Plant Guide: Short Plants for Sun

These short plants crave the sun and will look great in a stylish container on your deck or patio.

Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios
  • Gold Carpet Fills Summer with Honey Hued Blooms

    Bidens ferulifolia

    A short-lived perennial with open, starlike, bright yellow flowers at the ends of thin, wiry stems from summer to fall. Often grown in hanging baskets to snake through adjacent plants. 'Golden Goddess' has finer leaves and larger flowers.
    Height: To 12 inches
    Spread: 36 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Ornamental Cabbage Intensifies with Color in Cold

    Brassica oleracea

    Ornamental cabbages were bred for their leafy colors, bright and brash in reds, pinks, purples, and white. The colors intensify with colder fall temperatures. Use them in rows of pots, to front a container display. Grow from seed in spring.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Italian Bellfower has Starlike Bell Flowers

    Campanula isophylla

    Use the perennial Italian bellflower in hanging baskets: its trailing stems, with star-like blue flowers, dangle effectively over the sides. Contrast it with white 'Alba' or 'Stella White'. Feed, but do not overwater, in summer. Bring under cover in winter.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 18 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun, partial or dappled shade

  • Ornamental Peppers are Brilliantly Colored

    Capsicum annuum

    There are two kinds of ornamental peppers: the large, fleshy kind for roasting or using raw in salads, and the thinner, hotter kind for Asian cooking. Both are available in a wide color range. Sow seed in late winter, and grow in a sunny, sheltered site.
    Height: To 30 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Golden Sedge Grows in Clumps of Arching Leaves

    Carex elata 'Aurea'

    Bowles' golden sedge is a graceful, deciduous perennial that makes an effective clump of slender, arching yellow leaves with green stripes. Do not let the soil bake dry over summer, and stand where the sun highlights its color.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun, partial or dappled shade

  • Crocus Bloom in Early and Signal End of Winter

    Crocus

    Flowering after hyacinths and before tulips, crocuses can front large pots filled with evergreen shrubs. The late winter/early spring C. chrysanthus varieties include 'Blue Pearl' (pale blue with a yellow throat) and lemon yellow 'E. A. Bowles'.
    Height: 3 inches
    Spread: 2 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Dianthus are Hardy Perennials with Colorful Blooms

    Dianthus

    Perennial pinks are ideal for stone troughs or old sinks. Old-fashioned kinds give the best scent, in particular the white, ragged-edged 'Mrs. Sinkins' and 'Brympton Red'. Deadhead for a long summer show; use sandy potting mix for good drainage.
    Height: To 12 inches
    Spread: To 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Hen and Chick Succulent Produces Multiple Offsets

    Echeveria elegans

    An evergreen succulent with a rosette of thick, fleshy leaves, often with a powdery bloom, and tall flower spikes. E. elegans has pink flowers, orange inside. Stand several pots outside in front of a large container, but bring indoors for winter.
    Height: 2 inches
    Spread: 2 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Shrub Daisy Catches the Eye Wherever Planted

    Felicia amelloides

    A blue-flowering shrubby daisy that flowers all summer; bring under cover in winter. Popular forms include the rich blue 'Santa Anita' (also with variegated leaves), 'Read's Blue' and 'Read’s White'. Fertilize in summer, but water sparingly in winter.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 24 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Blue Fescue is Popular for Rock Gardening

    Festuca glauca 'Blaufuchs'

    The blue fescue is a clump-forming evergreen grass with late-spring flower spikes. Good cultivars include the silver-blue 'Blue Fox' ('Blaufuchs') and 'Elijah Blue'; 'Seeigel' is bluish green. Divide every two years to maintain fresh young plants.
    Height: 12 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Blanket Flower has Large Daisy Like Blooms

    Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Kobold'

    A brash, fun annual with an outer ring of yellow around the red petals, and a dark red center. Pack in at the front of large tubs that need a color boost. Grow from seed in spring, and deadhead to maintain the supply of new flower buds.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun, partial or dappled shade

  • Creeping Babys Breath Makes a Fine ground Cover

    Gypsophila repens

    Ideal for stone troughs, this pretty little perennial makes a mat of semi-evergreen growth with bursts of tiny, star-shaped, white or pink flowers in summer. 'Dorothy Teacher' is shorter, with bluish green leaves and dark pink flowers. Good drainage is vital.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Limelight Licorice Plant has Silver Woolly Leaves

    Helichrysum petiolare

    A tender, shrubby perennial, often grown as an annual for its trailing, branching stems and rounded, silver, woolly leaves. Keep the soil dry over winter. Place it where the stems can snake through adjacent plants.
    Height: 16 inches
    Spread: 5 feet
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Garden Heliotrope is Highly Fragrant Perennial

    Heliotrope

    The small, shrubby heliotrope gives off a superb vanilla scent. The flowers are purple-blue ('Chatsworth'), violet (e.g., 'Lord Roberts'), or white ('White Lady'). Fertilize monthly in summer; bring under cover for winter and keep just moist. Renew by cuttings.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun, partial or dappled shade

  • Perennial Squirrel Tail Grass has Silvery Plumes

    Hordeum jubatum

    The annual or short-lived perennial squirrel tail grass gives a relaxed show with its long, silvery plumes, often tinged purple at the tip. Use several around the perimeter of a large tub with taller, architectural plants within. Grow from seed sown in spring.
    Height: 10 inches
    Spread: 3 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Petal Packed Hyacinth has Rich Sweet Scent

    Hyacinthus orientalis

    The waxy, petal-packed hyacinth spikes come in white, blue, pink, red,and yellow, with a rich scent onwarm, still days in mid- and late spring. Plant in front of a summer-flowering shrub, or with spring bedding. Excellent in window boxes.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Tufted Hares Tail Grass Grown for Drying

    Lagurus ovatus

    The annual, tufted hare's tail grass has fluffy flowerheads, which can be picked for drying before they have matured, and pale green leaves. Sow seed in spring or in cold frames in fall. 'Nanus' is a mini version, 5 inches high.
    Height: 18 inches
    Spread: 10 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Edging Lobelia is Noted for Profuse Blooms

    Lobelia erinus

    The species has numerous trailing forms, all easily grown from seed inspring. Cascade Series, ideal for hanging baskets, has a mass of flowering stems in white, blue, and red. Regatta Series flowers early; 'Rosamund' is red with a white eye.
    Height: 6 inches
    Spread: 4 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Parrots Beak Scarlet Flowers Add Color to Garden

    Lotus berthelotii

    Parrot's beak is an exotic, shrubby trailer ideal for hanging baskets. It has a mix of black-centered, yellow-orange to scarlet flowers like lobster's claws, and needlelike, silver-gray leaves. Grow it outside over summer, and water and fertilize regularly.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 36 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Silken Pincushion Cacti Creates Showy Clump

    Mammillaria bombycina

    Visit a specialist nursery for the best choice of pincushion cacti; most are small, globular, and flower prolifically. M. bombycina has hooked spines poking through white down, creating a showy clump in summer; M.pringlei has red flowers.
    Height: 12 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Mint is Invasive and Should be Grown in Pots

    Mentha

    Being a rampant spreader, mint is often best grown in a pot of its own. You won't go wrong if you stick to spearmint (M. spicata) and applemint (M. suaveolens). Bring under cover in winter and you will get early shoots next spring. Repot every few years.
    Height: 30 inches
    Spread: Indefinite
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Grape Hyacinth Make Gentle Spring Show

    Muscari armeniacum

    The grape hyacinth bulb makes a gentle spring show. It has short spikes barnacled with tiny blue flowers, and grasslike foliage. When clumps get congested, lift from the soil during summer dormancy and gently separate; replant 4 inches deep.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 3 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Narcissus is Popular Worldwide Flower

    Narcissus

    The daffodil season kicks off with the rich yellow N. bulbocodium, then N. 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' and 'February Gold', and ending with N. poeticus var. recurvus. Remove dying flowerheads, but let the foliage die down naturally.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: To 6 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Narcissus, Minnow, is Smallest Daffodil in Spring

    Narcissus 'Minnow'

    A quick-multiplying Tazetta daffodil for mid-spring. Its flowers have soft yellow cups that gradually fade to off-white, and are surrounded by aray of six creamy \"petals.\" A good choice at the sunny base of a shrub in a wooden tub.
    Height: 7 inches
    Spread: 4 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Purple Ruffle Basil has Cinnamon Taste

    Ocimum basilicum

    Some seed catalogs offer about 20 different kinds of basil, mostly green but some reddish. 'Purple Ruffles' has large, purple, curled leaves; 'Dark Opal' is red-purple. One of the best culinary greens is 'Napolitano'. Bring pots indoors in early fall.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Lilyturf Plants are Herbaceous Perennials.

    Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

    An evergreen that looks like a black grass, lilyturf makes a small clump of straplike leaves, with sprays of mauvish white flowers in summer. Plant at the front of a display. Water freely and fertilize monthly in summer.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun, partial or dappled shade

  • Cape Daisies have Masses of Daisy like Blooms

    Osteospermum

    Perennials flowering from late spring to fall, needing sun to open the petals. Typically white, pink, or pale yellow, they add a cottage-garden touch; 'Whirligig' has mini teaspoon-like petals. Bring under cover in winter, and reduce watering.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Century Hot Pinks is Mistakenly Called Geraniums

    Pelargonium 'Century Hot Pink'

    Grown for its lipstick pink flowers, and well worth mixing with the other reds, pinks, and white in the Century Series. Nip back any straggly growth just above a shoot to create a bushier, more flowery plant. A good ingredient for a mix of summer annuals.
    Height: 18 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Scented Geraniums Cascade from Hanging Baskets

    Pelargonium 'Clorinda'

    A shrubby pelargonium with stiff stems and clusters of lovely soft pink flowers in summer. The lobed leaves are mildly scented. Summer cuttings root quickly: take as replacements when older plants become leggy and bare. Move under cover in winter.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 24 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Leaves of Curly Parsley Add Unique Garden Texture

    Petroselinum crispum

    Both the ornamental curled and the stronger tasting flat-leaf parsley are best grown in large pots to prevent slugs from attacking young plants. Sow seed in plug trays or small pots in early spring—parsley hates being disturbed. Do not let the soil dry out.
    Height: 18 inches
    Spread: 10 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Purple Petunias are Popular Bedding Plant

    Petunia

    Versatile annuals for every container from baskets to tubs, petunias give a long, reliable show of summer color. There are punchy reds and blues, as well as pinks, pale yellow, and white. Water well over summer, giving a semi-weekly high-potash fertilizer.
    Height: To 10 inches
    Spread: To 36 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Cinquefoil has Creeping Habit with Coloful Blooms

    Potentilla 'Gibson's Scarlet'

    A brash little perennial grown for its early to late-summer scarlet flowers, which are nicely set against the green foliage. Best grown at the front of a large container. It will grow happily in poor soil mixed with plenty of sand for fast drainage.
    Height: To 18 inches
    Spread: 24 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Snowball Rose is Miniature with Mass of Blooms

    Rosa 'Snowball'

    A miniature rose, introduced in 1984, with a mass of white flowers, each as big as a thumbnail, which appear all through the summer. Cut back stems by half in early spring, and fertilize well over summer. At its best, it really does look like a large snowball.
    Height: 8 inches
    Spread: 8 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Cambridge Blue Salvia has Hairy Aromatic Foliage

    Salvia patens

    The flowers of this rich blue perennial have an open mouth; 'Cambridge Blue' is paler. It fits a range of color schemes, and looks good with the maroon Cosmos atrosanguineus and yellow Bidens ferulifolia. Protect over winter; take spring cuttings.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 24 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Saxifraga is Shallow Rooted Flowering Ground Cover

    Saxifraga

    Shallow-rooting, mainly alpine plants, most making spreading, ground-hugging growth, with rosettes of tactile, overlapping leaves. The spring flowers tend to be in the white-pink-lemon range. 'Tumbling Waters' has silver-green leaves and white flowers.
    Height: 18 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Pincushion Flowers Verge on Black for Unique Look

    Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Chile Black'

    The pincushion has small, dark red flowers (verging on black) with white specks, which will leap out of a pastel group or perk up a hot color scheme. It is a short-lived perennial, but spring cuttings take quickly.
    Height: 24 inches
    Spread: 9 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Stonecrop Sedum has Succulent Starry Foliage

    Sedum

    Two of the best stonecrops are the mat-forming kind (S. spathulifolium), with tiny leaf rosettes and yellow flowers, ideal for alpine troughs, and the taller, deciduous perennials (S. 'Herbstfreude') with pink summer flowers. Add sand to the soil.
    Height: 4 inches
    Spread: To 30 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Houseleeks Useful in Rock Gardens or Window Pots

    Sempervivum

    Perennial houseleeks make shapely rosettes of pointed, fleshy leaves, themost striking in mahogany and reddish shades. After the summer sprays of star-shaped flowers, the rosettes die but are replaced by new growth. Grow in alpine troughs.
    Height: 6 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Senecio Pulcher has Large Magenta Daisylike Blooms

    Senecio pulcher

    Best grown in pots to avoid winter weather, it has red-purple flowers in early fall. Most leaves, roughly oval-shaped at the base, and lancelike on the stem, hang on over winter. Water moderately in summer, with the occasional drink in winter.
    Height: 18 inches
    Spread: 18 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Coleus Plants are Known for Colorful Foliage

    Solenostemon

    Grow coleus for the flamboyant leaves, which range from black to yellow with red speckles. Many are annuals, but named ones, like S. 'Display', are short-lived perennials. Pinch out early growth, and give high-nitrogen fertilizer semi weekly.
    Height: To 24 inches
    Spread: To 24 inches
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Marigolds Give Off Pungent Odor that Deters Pests

    Tagetes

    Small, easy-to-grow French marigolds come in mahogany, orange, and yellow, and have a long flowering season. The Signet Gem series includes 'Lemon Gem', 'Little Gem' and 'Tangerine Gem'. Sow seed in spring and keep deadheading.
    Height: 12-16 inches
    Spread: 12 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that need protection from frost over winter
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Evergreen Thyme is Good Small Space Ground Cover

    Thymus

    Evergreen thymes offer contrasting shapes and leaf color. Tiny-leaved T. herba-barona spreads across the soil surface, while forms of T. vulgaris can be snipped into mounds; 'Silver Posie' has gray/silver markings. Well-drained soil is vital; trim often.
    Height: To 12 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Most are fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Nasturtiums Virtually Carefree Once Established

    Tropaeolum (trailing)

    Grow trailing nasturtiums so that their stems scramble through adjoining plants and spill out of hanging baskets. The vigorous annual T. majus has orange, red, and yellow flowers; the perennial T. speciosum is bright red.
    Height: To 12 inches
    Spread: To 11 feet
    Hardiness: Tender plants that do not tolerate any degree of frost
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • China Pink Tulips Give Long lasting Spring Show

    Tulipa 'China Pink'

    The flowers are an exquisite shade ofsatin pink, fading to a white blotch in the center of the cup, giving an elegant, long-lasting, late spring show. An old favorite (raised in 1944) that is still a big seller. Use informal, stately schemes.
    Height: 20 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Parrot Tulips are Splashed and Striped with Color

    Tulipa 'Flaming Parrot'

    A fun, eccentric showoff for late spring, with strong feathered red lines against a creamy yellow background. Try grouping it with multicolored tulips like the red and white 'Estella Rijnveld' and 'Carnaval de Nice' for a lively, pantomime mix.
    Height: 22 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Verbena has Trailing Habit Good for Hanging Basket

    Verbena 'Sissinghurst'

    This pink-flowered perennial can be theatrically trained up a pyramid of short canes wrapped with string, or planted with silver-leaved plants. Grow it in hanging baskets to dangle over and down the sides. Water freely in full growth; fertilize monthly.
    Height: To 8 inches
    Spread: To 18 inches
    Hardiness: Plants that survive outside in mild regions or sheltered sites
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

  • Violas Early Spring Plants with Striking Blooms

    Viola

    Hardy pansies have a huge color range, many with striking markings, others intricately beautiful. Some flower in winter/early spring (a sunny spot is vital), and others in late spring and summer. Most are annuals. Keep deadheading regularly.
    Height: To 10 inches
    Spread: To 12 inches
    Hardiness: Fully hardy plants
    Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
    Sun or Shade: Full sun

Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007

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