- Low-maintenance summer containers
- 1. Vervain – Verbena rigida and Verbena bonariensis
- 2. Blue Spire – Perovskia atriplicifolia
- 3. Wormwood – Artemisia Powis Castle
- 4. Hot Lips – Salvia jamensis
- 5. French Lavender – Lavandula stoechas
- 6. Stonecrop – Sedums
- 7. Cabbage palm – Cordyline australis
- 8. Limestone houseleek – Sempervivum calcareum
- 9. Pink rock rose – Cistus creticus
- 10. Kaleidoscope – Abelia grandiflora
Low-maintenance summer containers
Not all summer containers need hours of maintenance to keep them looking good.
Choose your plants carefully – such as those that are drought-tolerant – and you can create a striking display that requires the minimum of upkeep.
Watch our No Fuss Guide to planting a summer container.
Some of our suggestions will also look good year after year, so you only need to plant them once.
Here are six ideas for low-maintenance summer containers.
Choose your plants carefully – such as those that are drought-tolerant.
Aeonium and festuca
This drought-tolerant duo needs near-zero maintenance – simply plant them and water occasionally. The wooden planter is painted black to complement the central plant, while the billowing grasses add a wild edge.
Plants used: Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ and Festuca glauca.
Osteospermum, hebe and fern
While the osteospermum flowers in this pot are pretty, the foliage of the other plants is striking enough to hold things together when they’re past their best. The foliage will last all year, too, meaning this container has staying power.
Plants used: Osteospermum ‘Serenity Dark Purple’, Dryopteris affinis and Hebe ‘Heartbreaker’.
Eryngium, achillea and sedum
This robust trio is reminiscent of the plants found on sand dunes, and they’re just as tolerant of harsh conditions in a garden. Also, they’ll come back year after year, with the flower heads holding their form right into autumn.
Plants used: Eryngium varifolium, Sedum ‘Angelina’ and Achillea ‘Moonshine’.
Phormium, begonia and echinacea
Architectural foliage and striking blooms result in a container that really packs a punch. The flowers will last for several weeks, with the other plants growing strong and becoming more dramatic as the season progresses.
Plants used: Phormium tenax ‘Veneer’, Echinacea ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ and Begonia ‘Gryphon’.
Pelargonium, ipomoea, diascia and senecio
This classic terracotta pot is filled with cheery sun-lovers that need little care. The flowers are the heart of this display, while the variegated foliage and ornamental grass add texture. Snip off the faded geranium blooms and water sparingly. Find out how to create this pot.
Plants used: Pelargonium ‘Frank Headley’, Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’, Diascia barberae ‘Flying Colours’, Uncinia rubra and ipomoea.
Pelargoniums and aeonium
Attractive flowers and striking foliage combine in a container that needs a bit of deadheading and the occasional splash of water to keep things looking good. A grit mulch smartens things up and helps to keep weeds at bay.
Plants used: Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropupureum’, Pelargonium ‘Bullseye Scarlet’, Pelargonium ‘The Boar’.
A metal shallow bowl is filled with succulents to create a display that needs no care through the summer – just position it in a sunny spot and watch the plants grow. Move the pot to a frost-free place for the winter and enjoy it again next year.
Plants used: Echeveria, Sedum, Saxifraga.
Read how our five tips for feeding plants in pots.
Choose your pots carefully
Take care when choosing your pots and containers. Plastic containers, particularly black pots, can heat up quickly in summer, which can stress the roots of some plants and limit their growth. Try a terracotta, ceramic or concrete container instead.
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Don’t let the heat stop you from creating the flower garden of your dreams
The Met Office has predicted a hotter than average summer with little rainfall, which is great for us but not for the plants in our gardens. British gardeners are eager to keep their flowers blooming bright all summer long, but which species of summer plants that are most likely to withstand the high summer heat?
Julian Palphramand, shrubs, specimen plants & roses buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres, lists 10 drought-tolerant plants that will best adapt to the prolonged dry season.
Want more garden ideas for summer? READ: Jobs to do in the garden in July – watering, sowing and flower care
1. Vervain – Verbena rigida and Verbena bonariensis
Verbena rigida and verbena bonariensis are beautiful examples of drought-tolerant plants. They are popular perennials that have tiny clusters of fragrant, bright purple flowers through summer and well into autumn. Verbena have rich nectar, so butterflies and bees also love them. They reach an ultimate height of 60cm and cope well in well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, clay, loam or sand) and in a sunny position.
Plant care: no pruning is required with verbena rigida, but you will need to cut down verbena bonariensis in spring and deadhead in autumn.
2. Blue Spire – Perovskia atriplicifolia
As the name suggests, this small deciduous sub-shrub produces glorious violet-blue flowers or ‘spires’ in late summer and autumn, along with aromatic grey leaves. It grows to an ultimate height of 1.5m and does well in poor, but well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in full sun.
Plant care: prune in the spring to get a better flowering display later on in the year.
3. Wormwood – Artemisia Powis Castle
Image credit: Amateur Gardening
This shrubby perennial forms a billowing mound of soft, silver evergreen foliage, offering a beautiful contrast to other greenery in the garden. Plant it in any well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) in a sunny spot, but sheltered from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.
Plant care: you can cut it hard back in spring to maintain compactness.
4. Hot Lips – Salvia jamensis
Salvia as a genus are all drought resistant. ‘Hot Lips’ is a striking variety, which produce masses of red and white flowers from July to October. If you touch the leaves, they smell delicious! It is much loved by bees and butterflies and is easy to grow.
It does well in ordinary, well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in the sun; though make sure you shelter it from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.
Plant care: prune lightly in spring to remove dead and damaged growth, and mulch roots in autumn in cold areas.
5. French Lavender – Lavandula stoechas
All lavenders are tolerant to drought. I rather like French lavender, with its dense spikes of purple flowers on top of which are violet bracts with reddish-purple veins. It is a low maintenance shrub and flowers in late spring and summer (July to August). Butterflies and bees love it, and its greyish green, evergreen foliage is also beautifully fragrant.
Plant in well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in a sunny position, but make sure it is sheltered from cold winds as it is not as hardy as English lavender and will struggle to thrive in cold, wet soil. It can be grown in a container but you will need to protect it from frost in the winter. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.
Plant care: trim lightly after flowering in late summer.
6. Stonecrop – Sedums
As a Genus, they are drought tolerant due to their ability to store water in the leaf structure and their waxy leaf coating which prevents water from escaping from inside the leaf. They thrive in full sun or partial shade and can be used for both beds and borders as well as making perfect plants for pots and planters. They do well in any well drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and often attract bees and butterflies.
Plant care: cut back to new growth in the spring and keep weeds at bay.
7. Cabbage palm – Cordyline australis
Cordyline austrlias, or cabbage tree or cabbage palm, are all drought tolerant. They look good all year round and are great for coastal gardens and in large pots or borders. They are an architectural plant with green leaves and, in hot summers, will sometimes produce small, very scented flowers (July to August).
Plant in well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, loam or sand), and in a sunny, or partially shaded, position. Make sure they are sheltered from cold winds.
Plant care: keep them warm in winter by wrapping pots in fleece or bubble wrap. If planted in the ground, they may be destroyed if you have a severe winter but don’t worry, as they will often shoot again from the base.
8. Limestone houseleek – Sempervivum calcareum
The Limestone houseleek is a very easy-to-manage evergreen plant, which has spirals of geometric pointed blue-green evergreen leaves with red tips. Spikes of pink flowers appear in June to August. It is drought-tolerant and also tolerates being neglected, so good for the low-maintenance gardener. It is great in pots, rock gardens, gravel gardens and crevices in walls.
Plant in well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in full sun. If you are planting it in a container, use a 50/50 mix of John Innes No 2 potting compost and horticultural grit. It will reach an ultimate height of 0.1m.
Plant care: once flowering is over, remove rosettes that have died.
9. Pink rock rose – Cistus creticus
Image credit: Val Corbett/Country Life
This rock rose is a compact evergreen with wavy-edged leaves. During the summer (June to July) it is covered in purple-rose papery flowers with yellow stamens.
It comes from the eastern Mediterranean, and is suitable for coastal gardens and well-drained soils (chalk, loam or sand). Make sure you plant it in full sun and sheltered from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.
Plant care: don’t feed it, but do trim it lightly after flowering.
10. Kaleidoscope – Abelia grandiflora
Image credit: Zara Napier
This small, colourful evergreen will bring a kaleidoscope of colour and fragrance into your garden and bees and butterflies will love it too. Its leaves are vibrant yellow and green in spring, deep green and creamy gold in summer and orange, red and yellow in autumn and winter. It is a great shrub for year-round interest. During mid-summer to autumn (August to October) it also has scented pink and white flowers.
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Plant in well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in a sunny, but sheltered position. It is excellent in a container and will reach an ultimate height of 1m.
Plant care: Trim lightly in spring and if you grow it in a container keep it in a frost-free environment over winter.
Want to see more garden ideas? READ: Small garden ideas to make the most of a tiny space
Will you be incorporating these summer plants into your garden decorating scheme?
In my neck of the woods precipitation comes one of two ways; either all at once or not at all. Spring sees ample showers, but as soon as the calendar turns to June the rain dries up. Unless there is an unusual weather pattern in play I can count on Arkansas’ summers to be hot and dry.
Rather than rely 100 percent on irrigation to carry the garden through, I choose drought tolerant plants that I know will survive extended periods without rain. By selecting the right plants for my dry climate I use less water and I don’t have to work as hard to keep the garden looking good during the dog days of summer.
To make things even easier I use a lot of drought tolerant perennials. Perennials will come back year after year without replanting and most are pretty low maintenance. Throw in drought tolerance and you’ve got something you can pretty much plant and forget.
Unlike annuals, many perennials bloom for a specific amount of time. Gardeners can create season-long interest by selecting spring, summer and fall flowering perennials and showy foliage plants.
Here’s a short list of drought tolerant perennials categorized by season.
Spring Flowering Drought Tolerant Perennials
Perennial Salvia (Salvia nemerosa)
Salvia is lovely when planted in drifts and attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and it will add vivid blue color to your containers or garden. The flower spikes sit atop mounded, aromatic foliage.
Zones 3 – 8; full sun; 22 to 24 inches tall with a 20- to 24-inch spread
Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
Lamium is a low growing groundcover for either sun or shade. This vigorous plant is also deer resistant and can be found in a varieties of colors, including pink, purple and white.
Zones 4 – 8; full sun or shade; 8 – 12 inches tall with a 24-inch spread
False Indigo (Baptisia hybrid)
Baptisia is a North American native plant that produces sweetpea-like blooms that can be found in many colors, including blue, yellow, purple and white. Baptisia also attracts pollinators.
Zones 4 – 9; full sun to partial shade; 30 – 26 inches tall
Summer Flowering Drought Tolerant Perennials
Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
Oenothera has a loose, wildflower appearance that makes it right at home in cottage-style gardens. It is both drought tolerant and adaptable to poor soils.
Zones 5 – 11, full sun; 8 – 12 inches tall
Perennial Sunflower (Heliopsis)
The bright yellow, daisy-like flowers of this North American native plant brighten the garden. This is another great addition to pollinator gardens.
Zones 3 – 9; full sun to partial shade; 12 – 20 inches tall
Butterfly Flower (Gaura lindheimeri)
This is one of my favorite “see through” plants. I like to position Gaura in the middle of a flower border so that the loose stems create a veil through which the background plants are seen. This creates a little mystery and added dimension.
Zones 6 – 11; full sun; 12 – 24 inches tall
Good to Know
Even drought tolerant plants need water just after planting, water your newly planted drought tolerant perennials weekly the first growing season.
To learn more about drought tolerant plants, check out the video below!