Choosing perennial plants for your containers is a great way to bring long term structure to your patio, terrace, decking or balcony. We asked our Head Gardener, Gavin, for his top three suggestions. Here are the patio container perennials he recommends for longevity, colour, hardiness, and a long flowering season…
For a tough, manageable-sized fuchsia that produces masses of flowers for months on end, Fuchsia ‘Tom Thumb’ is hard to beat. A bee-friendly pollinator, this compact variety stands about a foot tall and has a lovely symmetrical shape that really sets off an attractive terracotta pot. Laden with delightfully scented violet and pink blooms from June right through to the end of September, it’s also easy to care for and can be left outside in the garden all year round.
To care for your fuchsia, make sure you feed it regularly, especially during the spring and again during the flowering season. A high potash feed is best. Regular watering is also a must – during dry spells, keep the soil moist but not soggy. Deadhead throughout the summer and prune your plant heavily during the late winter to early spring.
With up to 100 blooms per plant, gerberas offer a container-load of vibrant colour to enjoy year after year. A native of South Africa, gerberas are often called Transvaal daisies and, though they began life as a frost tender plant, there are now lots of hardy varieties from which to choose. The bright pink Gerbera ‘Sweet Dreams’ is an excellent patio container option.
If you prefer, you can also start your gerberas off from seed on the windowsill, in a propagator, or in your greenhouse. Plant them out in May or June, once you’re sure all risk of frost has passed. Try Gerbera seeds–cut flower mix for a bright container display that also provides a steady supply of lovely cut flowers for your home.
Avoid overwatering your gerberas – they like moist soil but won’t appreciate being waterlogged. Once a week, stand the pots in a tray of water and allow them to soak moisture up through their roots – just top up as required through the week. Fertilise with a high potash feed and deadhead any spent blooms straight away by removing the whole stem.
With their tall foxglove-like flowers, penstemons look great clustered in small groups of patio pots. Flowering through the summer, their pretty tubular flowers are bee-friendly and their attractive foliage is semi-evergreen, ensuring some continuity of colour through the winter months. Hardy in all but the coldest parts of the country, our head gardener particularly loves Penstemon ‘Electric Blue’ which brings a lively bright blue spark to your patio display.
Penstemons like well-drained soil so make sure you choose a semi-permeable pot to keep the roots moist but not over-watered. Adding a mulch to the base of the plants can help with water retention in dry weather. Growing to 45cm tall, penstemons prefer the shelter of a wall or fence if the weather is likely to be windy, and should be deadheaded regularly to keep them flowering from June to September.
If you live in a cold part of the country, your flowers may not withstand the winter. Take cuttings to bring on undercover ready for the following year.
If your outside seating area could do with a makeover, check out our full range of patio plants for inspiration. And for advice on growing all your favourite flowers, fruit, and veg, head over to our Growing Guides where you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
Lead image: Gerbera Plants – Patio Range from Suttons