Photo by: Proven Winners.

Creating successful container gardens is not something that’s left to chance. Whether showcasing a single specimen such as a small tree or shrub or combining plants together, proper selection can transform the mundane into something extraordinary.

Container "recipes" are like cooking. For a compelling end result, planning and the right ingredients are in order. For container arrangements with pizzazz, include mounding plants as "fillers," trailing varieties as "spillers" to drape over the edge, and anchor with a dazzling upright accent as a "thriller." Make sure plants have similar light and other cultural needs. Get started here:

On this page: Shade Plants for Pots | Full Sun Plants for Pots | Online Learning: Designing Abundant Containers

SHADE PLANTS FOR POTS

Surefire® Rose begonia. Photo by Proven Winners.

BEGONIA

Zones:

8-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Partial sun to shade

Habit:

Mounding, bushy, or upright habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 36 inches tall, 6 to 12 inches wide

This versatile annual is grown for its exceptionally long bloom time and wide range of flower colors and leaf patterns. Use as a “filler” element in a mixed container arrangement alongside trailing vinca and upright coleus. Use to brighten up window boxes and hanging baskets in challenging shade areas.

Learn more about growing begonias.

Sprinter® Boxwood. Photo by: Proven Winners.

BOXWOOD

Zones:

4-9

Exposure:

Part sun to dappled shade

Habit:

Mounding or upright habit

Height/Spread:

1 to 20 feet tall, 2 to 8 feet wide

Widely used in formal landscapes, boxwood shrubs lend structure and year-round color. Shape into sculptural topiaries and place in classic urns on either side of a porch or entryway for an elegant first impression.

Learn more about growing boxwood.

ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine coleus. Photo by Proven Winners.

COLEUS

Zones:

10-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Partial sun to shade; protect from hot afternoon sun

Habit:

Mounding, upright, or trailing habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 26 inches tall and wide

Coleus is a staple of summertime gardens, grown for its nearly endless palette of leaf colors from purple to chartreuse, and stained glass patterns that add bold exuberance to any landscape. Use upright forms as a “thriller” element, mounding types as a “filler”, or trailers as a “spiller” in a container.

Learn more about growing coleus.

Maidenhair fern. Photo by Janet Loughrey.

FERN

Zones:

3-11

Exposure:

Partial sun to shade

Habit:

Varies according to genus and species

Height/Spread:

Varies according to genus and species

Add a naturalized woodland effect to your landscape with the lush look of ferns. Many are reliably hardy and do well in containers, such as Japanese painted fern, maidenhair fern, wood fern, and lady fern. Plant as a stand-alone element in a formal container or hanging basket. Combine as a “filler” with coleus, creeping Jenny, vinca, caladium, or coral bells.

‘Dancing Flame’ fuchsia. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

FUCHSIA

Zones:

6-11 depending on variety; most are treated as annuals in colder regions

Exposure:

Partial sun to shade; most need protection from hot afternoon sun

Habit:

Upright, bushy, or trailing habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 72 inches tall and 6 to 48 inches wide

Fuchsias come in a dizzying array of flower colors, with prolific bloom through much of the growing season. One of the most popular hanging basket plants, trailing varieties are also suited to window boxes. Use an upright form such as ‘Gartenmeister’ as a “thriller” in a container by itself or in combination with other shade lovers.

Wedding Party® ‘True Love’. Photo by: Proven Winners.

HELLEBORE

Zones:

4-9; evergreen in 6-9

Exposure:

Partial sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding or upright habit

Height/Spread:

8 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 36 inches wide

Winter-flowering hellebores are prized for their evergreen foliage and range of flower colors at a time when little else is in bloom. These tough carefree perennials do well in containers by themselves or with other winter bloomers such as small witch hazels and early bulbs including crocus and snowdrops.

Learn more about growing hellebores.

Primo® ‘Pretty Pistachio’, Primo® ‘Mahogany Monster’, and Primo® ‘Black Pearl’. Photo by: Proven Winners.

HEUCHERA, CORAL BELLS

Zones:

4-9

Exposure:

Partial sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding or spreading habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 30 inches wide

One of the most versatile perennials, coral bells are valued for their range of foliage shapes and colors, ease of growing and tolerance of a wide range of light and soil conditions. Color coordinate as a “filler” in a cheerful ceramic container alongside coleus, small ornamental grasses, astilbe, or hosta.

Learn more about growing coral bells.

Shadowland® 'Autumn Frost'. Photo by: Proven Winners.

HOSTA

Zones:

3-9

Exposure:

Partial sun to full shade

Habit:

Mounding spreading habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 48 inches tall and 14 to 72 inches wide

Known as queen of the shade border, hosta is grown for its attractive foliage in an array of colors, patterns and sizes. This easy-care perennial can be used as a stand-alone accent in a container or combined with ferns, astilbe, bleeding heart, lungwort, barrenwort, or spring bulbs.

Learn more about growing hostas.

Little Quick Fire® hydrangea. Photo by: Proven Winners.

HYDRANGEA

Zones:

3-9

Exposure:

Partial sun to full shade

Habit:

Mounding or upright bushy habit

Height/Spread:

3 to 15 feet tall and 3 to 12 feet wide

A favorite summer-blooming shrub, with dwarf varieties such as Little Quick Fire® or Invincibelle Wee White® performing well in containers. Long-lasting flowers in an array of colors are eye-catching by themselves or when underplanted with impatiens, begonias, ferns, or lady’s mantle.

Learn more about growing hydrangeas.

Infinity® Pink. Photo by Proven Winners.

IMPATIENS

Zones:

10-12, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Partial sun to full shade

Habit:

Mounding spreading habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 36 inches tall and 1 to 3 feet wide

For nonstop bloom all summer long, nothing beats impatiens for brightening up deeply shaded areas. With a wide range of flower colors, impatiens are most commonly used as a bedding plant, though they thrive in containers as well. Mass in a color bowl or use as a “filler” in shaded window boxes and hanging baskets.

Learn more about growing impatiens.

‘Clown Violet’ and ‘Clown Pink’ torenia. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

TORENIA, WISHBONE FLOWER

Zones:

10-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Partial sun to shade

Habit:

Mounding or trailing habit

Height/Spread:

8 to 16 inches tall, 8 to 12 inches wide, trailing up to 36 inches long

This underutilized annual blooms prolifically all summer long with snapdragon-like flowers in a range of colors that brighten up deeply shaded areas. Mass in a color bowl or combine with small ferns, hosta, astilbe, or coral bells.



Get inspired with more shade container recipes from Proven Winners.

FULL SUN PLANTS FOR POTS

Superbells® Pomegrante Punch™. Photo by: Proven Winners.

CALIBRACHOA

Zones:

9-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding spreading habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide, up to 30 inches long

One of the most versatile plants for containers, with flowers that come in an endless range of colors and patterns. Color coordinate with a ceramic pot and combine as a “spiller” with a foliage “filler” such as silver artemisia or golden licorice plant, and a “thriller” such as angelonia or small ornamental grass.

Learn more about growing calibrachoa.

Dalightful® Georgia Peach dahlia. Photo by: Proven Winners.

DAHLIA

Zones:

8-11

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Upright bushy habit

Height/Spread:

1 to 6 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide

Among the most popular summer flowers, with thousands of varieties in a wide array of bloom colors and forms. Most often grown in the ground; however, dahlias are also easy to grow in containers. Use as a stand-alone accent or combine with other late-season plants.

Learn more about growing dahlias.

Fruit Punch® ‘Classic Coral’ dianthus. Photo by: Proven Winners.

DIANTHUS

Zones:

3-9, depending on variety

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Mounding, spreading, or upright habit

Height/Spread:

4 to 36 inches tall and 4 to 24 inches wide

This easy-care annual or perennial lends cottage-style appeal with scented flowers in nearly every color imaginable, from white to nearly black. Place a container near a patio, deck, or entryway where the scent can be enjoyed up close. Combine with coral bells, geraniums, artemisia, or miniature roses.

Learn more about growing dianthus.

Euphorbia Diamond Frost®. Photo by: Proven Winners.

EUPHORBIA DIAMOND FROST®

Zones:

10-11, treated as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Sun to partial sun

Habit:

Mounding habit

Height/Spread:

12 to 18 inches tall and wide

Clouds of airy white flowers bloom throughout much of the growing season. This versatile annual can be integrated into any style garden. Plant as a “filler” element in a container in combination with trailing creeping Jenny or sweet potato vine and add a taller accent such as purple fountain grass or ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

Boldly® Hot Pink geranium. Photo by: Proven Winners.

GERANIUM, PELARGONIUM

Zones:

9-12

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Mounding, upright, or trailing habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 36 inches tall, 6 to 24 inches wide, trailing 12 to 36 inches long

Geraniums come in a range of flower colors and forms, including zonal and trailing ivy. The scented foliage can be green, gold, variegated, or patterned. Suited to hanging baskets and window boxes, combine with “spillers” such as trailing vinca or silver dichondra, and “fillers” such as sweet alyssum or annual lobelia.

Learn more about growing geraniums.

Luscious® Citrus Blend™ lantana. Photo by: Proven Winners.

LANTANA

Zones:

9-11, grown as an annual in most zones

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Mounding, spreading, or upright habit

Height/Spread:

4 to 36 inches tall and 4 to 24 inches wide

This easy-care annual or perennial lends cottage-style appeal with scented flowers in nearly every color imaginable, from white to nearly black. Place a container near a patio, deck or entryway where the scent can be enjoyed up close. Combine with coral bells, geraniums, artemisia, or miniature roses.

Learn more about growing lantana.

‘Aurora Yellow Fire’ marigold. Photo by: Rock Giguere / Millette Photomedia.

MARIGOLD

Zones:

9-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding or upright habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 48 inches tall and 6 to 24 inches wide

Scented marigolds are a staple of kitchen and cottage-style gardens, grown for their bright, pollinator-friendly flowers. Plant in a container with other cottage-style annuals such as red salvia, nasturtium, and calendula. Include as part of a mini herb container garden alongside basil, oregano, and thyme.

Learn more about growing marigolds.

Supertunia® Royal Velvet®. Photo by: Proven Winners.

PETUNIA

Zones:

10-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding, spreading, or trailing habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 24 inches tall, 12 to 36 inches wide, up to 36 inches long

This old-fashioned favorite has enjoyed new popularity as new hybrids in a multitude of colors and patterns have been introduced. A staple for window boxes, hanging baskets and containers, combine as a “spiller” with spiky dracaena or purple fountain grass, filling in with verbena, African daisy, or diascia.

Learn more about growing petunias.

Dwarf mugo pine. Photo by: APugach / Shutterstock.

PINE

Zones:

2-10

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Upright or spreading habit

Height/Spread:

2 to 130 feet tall and 1 1/2 to 40 feet wide

This diverse group of evergreen conifers is grown for its attractive needles, year-round appeal and carefree nature. Slow-growing dwarf forms suitable for containers include dwarf mugo pine, ‘Blue Shag’ eastern white pine, and dwarf Scots pine. Place in a container as a stand-alone accent near an entryway or combine with other seasonal plants with similar cultural needs.

‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ sweet potato vine. Photo by: Proven Winners.

SWEET POTATO VINE

Zones:

9-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Habit:

Mounding trailing habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 16 inches tall, 3 to 6 feet wide, up to 10 feet long

One of the best trailing annuals for containers, grown for its exotic-looking foliage in a variety of leaf shapes and colors. Use as a cascading accent in window boxes, hanging baskets, or containers with other warm-season annuals in complementary colors, such as coleus, petunias, purple fountain grass, or African daisy.

Learn more about growing sweet potato vine.

‘Profusion’ zinnia. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

ZINNIA

Zones:

9-11, grown as an annual in most regions

Exposure:

Full sun

Habit:

Mounding or upright habit

Height/Spread:

6 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide

Bright cheerful flowers and long bloom time make zinnias a favorite of gardeners. Place a decorative container on a sunny deck or patio with a mounding form such as ‘Profusion’ as a “filler”. Combine with an upright salvia or canna lily and a “spiller” such as trailing lobelia, calibrachoa, or sweet potato vine.

Learn more about growing zinnias.



Get inspired with more full sun container recipes from Proven Winners.

ONLINE LEARNING

DESIGNING ABUNDANT CONTAINERS

Learn the hallmarks of a well-designed container garden from professional designer Karen Chapman in this award-winning online workshop. You'll learn about layering foliage and flowers, creating a cohesive color palette, and more. Chapman walks you through the steps from planning, to soil, to shopping for plants, and final planting.

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