Planters are one of the easiest and most convenient ways to add beautiful greenery and color to your landscape. We all know and love a good flower pot on the porch in the summer, but your planters can thrive all year-round with some thoughtful planning. You can choose from hardy all-season plants or swap out your plantings for perfect seasonal selections. All you need to know is your hardiness zone and your sunlight conditions to find the right plants to take your seasonal planters to the next level.
Read on for some of our favorite plant combination ideas for container gardens that will take you from spring blooms to hardy winter greenery.
Summer Planter Ideas
The colorful explosion of flowers continues in the summer, but this is the time to swap out your delicate spring plants for ones that thrive in heat and sun. This is the perfect season to soak in the vibrant growth as you spend more time enjoying your outdoor living spaces.
It’s difficult to find a flower more festive than a dahlia! Their flowers blossom into large, rounded pom-poms in an array of bold, splashy colors. Medium and dwarf-sized dahlias make excellent candidates for container gardening, becoming focal points of front door flower pots or forming an ornamental border to raised vegetable beds. They flourish in 6-8 hours of full sun each day. If they are brought inside and kept cool over winter, they may rebloom the next year so you can enjoy the same show all over again.
Nasturtiums are hardy, easy-care plants that bloom in a range of fiery colors. Place them in the sun and make sure they’re watered every so often and you’ll be rewarded with abundant growth. Trailing varieties look beautiful draped from a hanging planter, climbing nasturtiums add color to a trellis, and bushy varieties make a perfect edging for garden beds where nasturtiums even help to keep pests away from brassicas, beans, cucumbers, and more. Best of all, the flowers are entirely edible and add a beautiful, peppery finish to a summer salad.
There’s a range of edible herbs that can thrive in warm summer temperatures including basil, mint, lemongrass, thyme, and chives. If you start these in spring, you’ll have a full crop ready to grace all your meals by the time you’re enjoying summer dinners on the patio. These plants are perfectly placed in a window box outside your kitchen window or potted by your outdoor kitchen for easy access.
Autumn Planter Ideas
For many home gardeners, fall marks the beginning of the planting offseason. Although the big floral show of the spring and summer are over, there are still plenty of options to keep your planters beautiful well into the autumn. From flowers to vegetables, you can enjoy the harvest with a fall container garden.
The arrival of mums at the local nursery or even outside the grocery store is how you know fall has arrived. These dense flowers grow in the form of a mound or mass, making them a perfect fall flower for pots. Use them as a structural piece for a fall planter assemblage or in a starring role on their own in an appropriately sized flower pot. They come in a stunning range of pinks, oranges, reds, yellows, and purples, making it easy to mix and match to fit your desired autumn color palette.
Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
Not all salad veggies are created equal! Ornamental or flowering cabbage and kale are a great option to swap into a seasonal planter. These annuals are low-growing, so they do best when planted on the edges of a container or toward the front of a display. While they technically can be eaten, these leaves are not cultivated for flavor and are more bitter than their counterparts grown for consumption, meaning these beauties are generally grown as fall decorations.
Pumpkins and Gourds
With a little forward planning, you can bring the ambiance of the pumpkin patch right to your home. Small pumpkins and gourds can grow happily in large planters, and if you provide a healthy dose of compost and water throughout the summer, you’ll have a bounty of seasonal gourds on your vines come autumn.
If you’re not ready to tackle the tender love and care that gourds require, there’s a much simpler option—pick up some seasonal gourds at a farm stand and pop them in your container gardens or on your porch steps for that fall vibe with much less labor. Nobody ever said you had to grow everything in your planters!
Winter Planter Ideas
For those of us in colder climates, this is the point in the year where many of us give up on our planters as a lost cause and are content to see them empty or getting snowed over. That’s fine if you prefer to let the winter wonderland take over, but you’ve got more options. Here are some welcome additions that will bring a little color and texture to your planters even in the dead of winter.
Red, Orange, & Yellow Twig Dogwood
If you have a large enough planter to install these, then do! The colorful stems of these dogwoods are a winter favorite for a bold pop of color against the common browns and greens of the season. This plant is a real winter superstar even after its leaves have fallen. These branches are so eye-catching that they are commonly sold on their own as interior or exterior decorations. Even without the whole live plant, sticking a few dogwood stems down in some soil can provide gorgeous color and height in your seasonal pots.
Similarly, cuttings from your evergreens can be placed on display in a winter planter. Next time your pines get cut back, consider saving the cuttings and try arranging them in a planter either vertically or as a ground cover. They can also be spread like a mulch across planting beds. Just double-check the sensitivity of your plantings, as some evergreen needle mulch can turn your soil slightly acidic. The cones of any conifer can also be used in a gorgeous seasonal bouquet.
As we’ve learned, planters are not just for live plants. Similarly to dogwood, keep an eye out for any kind of tree cuttings that may look good in a planter. Aspen and birch branches are popular for their attractive bark and trimmed branches can be an elegant addition to a winter planter.
Container gardening is a way to keep your planting contained, mobile, and most importantly, versatile. As you’ve seen, there’s no need to leave those containers empty six months out of every year! With a little creativity and forward planning, you can use your planters to create beautiful seasonal accents year-round.
Spring Planter Ideas
Spring is the time when winter frosts finally stop and the whole landscape comes alive with fresh greenery and beautiful blooms—and your spring planters are no exception. If you’re looking for spring blooming plants, you have a wealth to choose from. Our favorites are notable for both their beauty and their hardiness in cool temperatures.
Spring Bulbs (Daffodils, Tulips, and Crocus)
There are few cheerier sights after a long winter than seeing the first sturdy shoots from bulbs coming up. These plants are true symbols of spring, but they’re often overlooked as plants for container gardening. A selection of bulbs planted in the fall and overwintered in a cool garage or basement will bloom into a stunning decorative flower pot when spring arrives.
Pansies and Violas
Delicate pansies and their more petite cousin, violas, are another harbinger of spring. They thrive in cool temperatures and can be planted in the early spring for a beautiful wash of color before they die back in the summer heat. While both pansies and violas are known for their signature purple shades, they also come in stunning varieties of blue, white, black, yellow, maroon, multi-colored, and more. These low-growing blossoms are a perfect filler in between larger plants in any plant pot or window box.
Sweet alyssum is an easy-care prolific grower that will quickly cover any outdoor planter in a carpet of tiny blooms. They happily grow in full sun and prefer cool temperatures, meaning that they’ll bloom beautifully in the spring and again in the fall when temperatures drop. Their honey-scented flowers come in a range of soft whites, pinks, and purples and add an inviting cottage-style charm to front door planters or draped over the sides of a hanging basket on your front porch.