What to Plant in an Outdoor Planter

What to Plant in an Outdoor Planter image by Petunias in container, by Normanack, flickr.com

Outdoor container gardens are perfect for people with a small space such as a balcony; they also are wonderful for putting on a porch or deck or under a tree. Myriad choices await the beginning or avid gardener who wants to use containers, ranging from small or large cylindrical flowerpots to rectangular plastic ones and even giant wooden barrel halves.

General Information

Choose plants for a container based on where it will be: full sun, partial sun or shade. It's best to use containers that have drainage holes; without them, the roots of plants may rot. However, you can put a smaller flowerpot into a decorative container without a hole; the larger planter will be where the water drains. Cover the bottom of your container with small rocks or broken pieces of a clay pot; they help keep the water from draining too quickly. Plants may need to have water every day, because evaporation occurs more quickly in an outside container than in a regular garden plot. Potting soils are another consideration. You don't need to buy expensive potting soils for plants. If you plan to plant in a large number of containers, buy a huge bag of potting soil.


Annual flowers that do well in containers are ageratum, pansy, begonia, lobelia, marigold, snapdragon, salvia, verbena, coleus and small zinnias. Perennial flowers include yarrow, lupine, Shasta daisy, chrysanthemum, candytuft and columbine. Decide which flowers to plant according to whether they need sun or shade. Miniature roses grow beautifully in containers and make excellent gifts.


Growing vegetables in containers is a fun way to teach children about gardening. Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, beans, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes, green onions and beans do well in containers. Make sure to choose varieties that grow well in your area's climate.

Foliage Plants

Combining foliage plants with flowers is an excellent way to make your container garden less boring. Fountain grass, sweet potato vine, succulents, sedum, New Zealand flax, dusty miller, licorice plant, oxalis, dracaena and taffeta add color, height or interesting foliage to your containers.


Some fruits do well in containers, though you do need to take special care with them. Consider growing strawberries in a strawberry pot. Dwarf lemon, lime and orange trees produce fruit if grown in half of a wooden barrel or huge pot. Blueberries and raspberries are other good choices. Even avocados, bananas and guava grow in containers. The most important consideration for this category is climate and realizing that fruit trees grown in containers do not produce as much fruit as trees in the ground.

Keywords: container garden, fruit, vegetable, flower, annual, perennial

About this Author

Ellie Kuykendall has been writing and editing professionally since 1997. Her travel and insurance articles have appeared in national magazines. She's contributed to four books and is currently writing her own book. She received a bachelor's degree from University of San Francisco.

Photo by: Petunias in container, by Normanack, flickr.com