Place your perennials in optimal light conditions.

The Best Perennials for Pots

by Linsay Evans

Whether you've got a tiny garden, a small patio or a little deck to work with, container gardening allows you to brighten your yard with color and fragrance. If you choose perennials that bloom at different times during the growing season, your family can enjoy blossoms from spring through fall. Make sure your containers can drain properly, and choose perennials that will grow no more than three times the container's height.

1. Spring Bloomers

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) blooms in spring with white flowers. Plant this perennial at the edge of your container and place it in sunny sites. Candytuft is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9 and grows from 9 to 18 inches tall. Dianthus or pinks (Dianthus spp.) bloom in late spring, producing rosy pink and white flowers atop gray-green foliage. These perennials grow from 6 to 24 inches tall and thrive in sunny sites. Pinks grow in USDA zones 4 to 9 and require plenty of air circulation, so don't crowd them within the container.

2. Summer Bloomers

For early summer color in a sunny site, plant yarrow or achillea (Achillea spp.). This sun-loving perennial tolerates drought and grows to 3 feet tall in USDA zones 3 to 9. It blooms with yellow, white, pink and red flowers and has fragrant foliage. Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) blooms from summer to fall with white-pink flowers that resemble butterflies. Though it looks delicate, this 3- to 4-foot-tall perennial tolerates drought, heat and dry soil. Gaura is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and grows in full sun to partial shade.

3. Fall Bloomers

For late-season color, plant a pot with liatris or spike gayfeather (Liatris spicata). This upright perennial grows from 18 to 36 inches tall and blooms from late summer through fall with spikes of pink and white flowers. Hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, liatris grows in full sun to light shade and tolerates heat well. Solidago or goldenrod (Solidago spp.) adds golden color to the fall container garden. The species reaches heights of 6 feet, so choose a variety that grows no higher than 3 feet for your pots. This European native is easy to grow and attracts butterflies. It's hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8 and prefers sunny exposures.

4. Season-long Color

For bloom times that last for more than just a few weeks, plant long-blooming perennials such as the spring-blooming lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolataa) and summer-blooming threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata). Both produce golden-yellow flowers; deadheading prolongs bloom time. Lanceleaf is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, while threadleaf grows in USDA zones 3 to 8. Both prefer full sun. For flowers and foliage, plant ajuga or bugleweed (Ajuga reptans). This evergreen thrives in shady spots and blooms with purple, blue and white flowers starting in spring. Bugleweed is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8 and grows from 6 to 9 inches tall.

About the Author

Based in the Southwest, Linsay Evans writes about a range of topics, from parenting to gardening, nutrition to fitness, marketing to travel. Evans holds a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Arts in anthropology.

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