Choosing Container Plants for Summer Color

Choosing container plants for summer color at a SoCal garden center.

Written by Susan B.

Although we’re thrilled to see our summer garden plants bursting with color, we don’t want to miss out on the chance to enjoy those colors closer to our front or back doors. And the best way we know of to do that is to create container gardens to put on our patios, decks,  porches, or front walkway. Today, we’re giving you some plant suggestions so you can combine them or use them alone to add color to the outdoor living areas closest to your home.

Choosing Containers and Planting Medium 

Regardless of what you plan to plant in your containers, choose pots, window boxes, or planters that have holes in the bottom for drainage. Containers that have drainage holes allow water to flow through them, so you’ll know that your plants are adequately watered. If you plan to combine plants to create a container garden, be sure you choose a planter that’s wide and deep enough to accommodate multiple plants and root systems. 

If you have a compost heap, mix some of your compost with your container soil mixture. Potting and container soils rarely have enough organic matter to keep the soil from getting compacted. You’ll see how compacted it gets when you open the bag. Purchase soil amendments like Perlite and Coconut Coir to mix with your soil mix. The addition of these ingredients will improve the airflow throughout the soil and container, and it will improve drainage. If your soil doesn’t drain well, plants are susceptible to root rot and fungal diseases. 

Before You Put Plants in Containers

When you’re thinking about the plants you want to put together to create a container garden, make sure you’re pairing plants that have the water and light needs. You don’t want to mix shade-loving plants with plants that need full sun. Likewise, you don’t want to combine plants with little to no water needs with plants that need consistently moist soil. If you don’t want to buy multiple products to create a suitable container mix, you can use a use E.B. Stone Cactus and Succulent Mix instead. Cactus and succulent planting mixtures contain soil amendments that enhance drainage and air circulation. 

Tropical Flowering and Foliage Plants for Containers 

Tropical hibiscus plants grow well in containers. Their vibrant blooms create a dramatic impact wherever you place them. Grow hibiscus plants in full sun. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage abundant blooming. If you leave the withered flowers on the plant, it will use energy to produce seeds, and you’ll sacrifice flowering for the seeds. In our climate, with proper care, you may be able to enjoy the gorgeous hibiscus blooms all year. Feed your hibiscus plants with a bloom-boosting fertilizer as directed on the box or canister. 

Croton plants don’t produce flowers, but they make up for the lack of blossoms in their bold, earthy, and eye-catching foliage colors. Croton plants thrive in humidity. So they’ll look their best when it’s humid here. When there isn’t enough humidity, you can place the container on a humidity tray filled with water and river rocks. Plants will absorb water through their roots, and they’ll get the humidity from the water’s evaporation. 

Cannas will grow well in containers. Since they grow and spread quickly, don’t plant more than one rhizome in a pot. Look for the largest planter you can find. Cannas can get top-heavy, and a deep planter with a wide circumference can prevent tipping. Be sure to add compost, Perlite, coconut coir, or Vermiculite to the container to loosen the compacted container soil. Cannas like a lot of water. They’ll benefit from a bloom-boosting fertilizer.

Lantana is another eye-catching flowering plant that’s native to Central and South America. In our area, we can grow these colorful and nectar-rich flowering plants as perennials. There are many cultivars, some of which cascade over the edges of containers. Use them in window boxes or tall urns. Botanists consider lantana a shrub despite their sprawling, vine-like growth habit. Plant lantana in well-drained soil, and put your container in a spot where it will get at least 6-hours of sun every day. Water your plants thoroughly, and water them often enough to keep the soil from drying out. 

Other Flowering Plants to Grow in Containers 

The National Garden Bureau named Calibrachoa the 2018 Plant of the Year. It’s easy to see why. We just love these flowers, and they top our list of must-have flowering plants for containers. At first glimpse, you may be tempted to think that Calibrachoa is related to the petunia. And you’d be partially correct there because botanists once thought that Calibrachoa belonged to the petunia genus. But that belief was dispelled when plant scientists validated that Calibrachoa belonged to a separate genus. 

Begonias are an excellent choice for containers. Angel and dragon wing begonias have delicate flowers and attractive foliage. Keep pinching them to encourage fullness. Otherwise, these plants will keep growing taller, and in no time, they’ll look lanky. Wax begonias also work well in containers, especially window boxes or coconut coir lined wire baskets that attach to metal deck, porch, or balcony railings. 

Come into one of our stores or call us to see what’s in stock. Our garden experts are always available to help you choose plants that do well in containers. 

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