Summer Flower Container Gardening Ideas

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The bright, hot days of summer, with clear blue skies overhead, are the perfect backdrop for beautiful containers of flowers. Most of the best container garden plants are blooming now, and nurseries are full of annual and perennial flowers in every color imaginable. You could buy a pre-planted container at the nursery, which would be quick and easy, but then you would miss the fun of picking your favorite flowers, planting them yourself, and proudly displaying the results on your front porch or back patio.

When choosing flowers for your containers, there are four basic themes you can use that will all give you professional looking results.

Single variety, single color: This is the easiest container garden design of all. Pick one variety of flower you love, in just one color, and plant in a beautiful pot that sets off the color. Try a container filled with bright yellow marigolds in a blue glazed pot, or red petunias spilling over a wooden window box. If you have a shady patio, brighten it up with white impatiens in an elaborately patterned glazed Mexican pot. Choose a pot large enough to make a statement. One lonely marigold in a tiny pot will be lost.

Single variety, multiple colors: If you want to mix things up a little in your summer container garden, choose a variety of flower that comes in a range of colors, and plant a mixture. In the summer, this is especially effective with super-bright flowers. Fill a large terracotta planter with a riot of zinnias, or plant a mix of solid and star petunias in hot pink, red, purple and white to spill over the sides of a half whiskey barrel. Your shady balcony will come alive with an old-world urn filled with New Guinea impatiens in hot pink, coral, red, white and orange.

Multiple varieties, single color: For a striking, somewhat formal looking summer container garden, stick with one color in a variety of flowers. For the best design, pick one variety that is tall and spiky, one variety that will spill over the sides of the container, and one or two varieties that will fill in the middle.

  • Pink: Use a pink wave petunia to spill over the edges of a large container, and pink cosmos to stand tall in the center. In between, fill in with pink zinnias and pink feathery celosia.
  • Red: Choose red salvia to stand tall in the center of a glazed green or blue pot, and red calibrachoa to spill over the edge. Fill in the rest of the pot with red penta and red dianthus.
  • Orange: Center a bright orange celosia plant in the middle of a cheerful glazed Mexican pot, and surround it with orange marigolds and zinnias. Plant an orange calibrachoa at the edge of the pot to soften the sides.
  • White: For a bright touch in a shady spot, choose a green-and-white caladium as your center point, then surround with white impatiens, white begonias, white speckled hypoestes and a lime green potato vine to liven up the edge of the pot.
summer flower container gardens summer flower container gardens

Multiple varieties, multiple colors: Have fun choosing the flowers you like most in colors that complement each other. Some summer container garden themes can include:

  • Patriotic flair: For an Independence Day look, plant bright red salvia in the center of your pot, and white bacopa along the edges. Fill in with blue ageratum, bachelor’s buttons and white sweet alyssum to fill in any bare spots.
  • Purple and pink: Create a feminine, colorful container with purple mealycup sage in the center, surrounded by pink and white Madagascar periwinkle. Plant a pink, trailing petunia near the edge of the pot to soften the look. This is especially pretty in a blue glazed container.
  • Hot colors: You can create an eye sizzling display of color with bright annuals. Use pink, white and red cosmos in the center of the pot, and surround with mixed zinnias and marigolds. Plant a mixture of verbena along the pot edges. A terracotta or glazed green pot will set this display off nicely.
  • Shady color: Just because you don’t have much sun doesn’t mean you can’t have a colorful pot of flowers. In a large pot, plant a colorful caladium in the center. Surround with a mixture of hypoestes, impatiens, sweet alyssum and pink or blue bacopa along the outside edges.
  • More shady ideas: Choose a dwarf variety of brightly variegated coleus for your pot’s centerpiece, then surround with impatiens, wishbone flower and monkey flower. Use sweet alyssum as an edging along the sides.

Tips for Keeping Your Pots Looking Great

Once you have planted your containers, a little bit of daily care will keep them looking great all summer long and into the fall.

  • Since the plants will be disposed of once cold weather arrives, you don’t need to worry much about spacing. Position plants so rootballs are almost touching. For most annual flowers, if starting with small plants from a nursery six-pack, you can fit 6-8 plants in a 12-inch pot, 7-9 plants in a 14-inch pot, 8-10 plants in a 16-inch pot, and so on.
  • The larger the container, the better. Small pots dry out quickly, stressing plants. Use the largest container that fits in the spot where you want a display.
  • Group containers for impact. While one pot of flowers is pretty, a group of three or five pots has presence. Odd numbers of containers look the most interesting.
  • In hot weather, containers might need daily watering. Check each day for dryness, pushing your finger down into the soil. Let just the surface dry out before watering.
  • Mix a teaspoon or two of slow-acting organic fertilizer into the soil when planting your flowers, then feed every two weeks with a quick-acting fertilizer that dissolves in water, such as Miracle-Gro.
  • Deadhead your flowers to encourage more blooms.
  • Keep an eye out for insects. Larger pests, such as caterpillars or beetles, can be picked by hand. Smaller nuisances like aphids can often be blasted off the plant with the hose.

There’s nothing like sitting on a shaded patio with a glass of lemonade or iced tea enjoying a display of cheerful flowers you planted yourself. Summer is the perfect time to try your hand at designing your own containers of annual flowers. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to go wrong.

Last Updated: May 3, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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