8 of the Best Annuals for Container Gardening
Container gardening is a great way to exercise your green thumb if you only have a deck or balcony for growing plants. These pretty annuals thrive in planter pots, making them perfect candidates for your container garden.
1. Thunbergia (Black-Eyed Susan Vine)
Commonly known as Black-eyed Susan vine, this annual is a beautiful choice for hanging baskets or for containers where you can provide some sort of trellis or stake. The heart-shaped leaves are accented by five-petaled flowers in white, cream, yellow or orange with the deep-maroon central eye. Some rare varieties have rose or variegated petals. Thunbergia also makes a great flowering plant for indoor gardeners, so you may want to bring yours in for the winter.
This is a graceful, compact annual, perfect for the ‘spilling over the edges of a container’ effect. Its foliage is strewn with petite white or lavender flowers. Once established it will flower until a hard frost. There are several cultivars available with variegated foliage, and all will grow well in sun to partial shade.
A staple of hanging containers and other planters for many years, fuchsia is a hummingbird magnet. It boasts pendulous, bell-shaped flowers in rich shades of rose, cream and purple. The flowers are often bicolour. These plants do best in partial shade, as they don’t like overly hot growing conditions. If your climate is very warm, provide protection from the sun from midday onwards to keep your fuchsias happy. Deadheading spent flowers will prolong the bloom period until frost, especially if you fertilize every two to four weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Sometimes called callies, trailing petunia or million-bells, these relations of petunias have become a staple of many container plantings because they’re so easy to care for. Unlike petunias, you don’t need to deadhead callies to keep them flowering, as they drop their spent flowers and bloom until frost. There’s a veritable rainbow of flower colours: rose, red, orange, yellow, bronze, violet, purple, and many bicolours. Callies will grow well in full sun, and don’t collapse in high heat conditions as long as they are well watered.
Sometimes called Floss flower, ageratum produces clusters of tuft-like flowers in blue, violet, white, or burgundy (a newer colour introduction in the past few years). Well suited to full sun or partial shade, most varieties are less than 12 inches tall, making them great candidates for window boxes or fillers in larger containers. If you find your ageratum becoming untidy, cut back your plant to a third of its height every couple of weeks. This will generate sturdy new shoot growth and plenty of new flowers.
If you have a nice sunny spot, you can easily grow Osteospermums, a type of African daisy. Once established, they will bloom until frost with regular deadheading. They come in a rainbow of colours from soft yellow and peach to deep purple, with some blended colours in newer varieties. If you’re looking for something a little different, one specialized line of osteospermums has petals that are spoon-shaped instead of the standard daisy shape.
An ideal annual for sunny containers providing you keep it well watered, nemesia grows less than a foot tall and is a great filler plant because it bushes out well. This plant has many shoots bearing sprays of delicate flowers in a rainbow of shades and colour combinations. Nemesia grows easily from seed. You can also purchase the specialty cultivars to get unusual colour combinations. Some varieties are fragrant, which makes them a great choice to for containers on decks or along walkways where everyone can enjoy their scent.
If you love scented plants, you’ll adore heliotrope. Its fragrance ranges from a light baby powder scent, to sweeter smells like cream soda, vanilla, or cherry pie. The plant’s glossy, deep green foliage is topped by clusters of tiny florets in dark purple, or (less commonly) white. This compact (15 inch maximum) annual resents soil that is too dry, and will be chilled by cool nights, so keep it well watered and don’t plant it outdoors too early in the spring.