Every year we have more and more customers who want to grow perennials or vegetables in a pot instead of in the ground. Growing a plant in a container has a lot of advantages. You can control the type of soil, you can protect it from deer or rabbits, and if it’s not too large you can move it to favored spots throughout the year. Weeding is easier, too. If you’ve had disease problems with plants in the nightshade family, like tomatoes or peppers, you can give them fresh soil in a pot and avoid that issue.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite plants to grow in containers:
Agastache ‘Black Adder’ and Agastache ‘Joyful’: Actually any agastache (or Hummingbird Mint as they are often called) works well in a container. I first planted Agastache ‘Black Adder’ in a whisky barrel about four years ago. I hadn’t had the best of luck getting that plant to survive the winter in my garden and so I thought I’d try it in the barrel and just treat it like an annual. I like growing it because hummingbirds and butterflies love it. After all sorts of crazy winters, it is still there. Four winters in a pot without any protection! Agastache ‘Joyful’ has been equally happy, as you can see in this picture.
Aquilegia (aka Columbine): I wouldn’t have thought to put a columbine in a pot to leave out over the winter, but one seeded into a 12″ container and I just left it there. It has survived many winters in that pot, blooming every spring. The little rock garden columbines do really well in troughs, too. Super hardy!
Pulsatilla (Pasque Flower): These are very tough plants and bloom earlier than most perennials. They have no trouble wintering over in pots.
Tomato: I love growing tomatoes, but between our late frosts, and the deer, I have had some problems finding the right spot to plant them. I always plant some in containers for backup. The bigger the container, the better! That said, I put a few Sungold cherry tomatoes in 12″ hanging baskets last year and they were fantastic! I thought they wouldn’t like that small of a pot because Sungolds can be pretty big in the garden, but they produced like crazy. You have to water every day, though, when you use a pot that small.
Strawberries: What fun to have strawberries in a pot! Perfect for grazing. If you have a sunny enough window, you can even bring your pot inside and harvest some strawberries in the winter. If you don’t bring it inside, I would mulch it or protect it in some way.
Heuchera (Coral Bells): Coral bells are so beautiful and there are so many fantastic foliage colors to try. They are not always fond of Colorado soils, so if you’ve had trouble growing them in the ground, try them in a pot. That brings me to this idea–
Combine Annuals and Perennials in a big pot: People like the idea of planting perennials in a pot because they don’t have to buy new plants every year. However, perennials don’t bloom all summer the way petunias and geraniums do, so tucking a few annuals in among the perennials give you the best of both worlds. And that brings me to this idea–
Perennials that bloom all summer: If you want to grow only perennials in a pot, plant Gaillardia (Blanket Flower), Coreopsis ‘Sophia,’ Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ or Scabiosa ‘Pink Mist.’ Those three bloom like annuals, once they start, they are always in bloom!
If you do grow perennials in a pot, know that every three or four years you need to refresh the soil. The soil breaks down in a pot and will no longer support the plants needs after a few years.
There are so many more plants to try. If you like it and want to grow it in a pot, go for it! You might discover the next best container plant.