Now that the risk of hard frost has passed it’s a great time to plant up containers with flowers designed to last right the way through until early autumn.

Pot feet supporting a terracotta garden pot for summer plants

The first thing to remember when filing your pot with peat-free compost is that many of these summer flowering plants love good drainage.

So make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom and that, if possible, the pot is raised slightly above the ground to allow water to freely drain away.

Garden Centres sell terracotta ‘feet’ or you can use bricks or flat stones.

Adding broken-up pieces of polystyrene into the bottom of the container will help keep the drainage holes unblocked, reduce the amount of compost needed as well as making the container lighter if you need to move it around!

It’s also a good idea to add handfuls of horticultural grit or 10mm gravel and mix in well with the compost as this will also help with drainage.

Next comes the fun part: choosing the plants!

Centre stage summer container plants

Firstly, choose the plant that will be placed right in the centre of the container.  This will be the focal point plant around which all the other plants will be placed.

It needs to have a strong shape, (round, domed or pyramid), and either flower for a long time or be evergreen.

English lavender for summer containers

Lavender is a great example, being evergreen and fragrant. The English Lavender (Lavandula anguvstifolia) and ‘Grosso’ variety are good choices for larger containers.

For smaller pots look for cultivars that are compact and have a neat habit.  The French lavender (L. stoechas), and English lavender varieties ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are great for smaller containers.

Senecio 'Angels Wings' for summer containers

Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ could look stunning too in a medium size container, with its evergreen, drought tolerant, strikingly silver leaves.


Medium-height dahlias are another good choice for a medium size container.

Placing two of the same cultivar close together in the centre will maximise impact.

If you’re looking for a dark green evergreen leaf focal point plant, best to avoid box. As lots of people are finding their plants are either succumbing to box blight or, mainly in the south, box caterpillar, both of which can quickly devastate the plant so that it drops most or all of its leaves.

Instead look for plants such as the Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) topiaried into rounded shape. Or, for shady areas, plants such as Pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’ which, as the name implies, grow in a naturally domed shape.

Supporting cast summer container plants

Fortunately, at this time of year, there are plenty of plants to choose from that flower their hearts out until the first frosts.

Mexican daisies

Mexican Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) is a great choice to surround your focal plant.  It grows outwards and is covered in white daisy flowers all summer long and well into autumn.

In milder areas it keeps its leaves over winter and is a hardy perennial. So you could save money and use it in successive summer container plantings.

yellow coreopsis flower

If you’re wanting hot colours then another long flowering, wispy, airy plant to consider is Coreopsis. It is available in shades of yellow and orange with several single or double flowering cultivars to choose from.

Achillea flower

Achillea are taller, easy to grow, long flowering plants. And they are available in a wide range of colours and of course you’ll always find pelargoniums for sale!

Impatiens busy lizzie

Garden Centres and Supermarkets have recently started re-stocking Busy Lizzies (Impatiens) which are a brilliant choice for containers in part or full shade.

Again, these will flower well into the autumn until the first frosts.


There are a lot of flowering annuals perfect for summer containers to choose from.  It’s always good to have trailing plants to cascade gently over the edge of the pot.

Trailing lobelia are now being bred in shades of lavender as well as traditional blue and white.


Another trailing stalwart is Bacopa, available in white and light lavender blue varieties.

Usually treated as a half hardy annual, if removed from the container, planted in a pot and kept in a greenhouse or conservatory during the winter months, it will continue flowering. And you’ll be able to replant it the following summer!

Whichever flowering plants you choose do remember to feed, water and deadhead spent flowers regularly to get the maximum number of flowers over the maximum amount of time during the summer.

For more top plants for summer containers:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: