Patio Plants


With the right perennial plants installed in them, to act as a backdrop for other flowers, your tubs and flower beds can be in use all year round on the patio.

Aubrieta Low-growing, hardy evergreens that prefer a limy soil but are easy to grow. The flowers, which appear from March to June, are usually in the pink-purple colour range. A. aurea has leaves tinged with gold. Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosus’ (box) makes a good evergreen mini-hedge or can be trained into topiary. It will take shade and will grow to a maximum of 600mm (24in). ‘Aurea’ is a golden-leaved, slightly larger form. Convallaria (lily-of-the-valley) Plants that like partial shade, they spread quickly and need thinning out from time to time. The waxy white, bell-like flowers appear in April or May. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Compacta’ is a miniature form of the Japanese cedar with blue-green leaves that turn red-bronze in winter. It rarely reaches more than about 750mm (30in) high and wide.

Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ is a slow-growing evergreen with foliage boldly marked in gold. A useful mini-bush for a tub or raised bed. Erica carnea (syn. E. herbacea; winter heath) One of several ericas that tolerates alkaline soils, it flowers in winter from December on and may keep in bloom until May. It rarely grows above 300mm (12in) in height.

Hebe (veronica) species also make useful evergreen mini-bushes bearing white flowers in summer. H. ‘Autumn Glory’ has purplish green leaves, H. ‘Pagei’ has light green leaves and is the smallest version, reaching about 300mm (12in).

Hedera (ivy) makes a marvellous evergreen trailer, climber or ground cover plant in tubs and raised beds. Common ivy (H. helix) comes in many variegated forms too, notably ‘Goldheart’, which has small dark leaves with gold centres, and ‘Glacier’, with leaves variegated with silver grey, edged with white.

Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ is a dwarf juniper with attractive grey-green foliage which grows, very slowly, seldom more than 750mm (30in) high.

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ A dwarf version of the traditional lavender which can be clipped to make an attractive edging or left as a small bush.

Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ One of the evergreen honeysuckles, this useful plant has tiny golden leaves and can be clipped into topiary shapes if you wish.

Lysimachia nummularia (creeping jenny) A useful ground-covering plant which produces yellow cup-shaped flowers in June and July.

Rosa Miniature roses come now in many different forms – there are even climbing/trailing miniatures, none of which reach more than about 450mm (18in) high. If you plant these make sure that they are in a sunny position and that they have rich soil to grow in.

Saxifraga x urbium (London pride) Another useful inhabitant for a tub, this member of the saxifrage family prefers shade and produces masses of small pink flowers in early summer.

Senecio cineraria. Not always hardy in this country, it survives some winters in a sheltered spot and is invaluable for setting off colourful flowers late on. Its leaves, covered with woolly hairs, have an attractive silvery look and are deeply indented. It reaches a height of about 600mm (24in).

Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle) makes useful evergreen ground-cover for larger tubs and raised beds. It will also trail over the sides of containers. It has pretty blue cup-shaped flowers in summer and can be relied upon to spread to about 450mm (18in). Varieties are available, some with white or purple flowers; some with variegated foliage.


Always be generous with the depth of a container for a shrub or small tree if it is to stay there for any length of time. The plants will be less likely to dry out and will thrive given plenty of room. Remember that shrubs in tubs under the shade of trees or beside walls may not get their full share of rain, so check them and water them regularly.

Azaleas (Rhododendron) come in both evergreen and deciduous hybrids. Superb deciduous forms include the Ghent, Mollis and Knaphill hybrids; evergreens include the Kaempferi, Kurume and Vuyk groups.

Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’ has glossy evergreen foliage and large soft pink flowers resembling open roses. The Japanese quince (Chaenomeles x superba) makes a fine wall shrub. Several excellent varieties are avail- able with spring flowers in shades of red, pink or white.

Lawson’s cypress (Chamaecyparys lawsoniana) makes a good tub conifer if you choose the right (slow-growing) cultivar. Names to look out for include ‘Ellwood’s Gold’, with grey-blue foliage with yellow shoot-tips; and ‘Minima Aurea’, pyramid-shaped, which has branches edged with gold, and is excellent for a small container.

Deutzia x elegantissima, a most elegant hybrid, has scented, rose-tinted white flowers on arching branches; look for variety ‘Rosealind’.

Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’, a dense, spreading evergreen, with silvery flowers in autumn, has variegated evergreen foliage splashed with yellow.

Escallonia ‘Donard Radiance’ is a pretty shrub with attractive pink flowers in early summer and large, glossy leaves.

Fuchsia are well-known patio plants, but unless you pick the hardy varieties the tub will have to overwinter indoors. Outdoor varieties include ‘Alice Hoffman’, Corallina’, ‘Mrs Popple’, ‘Tennessee Waltz’; ‘Tom Thumb’ is a good miniature.

Hydrangea macrophylla produces large panicles of paper-like pink, blue or white flowers. Acid soil in the tub produces blue flowers; chalky soil produces pink ones. Some dwarf forms are available. The mock-orange (Philadelphia) is a pleasant shrub to have near the house; the white flowers are scented like orange-blossom. Good hybrids include ‘Beauclerk’ (single flowers), ‘Belle Etoile’ (single), and ‘Manteau d’Hermine’ (double).

The modern compact rhododendron hybrids are fully hardy and most are not more than 1.2m (4ft) high and wide. Examples include ‘Bluebird’ (violet-blue flowers), ‘Scarlet Wonder’ (scarlet). Sweet-scented, grey-foliaged rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a useful evergreen to have around the patio, especially if you have installed a barbecue. The slow-growing yew (Taxus baccala) takes well to topiary – a bird, bear or other small beast would make an amusing decoration for the patio.


Plants which give colour just where it is wanted are a valuable asset around the patio. So are those with leaves of an interesting shape or texture which act as a foil to summer bedding flowers and, in most cases, provide some interest all year round.

Acanthus (bear’s breech) are attractive foliage plants with tall spikes of flowers varying from lavender to white. The dwarf varieties of yarrow (Achillea) are good for rockeries or containers. A. chrysoconia has woolly grey-green leaves and yellow flowers; A. clavenae has white daisy-like blooms.

Adonis amurensis is a pretty, low-growing plant with bright yellow flowers in February-March and matt-green, fern-like foliage; it prefers a partially shaded situation and is good to underplant among taller plants.

Aethionema pulchellum is a compact plant with attractive dark pink flowers. Basically a rockery plant, it grows well in tubs and window-boxes. African lilies (Agapanthus) are showy specimen plants for tubs and small borders; they can also be grown in a box alongside a terrace. Choose the hardy A. inapertus, which has deep violet-blue flowers. Agave makes a marvellous foliage plant, especially if you want a tropical look in a tub or a border. A. americana ‘Marginata’ (syn. ‘Variegata’) has narrow sword-like leaves edged with gold; A. victoriae-reginae forms a pompon head like a cactus. They are not completely hardy and are best brought indoors during the winter.

Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) is another handsome foliage plant that is often used for flower arrangements and which looks good in a tub. A. mollis has star-shaped yellow-green flowers and will self-seed. Allium giganteum is a decorative form of onion which makes a good feature plant in a small bed. It forms deep lilac flower heads which can be dried for decoration indoors.

The Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria) is a striking plant with flowers somewhere between those of orchids and gladioli in appearance. A. aurantiaca has flowers ranging from yellow to scarlet.

Alyssum is a reliable carpeting plant for tubs, dry-stone walls and rockeries. A. argenteum has bright yellow flowers; A. maritimum (strictly Lobularia maritima) has white or lilac flowers and is low-growing. The scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is a pretty, prostrate plant with small red flowers. It is an annual, but it will generally self-seed for the next year. A. arvensis ‘Caerulea’ is a form with dark blue flowers. The Japanese windflower (Anemone X hybrida) is an attractive large-flowered anemone which blooms from August to October. The variety ‘Queen Charlotte’ has attractive semi-double pink flowers. There are many forms of chamomile (Anthem-is), ranging from the carpeting (non-flowering) Anthemis nobilis ‘Treneague’ to the yellow or ox-eye chamomile (A. tinctoria). One of the most decorative varieties is A. sancti-johannis, with bright orange flowers. The columbine (Aquile-gia) makes delicate, attractive flowers to grow in a small space. A. longissima has pretty yellow flowers on slender stems; A. beriolonii is a small Alpine version that looks, at a distance, rather like edelweiss; A. vulgaris, which comes in many colours, is the best-known columbine.

Plants for sunny places:




























Plants for sheltered spots:


Agave americana

Amaryllis belladonna

Ballota pseudodictamnus


Buddleia fallowiana



Camellia sasanqua


Centaurea gymnocarpa

Chrysanthemum ptarmacaefolium





Convolvulus cneorum



Hebe hybrids

Helichrysum petiolatum


Jasminum officinalis





Nerium oleander

Passiflora caerulea


Senecio cineraria


Teucrium fruticans


Tropaeolum tuberosum


The thrifts (Anneria) are useful plants to edge a tub or go between paving stones. They produce hummocks of spiky grass-like leaves and pink flower heads. There are several different species, ranging from A. caespitosa, which grows only 50-75mm (2-3in) high, to A. maritima which can reach 300mm (12in).

Artemisia are grown for their silvery white leaves; they are useful plants to mix with colourful annual flowers.

A. stelleriana (dusty miller) has leaves that are almost white, and yellow flowers; A. gnaphalodes has woolly white leaves.

Asperula suberosa is a small semi-training plant (a relative of sweet woodruff) that has a profusion of pretty pink flowers and white, hairy leaves.

Aster is a large genus, best known for the Michaelmas daisies. Asters have flowers in purples, blues, reds, and pinks. The smallest is A. alpinus, which has purple-blue flowers with orange-yellow centres. If growing true Michaelmas daisies (such as A. novi-belgii), pick a dwarf variety such as ‘Audrey’, ‘Lady in Blue’, or ‘Professor Kippenburg’.

Begonias are a great standby for tubs, hanging baskets, and window-boxes. The fibrous-rooted B. semperflorens has small flowers in red, pink, or white, and leaves ranging from glossy green to bronze-purple. The tuberous-rooted begonias of the Pendula group (B. x tuberhybrida) make good trailers for hanging baskets; examples include ‘Dawn’ (yellow), ‘Golden Shower’, ‘Lou Anne’ (pink), and ‘Red Cascade’ (scarlet).

The pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) is the true marigold, with its double daisy-like flowers in bright orange (though you can also get versions with creamy, apricot, even pink flowers) and growing to a height of 500mm (20in) or more. ‘Kelmscott Giant Orange’ is a good one to choose; ‘Pacific Beauty’ will give you a mixture of colours. Their long flowering season lasts from the last days of spring to the first frosts of autumn.

Callirhoes are basically rock-garden plants; they are dwarf trailers with simple bowl-shaped, mauve-red flowers produced in mid-summer. C. involucrata is a good version to choose. Good dwarf annuals are available in bedding strains of the China aster (Callistephus chinensis). Of slightly larger forms, Lilliput Mixed, with flowers ranging from white to crimson, is particularly suitable for small tubs; it blooms from midsummer to early autumn.

Indian shot (Canna x generalis) bears showy, tropical-looking flowers and makes a good specimen in tubs. Good cultivars are ‘Orange Perfection’ and ‘President’, which has bright scarlet flowers. Chionodoxas are good spring-flowering bulbs to go under permanent plantings in a tub, Glory-of-the-snow (C. luciliae) has light blue flowers with white centres. C. sardensis has deeper-blue flowers.

Chrysanthemums contribute a huge range of very reliable flowers for tubs and boxes. Look for the attractive alpine species, C. alpinum, for very-small-scale planting; it rarely grows taller than 150mm (6in). It has white daisy-like flowers in July and August. C. carinatum, a North African annual, is much taller – up to 600mm (24in) – and has very colourful flowers over a longer season.

The hardy outdoor forms of the cyclamen, a very popular plant, are smaller and much more delicate-looking than indoor types. One of the best is C. coum, with pink flowers in winter.

Dahlias are available in a vast variety, ranging from those with pompon heads to simple versions almost like huge daisies. For small areas choose the dwarf varieties of bedding dahlias: a good example is ‘Early Bird’, which has semi-double flowers in pink, yellow, orange, and deep red.

Pinks and carnations (Dianthus) are real cottage-garden flowers, including sweet william (D. barbaius). D. alpinus, which is basically a rock-garden plant, is useful if space is limited. Miniature versions of the so-called Modern pinks include ‘Bombardier’, which has red flowers, and ‘Fay’, which has mauve flowers.

Leopard’s banes (Doronicum) are daisy-like flowers which bloom early and, if dead-headed regularly, will often produce a second flush in the autumn. D. columnae has single golden yellow flowers.

Fleabane (Erigeron) has daisylike flowerheads in pinks, blues, and yellows. E aureus is typical and bears yellow flowers about 25mm (1in) across in June and July.

The Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica) produces masses of orange or yellow flowers. A good dwarf species is E. caespitosa.

Crane’s-bills (Geranium) are true geraniums -not to be confused with pelargoniums – and they too make good plants for a tub. They have pretty pink, white or blue flowers and lacy leaves. G. dalmaticum is an almost alpine species that makes a broad cushion of light pink flowers.

Avens (Geum) are good in display beds or, in the case of alpine varieties, in small window-boxes and hanging baskets. G. monianum and G. reptans are excellent dwarf versions, their yellow flowers followed by interesting silvery seed heads.

Godetias are hardy annuals with double or single flowers. G. grandiflora is one of the most attractive, with rose-purple blooms; its cultivar ‘Azalea-flowered Mixed’ has frilled petals. St John’s worts (Hypericum) are useful yellow flowers for a raised bed.

Rose-of-Sharon (H. calycinum) is the most commonly planted species, but H. patulum ‘Hidcote’ is a more attractive plant if you have the space for it. St John’s worts give berries and coloured foliage in the autumn.

Candytufts (Iberis) are good plants for town gardens since they stand up well to atmospheric pollution. I. amara has pink-carmine flowers.

Statice, or sea lavenders (Limonium), make delightful, ideal ‘everlasting’ flowers when they have done their duty in summer. Attractive Mediterranean annuals, they come in many different colours. L. sinuatum and its cultivars are best if you want the dried flowers.

Toadflaxes (Linaria alpina) make pretty plants to put among paving stones. They have purple snapdragon-like flowers.

Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis) is an unusual plant with curious green flowers that make an interesting effect if put in a tub. It looks good if mixed with white flowers; and the flower-heads can be dried for winter decoration. Nemesia strumosa is a useful half-hardy plant for a mixed display. Choose the cultivar ‘Carnival Mixed’, a dwarf version with flowers in various vivid colours.

Poppies (Papaver) are excellent in raised beds and tubs, especially when mixed with plants with silvery foliage. If you are worried about height, choose the alpine poppy (P. alpinum), which is available with flowers of white, yellow, red, and orange. The Iceland poppy (P. nudicaule) has flowers with petals like tissue paper and is particularly attractive.

Phlox drummondii is an annual with flowers of pink, purple, lavender, red, and white. Salvia splendens makes a good standby if you need a splash of colour. Its cultivar ‘Blaze of Fire’ has particularly brilliant flowers of bright scarlet.

Lamb’s tongue (Stachys lanaia) is grown for its distinctive woolly foliage, which makes a good foil to colourful bedding plants. Its spikes of purple blooms open in midsummer. Speedwell (Veronica) includes a group of alpines useful as ground-cover plants, ranging from V. cinerea, with pink flowers, to the carpet-like bright-blue-flowered V. filiformis.

07. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Tags: , | 1 comment

One Comment

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