You know that adding plants around patios brings color to your outdoor living area. But Which PLANTS?
Your patio or deck deserves to be decorated with the sunniest, brightest, most interesting plants imaginable.
Whether your patio is a sun-drenched terrace, a patio in the dappled shadows cast by majestic trees, or a shady nook, you will enjoy having plants at close range. Let’s take a look!
Where Did The Patio Come From?
Leisure-loving Spanish Americans introduced the patio, literally “courtyard,” to the Southwest 250 years ago.
As an area for outdoor living, its popularity spread to all parts of the country. Even in colder climates, it is a favorite place for family and social gatherings in the summer.
The patio was originally floored with packed adobe soil, which became pretty sticky after rain.
Patio surfaces now utilize pavements of brick, stone, concrete, and other materials. These render the floor fit in any weather, especially when protected with a canopy.
Plants Around A Sun-Drenched Patio Or Terrace
The Sun-Drenched Terrace is the place for heat-loving, wilt, and fade-proof plants like Mexican Heather Cuphea and Cuphea cigar plants.
For a squat, low container (4” inch depth and a diameter of 6” inches or more), Portulaca (rose moss) is a knockout. By day!
At sundown, the portulacas satiny petals close tightly. Potted or tubbed yellow, white, and pink miniature roses would make good companions set next to the portulaca to give evening color and fragrance.
Check out the Rock Purslane (Calandrinia)
In another low pot, plant white sweet alyssum. This gives the effect of drifted snow, plus fragrance.
For an eight-inch mound of ferny foliage covered by a sheet of dancing golden flowers, plant a pot of Dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba).
Blooms begin six to eight weeks after planting, and continue all season. Clip back to keep it in shape.
No plant could be happier basking in summer’s sun on a patio than a potted marigold. Six-inch dwarf marigolds are indispensable, or go for the large-flowered and long in-bloom varieties.
For unbelievable flower profusion, length of season, and earliness of first bloom, choose dwarf varieties of Calliopsis (aka Coreopsis) – 8-inch annuals with daisy flowers.
Lots of color options from crimson, striped, and mottled with yellow and yellow flowers with a crimson zone, to name a few.
The African daisy (Dimorphotheca) gives a sheet of color during the hottest part of summer.
One or two plants will fill a container 18” inches in diameter, making it a mound of orange, salmon, lemon, or white flowers that glisten by day, and close at dusk.
Dwarf Nasturtium is excellent for a patio container. It makes a mound 18” inches across, about 12” inches tall, covered with large flowers, above the foliage, in shades of cream, yellow, rose, salmon, orange and scarlet.
Today’s glorious petunias make wonderful container plants for an outdoor living area, plus there are so many traffic stoppers!
More on flowering petunia care here.
To relieve the hot, vivid colors of many annuals, use some blue-flowered ones like blue “floss flower” ageratum. It gives good color all season.
Other low-growing blue flowers under 12 inches tall include cupflower (Nierembergia caerulea), dwarf verbena bush varieties with blue flowers, and Felicia bergeriana.
The bush-flowering dwarf kinds of balsam make showy pot plants. A container planted generously to a mixture of dwarf cristata Celosias (cockscombs) will collect many compliments.
The plume or feather Celosias in 12”-inch dwarfs, colors red, orange, purple, and yellow, are showy also.
Dwarf, bushy types of Phlox drummondii give mounds of many colors with a long bloom season.
Bush-forming, dwarf verbenas are excellent also in a sunny, warm place. Periwinkles (varieties of Vinca rosea) make splendid patio pots or tub plants in the sun.
With moisture at their roots, wax begonias (semperflorens) can stand full sunlight. All kinds of geraniums are superb for this use – scented, fancy, and ivy-leaf, even Martha Washington geraniums and all the standard zonal varieties.
Plant a pot or two or more of Festuca ovina glauca, an ornamental grass, for accent and don’t forget society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) with their lilac-pink flowers.
A sun-drenched patio is likely to be warm early in the morning, even in spring, making it the perfect place for family breakfasts or brunches with friends.
Bulbs potted in the fall and brought to the terrace when they bloom in spring provide early color.
… all hold up well for up to two weeks.
For fall color, pot dwarf hardy asters, and cascade varieties of chrysanthemums are excellent for tall containers.
Bring myriads of autumn color to your patio with other low-growing mums.
For redwood or cedar tubs, large earthenware containers, or those of cast concrete, these are some of the best plants for pots outdoors on a sunny patio:
- Calamondin (miniature orange or Citrus mitis)
- Nicotiana (flowering tobacco – 12” to 18” inches tall with flowers fragrant at night)
- Dwarf bamboo (Bambusa nana and others)
- Hibiscus Tree “Standards”
- Bananas (Musa velutina and others)
- Cannas (Dwarfs) and with Companion plants
For a patio area baked to a crisp by the hot sun, even burned by winds, rely on many types of cacti and other succulents to give interest and color:
- Attractive Potted Agave Plants – Try Agave attenuata specimens
- Unique Looks of Aloes
- Enchanting Echeverias – Tips on Echeveria Care
The blue-gray or blue-green of many kinds gives a bit of cool color, welcome on this kind of terrace.
Plants Around A Patio Protected by Dappled Shade
If your patio has five or six hours of direct sunlight, you can grow anything suggested for a sun-drenched terrace.
With less than five hours of sunlight, choose from plants that like bright light all day but thrive and bloom on a few hours of direct sun.
Even includes areas receiving only early morning and late afternoon, as on the north side of a house.
Here are some good plants for such a location:
- Blue flowered Browallia Speciosa
- Hundreds of different Fuchsias
- Wide array of Tuberous begonias
- Bright colored Impatiens
- Achimenes Plant
- Caladium bulbs
- Colorful hybrid Coleus plants
- Fancy-leaf geraniums
Plants Around A Shaded, Quiet Nook Patio
This is the patio or terrace where relaxing on a hot day is nice. To sip and look at cool, restful colors.
Bright colored Caladium bulbs are outstanding here, although colors may not be as intense as when plants get some direct sunlight.
Use potted ferns lavishly like Pteris cretica, Pteris ensiformis or Pteris Quadriaurita (silver lace fern) with silver leaves could be used to give color contrast.
Here’s the place to put a beautiful tubbed palm and a grouping of many-hued rex begonias.
Use all kinds of potted English ivy and look for varieties that give color.
If your shaded terrace has bright light all day, with perhaps a bit of direct sun in the early morning and late in the afternoon, add these plants:
- Torenias (wishbone flowers)
- Tuberous Begonias
Remember The Basics
When using plants around patios, remember in planting and caring for all plants growing outdoors in containers:
- Use rich, crumbly soil with enough sand to give perfect drainage.
- Generous amounts of peat moss or fibrous coco coir will help hold moisture when dog days come.
- Water is often enough in the absence of summer rains to keep soil nicely moist.
- Beware of planters with no drainage holes.
- If a plant dries out rapidly, so often you are kept running with the hose, transplant it to a larger container.