10 of the best flowers for summer pots
Whether you’re a traditionalist or enjoy something new, there is a wealth of choice for summer pots and baskets. Green fingers are not required for an impressive display that continues right through summer till the first frost.
Petunias, world famous for their reliable pot performance, just keep on getting better. Modern hybrids are more weather resistant, longer and more prolific flowering than ever before. Today’s gardeners have a choice of many different plant forms and flower sizes and almost every imaginable colour – even black!
Fantastic for all kinds of containers, today’s impatiens are compact, free flowering plants in a wide choice of bright colours. As well as conventional busy lizzies, we have tropical ‘New Guinea hybrids’ with slightly bigger flowers and colourful foliage, and the Sunpatiens range - impatiens which thrive in full sun.
The archetypical Mediterranean pot geranium, aka ‘zonal’ pelargonium is no relation to true Geranium. It comes in a wide range of beautiful colours including classic red. Pelargoniums are famously tolerant of heat and drought, while modern strains provide superior disease resistance. Cascading ivy-leafed varieties are ideal for hanging baskets and window boxes. Because they are frost tender, pelargoniums are best treated as annuals in cold climates. In any climate, buying new plants each year guarantees best flowering. Plant them in full sun, in well-drained potting mix. They flower best when the mix is kept moist, but your pelargoniums won’t be the ones lying flat on their pots when you arrive home from a long weekend. The worst you can do is over water them.
Prolific flowering is rare among shade loving plants, but fuchsias produce masses of dainty flowers all summer long. They look great from below, so are ideal for hanging baskets. There are varieties with a spreading habit for baskets and bushy, upright growers for urns and pots. Fuchsias are best in part shade and need regular watering. The more sun they get, the more water they will need. Liquid feed once a week to boost flowering.
With some wonderful trailing forms and mass displays of pretty flowers, today’s verbenas make better pot subjects than their forebears. This is due largely to vastly improved disease resistance, as ongoing breeding programmes continually improve garden performance. The colourful Superbena series are heat tolerant and mildew resistant and can tolerate dry soils and low fertility, which makes them perfect for growing in pots. Superbenas are self-cleaning, so no deadheading is required, although plants will respond well to occasional trimming. Colours include burgundy, coral, blue, white and bright red.
Not so long ago Alstromerias wouldn’t have made anyone’s top ten list as container plants but that’s before we had the likes of compact ‘Princess Lilies’ and extremely compact ‘Inticanchas’. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, offers handsome variegated foliage with bright scarlet flowers.
Dwarf dahlias combine well in pots with dainty summer flowers like alyssum and lobelia. They come in a wide range of colours, available both as bedding dahlias on the seedling stands and named varieties such as the NZ bred Hammett cultivars.
Marigolds - these retro gems are so bright they’ve often been called ‘vulgar’, but they remain a first choice among heat and dry tolerant annuals. You can’t go wrong with a pot full of cherry French marigolds. Today’s very dwarf forms have their roots in the 1950s. Their carnation-like doubles or daisy-like singles come in many shades of yellow and orange.
Colourful perennial Diascias are quick to establish and long lasting, covering their foliage with dainty flowers throughout summer and autumn. The ‘Splash’ Diascias, in a choice of four colours grow extremely well in containers. They thrive in full sun and withstand summer conditions well, despite their dainty looks. However, they will respond well to regular summer watering and feeding to prolong the incredible flower display. Cut back after flowering to maintain a nice neat shape for next summer.
Watering and feeding is critical when growing roses in containers and small pots are best avoided. However, there are many roses that will thrive in a generous sized pot with good potting mix. Look for disease resistant varieties with a compact growth habit and small leaves.
Combine any of the top ten with these summer flowering annuals to produce a grand display:
Sweet alyssum, bacopa, Sweet pea, Nastutium, Nicotiana, Lobelia and nemesia.
Verbena Voodoo Red
Alstromeria Inca Lucky
Dahlia Dreamy Nights
Diascia Raspberry Splash
Flower carpet rose pink