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Best expert advice on growing patio plants

Patio covered in various patio plants containers and pots

Welcome to our selection of some of the best advice about growing patio plants. Check out these independent articles, videos and Instagram posts to help you get the most from your patio displays. If you want to liven up your decking, terrace or outdoor seating area with a spectacular show of beautifully planted pots, you’re in the right place…

Contents: 

Best advice on planting up patio containers

Multicoloured orange and pink blooms of Begonia tubers ‘Parisienne’ from Suttons
Some plants, like tuberous begonias, grow well in sun or part shade
Image: Begonia tubers ‘Parisienne’ from Suttons

Ask yourself: does my garden get plenty of sun? Is my garden sheltered from the wind? Does it rain a lot in my area?” Before you plant anything, first consider what kinds of plants will thrive in your growing environment, says Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek. If you’re looking for a thorough introduction, Michael’s ‘7 Step Guide To Patio Planting’ is a great place to begin.

If, like Alexandra from The Middle-Sized Garden, you’d like to “turn your patio from blah to fantastic,” then design matters. This includes your choice of planters, as well as the plants you opt for. “You don’t need lots of flowers for a smart patio or terrace,” says Alexandra. In fact, she often finds it’s the patios with fewer blooms that impress her the most. When planning your patio planting scheme, Alexandra’s advice is to prioritise “good shapes in foliage and healthy plants.

Chris Wardle of the National Trust for Scotland says “life in containers can be tough for plants, so choose the right compost and carry out regular maintenance to ensure they put on a good show.” From adding broken terracotta crocks to the bottom of your pots to stop compost washing out, to the right gap to leave between the compost and the top of the pot, Chris helps you get your planters off to a great start. This is also a great source of info on all year round patio displays, including planting suggestions for every season.

If you enjoy giving your patio plants a good watering after work, that’s great, but if you’re overwatering your pots and containers you won’t be helping them, says Simon Eade of Garden of Eaden. Sharing his patio plant watering tips, Simon says: “Try to water no more than once a week, but when you do, make sure that you give your plants a good soaking. This will help to encourage deeper root growth making your plants far more capable of tolerating periods of drought.

Repotting patio plants when they need it is key to making sure your display always looks its best. If your patio plants need a little TLC, Lee Burkhill, aka the Garden Ninja offers some excellent advice on when and how to repot them. He says: “After time, the growing media in containers may simply break down to nothing more than dust.” Replanting and replenishing is a must for patio growers.

Best advice on displaying patio plants

Canna Plant ‘Cannova Bronze Orange’  in an orange pot from Suttons
A brightly coloured pot compliments the colour of this canna flower
Image: Canna Plant ‘Cannova Bronze Orange’ from Suttons

‘Pot-scaping’ is the art of arranging your patio containers to best advantage, explains Alexandra from The Middle-Sized Garden. Join her as she interviews guest Diane Perry to discuss five of the best ways to display pots. It all begins with choosing the right pots for the job, says Diane. By incorporating a few of her tips and tricks, your artfully arranged patio will look effortlessly stylish. 

For a miniature masterclass on arranging pots, head over to Monty Don’s Instagram page, @themontydon, for a heart-warming spring container display. Making the most of earthy terracotta, rustic stone steps and some wonderful spring plants, this simple showcase illustrates that you don’t need to spend a fortune to create a display that delights the senses.

Over at @davidlovestogarden, professional florist David quickly refills spring pots with summer bedding plants to refresh his patio for the sunny days and balmy evenings to come. David groups exuberantly planted pots en masse around his outdoor dining area. He says: “The patio has taken on a new look since the tulips have all gone and we repotted the empty pots with summer bedding.” The results really are rather splendid. 

A pot can group plants together to be viewed in a way that couldn’t be done in a border,” says Caro at Urban Veg Patch. To illustrate her point, she shares snaps of a particularly well-designed pot planted up with “pink hellebores, vinca (trailing over the sides), euphorbia and griselinia.” Caro loves the striking visual impact of this combination, as well as the fact it can be moved to fill gaps in the border if needed. Head over to her blog to see just what she means. 

Why focus on the colour of your plants when you can also use your pots to create dazzling visual impact? Over at @thebgardener, professional gardener Daniel Adiego shows how he transforms standard terracotta plant pots by painting them a wonderfully vibrant shade of blue. Simply change the colour each year for patio displays that pack a real punch. 

Another professional who likes to think outside the box is David Marsden, aka The Anxious Gardener. We love the way he plants shade-loving ferns in “naturally hollowed out sections of tree trunks.” David has a knack for skillfully matching the plant to its container for a great look. For example, pelargoniums are in iron pots to preserve moisture. Read his full post for more. 

Best advice on low-maintenance patio plants

Red stems of Japanese Blood Grass ‘Red Baron’ from Suttons
Resilient and easy-to-grow, this grass looks amazing in patio containers 
Image: Japanese Blood Grass ‘Red Baron’ from Suttons

The first thing to make clear is there is no such thing as the ‘no-maintenance garden pot’. All plants need some care,” says Alexandra at The Middle-Sized Garden. That said, there are lots of ways to create amazingly low-maintenance garden pots. Alexandra says your choice of container can help reduce the amount of watering you’ll need to do. Bigger ones retain moisture better than smaller ones. 

If you’re looking for ideas for low-maintenance patio pots, Catherine from the ever-popular blog Growing Family has some excellent ideas to share. Her top tips include “bay, photinia, wisteria, holly and ornamental cherries.” A lady who practises what she preaches, Catherine particularly recommends a miniature cherry which she says “is an absolute stunner in spring time.” Head over to Catherine’s blog for more low-maintenance suggestions. 

Try low growing grasses, succulents like aeonium and agave for low-maintenance pots that thrive with very little care. Writing for Den Garden, Rachel Darlington also suggests giving carnivorous pitcher plants a go. The Douentza Garden writer says: “The North American pitcher plant provides interest from spring, with its unusual flowers, right through to late autumn when its handsome pitchers finally fade.” See her full post for inspirational photos. 

Best patio plant varieties to try

Jacaranda ‘Bonsai Blue’ in a white pot from Suttons
The world’s first compact Jacaranda was shortlisted for Plant of the Year 2021 at Chelsea
Image: Jacaranda ‘Bonsai Blue’ from Suttons

If you’re planning a scheme for your patio, decking area, or terrace, you need to choose hardy plants, says John Moore of Pyracantha. He suggests Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’ for its lovely variegated foliage, bay trees for shape, and agapanthus (which is unusual in that it produces better blooms when its roots are restricted). Check out John’s excellent post for more patio plant suggestions. 

For a delightful glimpse of a burgeoning spring patio display, head over to @davidlovestogarden where David showcases his spring bulbs chosen for colour and scent. If you’re wondering what to plan for next spring, hyacinths are worth a try. As David says: “The Woodstock hyacinths are in full bloom now and adding their heady scent to the patio when the sun is out.

The best thing about grasses in a small garden…is the greenery, the movement and the way they change with the seasons,” says Julie Quinn of London Cottage Garden. Julie particularly recommends Hakonechloa, otherwise known as Japanese forest grass, which she mostly grows in pots. She says you get greens, yellow, gold and even variegated leaves containing a white streak, and as summer gives way to autumn, the plants turn lovely shades of golden brown ready for a haircut in February, soon after which these hardy plants begin to green all over again.

If, like Louise Findlay-Wilson of Blooming Lucky, you’re not a fan of pots full of bedding plants, you’ll enjoy her thoughtful suggestions for alternatives. Louise recommends camellias, clematis, grasses and small trees. If you’d like your patio pot display to feature something a little different from the norm, this is a great place to seek inspiration.

The quickest and easiest way to create an instant, abundant garden is to use containers, says Jessica from Flower and Land. Gardening a very small patch at the front of her terraced house, she’s managed to create a spectacular cottage garden using pots full of lovely flowers, all of which she’s grown from seed on her window ledge. Take a look at her gorgeous images here. 

To evoke a tropical holiday vibe in a small garden, Ellen of Ellen Mary Gardening recommends Jacaranda mimosifolia ‘Bonsai Blue’. Not only does this plant have wonderfully luxurious fern-like leaves it also sports “gorgeous purple tubular flowers” — no wonder it was shortlisted For the RHS Plant Of The Year Award 2021. Plant yours in patio containers and prepare to enjoy a really lovely plant.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of patio plant advice and display tips. Want to brighten up your outside space? Browse our full range of patio plants and take a look at our choice of decorative planters here. 

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