live in a small home with only a balcony, patio, or deck, you can use this outdoor space for your garden, and your entire garden can grow in containers.
On a large estate, using large outdoor potted plants in container gardening softens corners, defines the outdoor space, and brings life into featureless areas.
Theme parks make excellent use of outdoor potted plants in large containers to create impact.
Patio Planter Ideas – Tips For Selecting The Right Pots For Your Container Garden
For the best appearance, choose patio containers all of one type or coordinate using just a couple of different materials. Before you select any patio container, take a good look at your home and garden.
Choose materials and colors that enhance what you already have. For example, terra-cotta containers will be just right if you have a red brick home!
For greater impact, choose bigger pots. Not only are large plant containers visually appealing, but they make care somewhat easier.
A large outdoor plant container will not dry out quickly and can be treated more like a small garden plot.
Let your choices in containers reflect your personality. In addition to striving to consider the style of your home, you can also express yourself through your choice of containers and plants.
From perfectly matched, duplicate planters to eclectic mixes of shabby chic, your imagination is your only limit in creating an eye-catching and impactful container garden display.
Need Some Ideas For Large Planters? Check these out:
- Granite Brown 20″ inch planter
- Large 28″ Charoal Rolled Rim Ancona Planter
- Talavera Planter is Very Attractive!
- Large Cedar Outdoor Barrel Planter
- Large 24″ inch Bowl Planter
12 High Impact Container Patio Plants
The right combination of potted plants for patio decor can make all the difference in getting the ultimate visual effect from an outdoor space.
Here are some top choices for container gardens that pop on the patio!
#1 – Elephant Ear (Colocasia)
Elephant ears plants are tropical plants boasting large, attractive heart-shaped leaves.
This beautiful plant ranges in shades from green and white variegated to plain green or even a dark and impressive purple/black.
In the wild, Colocasia grows in swamps. This makes Black Magic elephant ears in containers a perfect choice as a landscape feature around ponds in warm climates (USDA Zone 8-11).
In cooler climates, Elephant Ear makes an excellent container plant to be kept outdoors in mild weather and indoors during cold weather.
Alternatively, it can do well as a houseplant all year round. If you plan to keep Colocasia as a houseplant, you should be aware that it can grow to be large potted plants outdoor 3′ – 5′ feet high. You will need to have plenty of space.
It’s best to keep these tropical potted plants in an area receiving bright, indirect light and staying predictably warm (65°-75° degrees Fahrenheit) during the growing season.
Placing a humidifier in the room will help keep the plant happy.
Although Elephant Ear naturally grows in swamps, you must provide good drainage.
Sitting water stagnates and can cause root rot. Plant Elephant Ear in well-drained, rich soil like this with a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot.
It is also a good idea to place the pot on a layer of pebbles in a plant saucer to help improve humidity while preventing root rot.
During the growing season, fertilize your Elephant Ear bi-weekly with a 20-10-10 plant food diluted by half. When the growing season concludes, stop fertilizing to allow the plant a chance to rest.
During the late autumn and winter, reduce watering, lower lighting, and provide less stimulation.
You may want to move your Colocasia to your garage or your basement for winter. It will be fine kept at a steady 45°-55° degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter.
In the early spring, divide the tubers and repot them.
You are unlikely to ever see flowering with Elephant Ear, but it does occur in plants thriving outdoors. Colocasia flowers are small, yellow/green cones sheathed in green.
Varieties of Easy To Grow Elephant Ear Outdoor Patio Plants:
- Black Magic is dark burgundy and grows 3′ to 5′ feet high.
- Black Stem has green leaves, black stems, and deep burgundy veins.
- Blue Hawaii, a stunner, has bluish-purple veins.
- Lime Zinger grows quite large at 5′ to 6′ feet high. It has chartreuse foliage.
- Jack’s Giant typically grows 5′ feet high with deep green leaves.
- Cranberry Taro grows 2′ to 5′ feet high and has green foliage and dark stems.
- Nancy’s Revenge grows about 2′ to 5′ feet high and has dark foliage with cream-colored centers.
- Chicago Harlequin grows 2′ to 5′ feet high and has green foliage ranging from light to dark.
- Illustris is a smaller variety at only 1′ to 3′ feet high. It has green leaves with lime green and black markings.
#2 – Coreopsis
It also goes by the more scientific names Coreopsis bicolor and Calliopsis tinctoria.
These hardy, easy-to-grow garden flowers make surprisingly good container deck plantings. You may also see this perky little plant called Calliopsis, Tickseed, or Pot of Gold.
Pot of Gold is an excellent choice for a natural, wild yard or a wildflower garden. This hardy little plant produces attractive red, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. The foliage is light and airy and very nice-looking.
This wildflower does well in soil with low fertility, and it presents a striking presence in a large container mixed in with other colorful perennials and annuals. Some good choices include Purple Basil and Nasturtiums.
#3 – Flowering New Guinea Impatiens
If the patio area where your container garden will live is a shaded area, one of the best-potted plants is the New Guinea impatiens plant!
They do equally well in a part-shaded outdoor space or indoors as houseplants. You can expect abundant blooms far into the autumn months with regular deadheading.
When keeping Impatiens indoors, it’s a good idea to use a hanging basket and keep the plant in a bright window where it will receive indirect sunlight.
Light Requirements – Keep your Impatiens warm and protected from direct sunlight and drafts.
Water your potted or container garden Impatiens sparingly. You want the soil’s surface to be moist, but you don’t want it soggy.
Unlike some types of house and container plants, you do not want the soil’s surface to become dry during the spring and summer months.
Indoors, check your Impatiens every day to see if it needs water. Don’t overdo it, though. Soggy soil tends to lead to root rot.
Give your Impatiens a water-soluble fertilizer like this once a week to encourage your plants to begin blooming early in the spring and continue throughout the summer and the autumn months.
Remember to deadhead very frequently to help prevent your Impatiens from becoming leggy and ungainly.
#4 – Cosmos
Pretty, Daisy-like, colorful Cosmos flower adds a lighthearted touch to container gardening and attracts pollinators.
These tall, lovely flowers in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, and white do nicely mixed in with a wide variety of plants.
They look especially good combined with plants sporting silver foliage.
It’s very easy to grow cosmos in containers, and you can harvest lots of beautiful flowers for your dry or fresh flower arrangements.
Be careful when selecting the cosmos as a potted outdoor plant. Some varieties can grow as high as six feet. You’ll want to look for dwarf varieties or compact varieties such as:
- Cosmos sulphureus is available in red, orange, and yellow.
- Cosmos bipinnatus produces rose-toned and pink blooms.
#5 – English ivy (Hedera helix ivalace)
For use as outdoor pot plants, there are many applications for Ivy in container gardening. With its shiny, dark green, attractive curled leaves, it makes an excellent backdrop for a wide variety of other container plants.
It also makes a tremendous impact on its own. The variety known as “ivalace” was Ivy of the Year in 2011
It’s easy to add English ivy to your existing container plantings by taking cuttings and propagating them.
This plant does well in a wide variety of settings ranging from full sun exposure to partial shade, making it an excellent companion for many other types of plants.
Personally, I would ONLY GROW English Ivy in containers and NEVER plant English Ivy in the landscape!
Regarding water, it can tolerate some drought. Ideally, it should be kept lightly moist; like most plants, it should never be waterlogged.
English Ivy is fairly pest-resistant but is subject to fungal diseases if overwatered. Fertilize lightly using a diluted (half dose) of your favorite fertilizer.
When working with English ivy, you should understand it is far more tolerant of extremes in weather when planted in the ground than when planted in containers.
Therefore, containers should be placed in relatively protected areas to avoid harsh heat conditions, high winds, and complete freezing.
#6 – Emerald & Gold (Euonymus fortunei)
There are several different varieties of this compact, attractive shrub. All present some variation of green and gold variegated foliage. In cold weather, this foliage takes on a pink tinge.
Emerald and gold shrubs can grow 2′ or 3′ feet high and attain a width as great as 4 to 6 feet. So it’s easy to see that the containers must be quite spacious if used in container gardening.
Nonetheless, the shrubs make a very striking and impactful display in large containers as patio borders, centerpieces for large indoor settings, and more. In addition, planting colorful flowers such as primroses, Narcissus, and tulips at the base makes a gorgeous presentation.
Do your research! Some varieties of Euonymus fortunei are considered invasive.
Another Euonymus of interest is Euonymus alatus – Burning Bush Plant.
#7 – Skimmia japonica
Skimmia japonica is a low-maintenance evergreen shrub producing an attractive array of tiny red buds throughout the winter. These open up to become pinkish-white flowers in springtime.
It is important to note that Skimmia comes in both male and female varieties. To get good bud and flower production, you need both.
Naturally, only the female variety produces buds and flowers; however, you can have several females and only one male to stimulate bud and flower production in the females.
Skimmia is a slow-growing shrub. They are also “acid-loving,” so plant them in well-drained acidic soil and use a fertilizer designed for azaleas and/or rhododendrons. As container plants, they prefer light shade or indirect sunlight.
#8 – Geraniums & Pelargoniums
Geraniums and Pelargoniums come in a wide variety of bright colors, foliage types, and blossom types. You could make a fascinating and varied container garden consisting entirely of these types of plants.
The best container for Geraniums or Pelargoniums is a terra cotta pot, as good drainage and soil aeration are of the utmost importance. These plants do not like soggy roots or stems and are prone to fungal infestation if kept too wet.
When purchasing Geraniums or Pelargoniums, be sure to check their maximum size and their growth habits. Some types of Geraniums can grow quite large and tall. Trailing geraniums and pelargoniums do very well in hanging baskets or as the edge planting spills over a larger planter’s sides.
Always suit the size of your pot to the size of your plant, and remember to repot mature plants annually. Geraniums and Pelargoniums can be propagated by dividing or planting cuttings.
Annual repotting time is ideal for propagating more plants for your home and sharing with others. Of course, it is also possible to propagate these plants from seed, but it is easier just to take a cutting.
Always use good quality potting soil for Geraniums. It should be light airy, and nourishing.
You don’t need to fertilize often (or at all). When you repot, just be sure to use fresh potting soil or finished compost to provide nourishment.
You may also wish to provide a monthly dose of liquid fertilizer like this, but if you are getting lots of leaves and few blooms, you will want to cut back on that.
Place your containers in somewhat protected areas and receive at least 6 hours a day of sun. Geraniums and pelargoniums are not cold weather hardy. If you live in an area with hard winter freezes, you must bring them inside.
Be sure to deadhead individual Geranium blossoms and remove spent clusters. Also, remove wilted leaves. Don’t drop these onto the soil, as they will promote fungal growth. Instead, dispose of them properly by adding them to your compost heap or tossing them in the trash.
#9 – Clematis
Some types of Clematis are ideally suited for growing in containers. Although often sold as a climbing plant, it does equally well as a trailing plant, making it an attractive addition to a container garden.
Be sure to give your Clematis vine a large container, as this will help protect the roots – especially in areas that tend to freeze in wintertime.
Use lightweight, high-quality potting soil like this popular brand to fill your container.
At the time of planting, mix in a good quality slow-release fertilizer. Provide a trellis or support immediately if you want your Clematis to climb. If you wait until later, you may damage your plant’s roots.
You must understand that Clematis is a thirsty plant. Check on it daily and provide water as needed. If the top couple of inches of soil feels dry, give the pot a good soaking.
Provide a good, slow-release, general-purpose fertilizer early in the springtime. You may need to fertilize another time or two during the growing season.
Protect your Clematis against the cold by providing a good thick layer of mulch. In very cold areas, place your container in a sheltered outdoor space to prevent damage to your plant.
Related Reading: Trellis Plants: What Are 10 Of The Best Flowering Vines For A Trellis?
#10 – Hosta
These cheery shade lovers make a very attractive container plant alone or combined with eye-catchers such as Bleeding Heart or Heuchera. As with most plants, Hostas prefer well-drained soil.
It’s wisest to give them a good foundation of an inch of pebbles and a mulch of pebbles on the soil surface. This will ensure both good moisture retention and good drainage.
Be sure to water your Hostas regularly and carefully around the base of the plant. Avoid getting the crowns and the leaf canopy wet.
By providing light, airy soil, and taking care when you water, you can help prevent root rot and fungal disease. These are the main problems you might encounter with hostas.
Slugs and snails can also be an issue with Hosta Plants.
Related: Learn more on how to control slugs and snails here naturally.
#11 – Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
If you want real impact, you can’t go wrong with Fountain Grass. With its bushy red flowers and long graceful stems, it makes a grand and dramatic statement on its own and is also lovely in combination with plants such as ornamental Alliums.
Fountain Grass can be grown in garden beds or pots. It can be kept indoors all year round, and it’s a good idea to have at least one plant that you keep indoors regularly to propagate new plants by division. This is the most effective and efficient way to grow more Fountain Grass.
When kept outdoors, you’ll want to cut back your Fountain Grass to a height of about 3” inches in the autumn after the first frost.
Move container plants into a sheltered and unheated area to over-winter. A non-freezing garage or basement is ideal.
When over-wintering your Fountain Grass, occasionally water just enough to keep the soil moist. But, as always, you do not want to overwater or create soggy soil.
To prepare your Fountain Grass to be moved back outside in the springtime, provide bright light approximately six weeks before the last predicted frost of the winter.
Begin watering and fertilizing actively at this time. Soon, you will see new growth, which means you can remove the plant from the pot and divide it to create new plants for your spring garden.
Each divided plant should have one or two shoots growing actively.
Repot each of these to create all new plants. At this point, you will want to increase light and heat to encourage rapid growth and have nice, strong plants for the spring and summer.
Fountain Grass is a tropical plant, so you should protect it from all dangers of frost. Gradually habituate your new plants to outdoor conditions, but don’t put them outdoors permanently until all danger of frost passes.
Related: Learn more about fountain grass here.
#12 – Pittosporum tenuifolium
This lovely evergreen shrub produces pale, creamy-colored leaves that gradually darken as they mature.
When fully colored, they attain a deep and rich mahogany shade. This is an excellent shrub for impact at your entryway, as it needs some wintertime shelter.
This easy-to-grow shrub is a lovely focal point on your terrace or balcony.
Although Pittosporum is best kept outside, it can be grown indoors in a container with partial sun. The main thing to remember is to shelter the plant from temperature extremes and high winds.
Pittosporum always likes moist soil, so you should water well throughout the growing season (spring and summer) and reduce watering from fall through winter. Like most plants, you should avoid over-watering and allow the soil to dry slightly before re-watering.
Pittosporum likes light, loamy, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil. Use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
Follow label instructions and avoid excessive fertilization. In the springtime, use aged manure or composted leaves to mulch around the base of the plant and provide it with natural, ongoing nourishment.
To keep Pittosporum looking its best, prune it regularly with very sharp pruners or scissors like these. Be sure to promptly cut away any dying, damaged, or diseased branches.
Don’t prune heavily until the blooming season ends. Then, do a comprehensive pruning in preparation for the winter months.
Generally speaking, Pittosporum is free of disease; however, they may be subject to pests such as:
Related Reading: Dwarf Mock Orange – Tips On Growing Pittosporum Tobira
Patio Trees And Flowering Shrubs For The Backyard Patio
Not every container garden requires multiple varieties of plants. Sometimes, one simple plant in a nice container is the only requirement.
Something is fascinating about a small tree growing in a container. They can be moved around to provide different looks or screen areas.
In general, you want these outdoor plants for the patio to add some color to the outdoor space.
Flowering shrubs growing as standard trees with a long bloom time make perfect patio additions. A good example is the purple-blooming Tibouchina plant.
We like the look of a small tree in a big pot. The large decorative container helps keep the plant stable when blown around.
Several of our favorite sun-loving plants grown as patio trees are the following:
Hibiscus Tree or Flowering Shrub
The potted hibiscus tree is a perfect flowering shrub for a patio plant for color.
- Hibiscus has a long bloom time from spring all the way through summer.
- Come in a variety of colors: red, orange, pink, yellow, and some fancy multi-color hybrids.
- For best flowering, give the plants full sun
- Easy to maintain and care for, but hibiscus can develop yellow leaves.
Related: Get the details on Hibiscus plant care.
Lantana Plant – Bush, Shrub, or Tree
We especially like Lantana plants grown as trees as tall plants for pots. However, what makes them one of the best large patio plants is:
- A bright, easy-to-grow, sun-loving plant, perfect for any patio with lots of bright light or full sun.
- Produces flowers in abundance with lots of colors.
- Lantana care is not difficult. Need only occasional trimming.
- Plant Lantana as soon as all danger of frost passes.
- Lantana can grow and constantly flower all year in areas where frost seldom occurs. Now THAT’S a long bloom time!
- Attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies
Croton Bush or Tree
If the color is a patio plant with no need for flowers, the Croton plant is tough to beat.
- The foliage on Croton plants produces intense colors when grown in full sun or bright light.
- Easy care
- Variety of leaf shapes
New Zealand Flax (Phormium Tenax)
- Colorful yellow or variegated foliage creates a dramatic look
- Evergreen with straplike leaves, some in shades of orange and striking red
Related: More on New Zealand Flax (Phormium)
The dwarf cavendish banana tree is a real conversation piece. It has large, broad, dark green leaves or is flecked with dark spots on top.
Underneath, some varieties have leaves of green or purple, making this an attractive plant from several points of view.
Related: Learn more about growing banana plants.
Known as the “Leopard plant,” it gets the common name from its unique green leaves with randomly spotted blotches of cream, yellow, and sometimes pink.
It likes cool temperatures, humidity, and bright light. Related to the daisy, with yellow, daisy-like flowers.
Looks great planted in a bowl to display its large green leaves!
Learn more about the growing and care of Farfugium japonicum plants.
The fresh fragrance of citrus is always a treat when walking outside. Several citrus patio trees to consider are:
13 Tips For High-Impact Decorating With Container Gardens
It’s only natural that large container gardens have the greatest impact.
When you create a large, impressive display, you are sure to generate visual attention in any setting.
Here are some smart tips to help you create and maintain container gardens with real flair.
13 Tips For High-Impact Patio and Deck Plants
1. When creating a large, combined container display, choose combinations of flowers and plants that thrive in similar conditions. In this way, you can be sure that your choices will always look their best.
2. When selecting a setting, look for spaces that seem to cry out for color, texture, and other visual and tactile points of interest. Mandevilla, tropical Hibiscus and Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) scream color!
3. You can begin with a store-bought container or (if you are handy) build or assemble your own.
4. When selecting plants for your container garden, be sure to read the tags carefully to amass a collection of plants with similar care requirements.
5. For most container gardens, you should water when the surface of the soil feels dry. Water is enough that some water escapes from the drain holes in the bottom of the pot.
6. When selecting plants, in addition to seeking similar care instructions, you will want to choose plants that offer contrast and interest in terms of size, color, texture, and shape. It’s a good idea to look for plants that will:
- Fill the center of your planter. These should be taller plants (Cannas).
- Spill over the edges of your planter. These should be smaller, cascading sorts (Petunias).
- Thrill passersby with color, scent, and texture.
7. Once you have chosen your container and your plants, it’s smart to assemble your new garden where you intend to keep it. In this way, you can avoid luring a heavy, full planter to its permanent location.
8. Organize all of your supplies together at the spot where you plan to place the container garden. You’ll need the following:
- Drainage material for the bottom of the pot
- Gravel or mulch for top-dressing
- Your collection of plants
- Potting soil
9. With a very large pot, you should fill the bottom third with drainage material. This could be pebbles, shipping “popcorn,” aluminum cans, or other non-biodegradable, non-toxic materials that will take up a bit of excess space, improve drainage, and (preferably) help keep debris out of the landfill.
10. Keep your soil loose as you work. Fill the container with loose, loamy potting soil that provides good drainage. Don’t tamp it down at this point, as you want to be able to add plants to it.
11. Plan your arrangement. Set the plants and flowers on the surface of the dirt in their pots to get an idea of the look you prefer. Once you determine how to arrange the plants, remove them from their pots (gently without pulling on the stem). Settle them into place and gently tamp down the soil. Add more as needed to bring the level of the soil surface to within 1.5 inches of the top.
12. Start off with good nourishment. If the soil you use does not contain a fertilizer, you are well-advised to add a balanced fertilizer to the container mix. Follow package instructions for containers. You may want to play it safe at first by diluting the product by more than 1/2.
13. Finally, add a top dressing of pebbles, moss, or mulch to help your plants make the most of the water you provide.
In this article, we have focused on ornamental plants, but there are many others to consider.
- Begonias, Marigolds, Coleus
- Herbs – Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme
- Bamboo for privacy
- … and more
Good Planning & Careful Work Create Container Gardens That Pop
A large container garden on a patio is sure to make an impression.
You can be certain of making a desirable impression by choosing your containers carefully, coordinating your plants well, and planting them skillfully.
Follow the tips presented here to make the most positive impact on your container gardens.