Outdoor Plants for Containers

Container gardens are ideal for those who don't have a lot of space for gardening, such as apartment dwellers or those whose garden soil is less than ideal. Container gardening is convenient and allows you to move the containers around to the plants' ideal growing environment. Daily watering is important because the soil in containers dries out quickly, especially during hot summer days.

French Lavender

French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is a compact shrub that grows 1 to 3 feet tall and wide, an ideal size for growing within containers. The pine cone shaped flowers on French lavender have purple bracts that resemble rabbit ears. Emerging in late spring to summer, the fragrant blooms attract butterflies. French lavender has green to gray foliage and is deer-tolerant. The plants require full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Do not over water French lavender. Plant French lavender in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 8 to 9.

Threadleaf Japanese Maple

Threadleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum) is a perennial tree that makes an ideal specimen plant within a large container. Growing 6 to 10 feet tall, the Japanese maple tree has a mounded shape with pendulous branches. The foliage on threadleaf Japanese maple is dissected and deeply cut with bright green leaves. In fall, the foliage turns golden to light up the container with bright color. The flowers are purple to red and emerge in late summer. Late frosts have the potential to damage the container maple, so be sure to cover the tree or bring it indoors until the threat has passed. Threadleaf Japanese maples trees require full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil that is humus-rich. Prune only when the maple is dormant, late fall to mid-winter. Plant threadleaf Japanese maple trees in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 8.


Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) is an annual flower with upright, erect stems that produce showy flowers. Growing 1 to 3 feet tall and wide, zinnia flowers grow in a rainbow of colors, including red, yellow, pink and orange. The 2 inch wide flower head may be single, double or semi-double. Tucked into a container alone or mixed with other colorful blooms, zinnia provides a vibrant splash in the garden. Zinnia attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers emerge in the summer and last through the season. To promote a long blooming season within the container, deadhead or remove the old zinnia blooms. The plants require full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil to thrive. Zinnias are hardy in all USDA zones.

Keywords: outdoor container plants, French lavender, threadleaf Japanese maple

About this Author

Callie Barber is a writer, designer and photographer in North Carolina. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate your indoor and outdoor living environment. Her articles have appeared in Travels.com and GardenGuides.com and her photography has been featured in "Automotive News" magazine and Forbes.com.