10 Exotic Plants for Summer Containers

Bring the tropics to your garden with containers of showy summer blooms.

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Tesselaar Plants

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Dummen Orange/National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Costa Farms

Crocosmia

Heat up your summer containers with vibrant red, yellow and orange crocosmias. Gold rudbeckias and yellow gerber daisies make pretty companion plants, but keep an eye on your pots, since crocosmias are vigorous growers that can take over. Crocosmia corms should go into the ground in early spring, in a location that gets full sun. All crocosmias are hardy in Zones 6-9 but 'Lucifer', the variety shown here, is hardy in Zone 5.

Eucomis 'Leia'

'Leia' is a new pineapple lily, or Eucomis, that opens raspberry-pink flowers in mid-summer, adding color to your garden several weeks earlier than other varieties. Its compact growth habit makes it a natural for containers. Hardy in Zones 8-10, the plants need sun and will bloom from summer into fall. If you bring your pots indoors for the winter, let the bulbs stay relatively dry while they go dormant.

Agapanthus

Also called Lily-of-the-Nile, agapanthus adds a burst of white, blue, pink or purple to containers. Hardy in Zones 7-11, this South African native blooms in sun to part shade. Dwarf varieties can reach 2’ tall, while others mature at 4-5’. If you live where the winters are cold, bring your plants indoors and let the soil dry out before the next growth cycle begins. Shown here: Agapanthus 'Snow Storm'.

Papyrus

The heat doesn’t bother Graceful Grasses 'Prince Tut', a dwarf form of Egyptian papyrus. Topping out at 18-30 inches tall, and hardy in USDA Zones 10-11, this grass-like plant is not a true grass. Give it part to full sun and consistently moist soil (it also performs nicely in a bog or water garden). It's dramatic when it’s grown as a thriller element in a large container.

Lantana

Bees and butterflies are fond of lantanas, which are hardy in Zones 9-11. You can find trailing or mounding varieties, and both are ideal for containers or baskets in sunny locations. Keep lantana deadheaded, so it will continue to bloom. Pictured here: 'Havana Gold'.

Eucomis autumnalis

Pineapple lily, or Eucomis autumnalis, is an easy-to-grow stunner. This undemanding beauty bears stems of creamy-white flowers that open slowly from the bottom up. They're crowned with lime-green leaves that may remind you of pineapple tops. Invite pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies with containers of this South African sun-lover, which is hardy in Zones 7-10.

Mandevilla

Older types of mandevillas are vining plants that can grow on trellises and mailboxes, but newer varieties form mounds and don’t require supports. Both are lovely for summer containers. Move the plants indoors once the temperatures drop to 50 degrees F. Otherwise, give them full sun and moist soil. If you live where the sun is intense, give them some shade during the hottest part of the day.

HIbiscus and Allamanda

A dwarf hibiscus is perfect for a container on a sunny deck or patio. Just don’t let your plant dry out completely, which can cause the buds and leaves to drop. In hot climates, that may mean watering twice a day. Potted hibiscus performs best when roots are slightly crowded, so if you re-pot them, move them up only one pot size at a time. Tropical hibiscus is hardy in Zones 9-11. Allamandas, shown to the right of the hibiscus, are also tropicals that need full sun and moist soil.

Heliconia

Whether you have full sun or part shade, there’s a heliconia for your container garden. The plants, which are sometimes called false birds-of-paradise or lobster-claws, need regular watering when rainfall is scarce. Some can grow to 15', but most mature at 4-6'. Be sure to use a pot that's heavy enough to resist tipping over. Most heliconia species are hardy in Zones 10 and 11, but some can survive in Zone 8.

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