Container gardening ideas: 19 planting designs for year-round colour and scent

These glorious container gardening ideas are the perfect way to liven up a patio, balcony, or deck

container gardening ideas: petunias on patio
(Image credit: Mark Scott/Future)

No matter how small, every outdoor space can benefit from container gardening ideas. Offering vibrant hues, subtle fragrance and gorgeous foliage, they're a fabulous way to breathe new life into a seating area or porch.

The best thing about containers is that they're so adaptable and can be moved around or replanted whenever you fancy a fresh new look. This means you can mix them up over the seasons if you wish, to ensure your plot is always full of visual interest.

They're a simple way to get creative and channel your sense of style into your space. Whether you want to plant a miniature orchard, create a cottage garden in pots, or go contemporary with textural grasses, there's bound to be a container gardening idea for you. 

To help you get inspired, we've rounded up some of our favourite container gardening ideas below. So, grab a cuppa and keep reading, you'll be ready to create your own stunning designs in no time.

1. Use soothing blues

container gardening ideas: agapanthus in corten steel containers

Agapanthus makes a stunning choice for pots

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Potted Agapanthus are a gorgeous addition for patio ideas, as they offer breathtaking displays of architectural blooms. Pack them in quite tightly to encourage more flowers, and be sure to add plenty of grit. Evergreen varieties benefit from winter protection, so keeping them in pots makes them easy to move into a greenhouse, too.

Create a striking contrast with rusted iron planters, and pair with hydrangeas to add to the sculptural look. And, if you're lucky enough to have one, place them nearby a pool, to add to the blue-hued theme.

Our guide on how to grow Agapanthus will help you recreate the scene.

2. Add height with grasses

container gardening ideas: ornamental grasses in Cox & Cox planters

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Mix up the textures and add a sense of height and movement by bringing grasses into your pots. And with such a wide variety available, you can use them as part of a complementary colour palette, too. We love how bronze-tinged foliage has been been paired with Heucheras and Penstemons in this sumptuous scene.

Rattan planters add an extra layer of visual interest, whilst opting for two in slightly varied sizes creates a pleasing effect. If you're loving this look, check out our tips on how to grow ornamental grasses.

3. Go all out and create a flower-filled haven

container gardening ideas: petunias in pots and hanging baskets on patio

Transform a patio with containers galore

(Image credit: Mark Scott/Future)

Are you after a quintessential country-garden look but have only a patio to play with? Don't let that hold you back. Hanging baskets, window boxes, and standing planters can be used en masse to turn even the drabbest space into a show-stopping, flower-filled scene.

Petunias make a classic choice and offer a wide range of vibrant colours (plus, pollinators love them). Combine with tumbling Lobelia and soft mounds of Erigeron, or try adding a jasmine or two for their gorgeous scent. Just don't forget to water them all.

4. Opt for white hydrangeas for an elegant look

container gardening ideas: hydrangeas in cox & cox planters

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

We're over the moon that hydrangeas are back in fashion. But if you think they're solely reserved for borders, then think again. With their showy heads of soft petals, they make a lovely addition to containers, too.

Hydrangea paniculata is particularly popular right now, with its subtly cone-shaped flowerheads. Try 'Limelight' – it sports a lime-yellow hue in summer which then fades to cream, before turning a spectacular shade of pink in autumn. Then, simply underplant with aromatic rosemary and white heather for a beautifully elegant display.

Looking for more advice? Head over to our guide on how to grow hydrangeas.

5. Display pots on shelves

container gardening ideas: autumn display on shelves

Show off your container gardening ideas across multiple levels

(Image credit: Vanessa Kidby)

A tiered shelving structure like this is a beautiful way to show off your container gardening ideas all year round.

The likes of heather, pansies, sage, and ferns makes a complementary mix – perfect for an autumn display (and why not throw a pumpkin in for good measure?). Mix it up as the seasons change – think bulbs in spring, or bedding plants in summer. Add a gravel topping for a polished finish. Plus, it'll help to keep moisture in, too.

Opt for a matching set of pots for an orderly and cohesive look – terracotta is a timeless choice. But, if an eclectic style is more your vibe, then don't be afraid to get creative, mixing up colours and textures to match your taste.

6. Liven up a wall with Pelargoniums

container gardening ideas: geraniums in woodlodge colourful pots

Feather brush effect planters from Woodlodge

(Image credit: Woodlodge)

Pelargoniums (often known as geraniums) are an easy-care choice for pots and bring tons of colour to a garden. 

Their clustered blooms of scarlet, pinks, and whites add a Mediterranean look to a space. And, some varieties have scented foliage, too (try 'Attar of Roses' for a real crowd-pleaser). As demonstrated here, they're a fabulous way to brighten up a dull wall, especially when displayed in brightly-glazed planters. 

Bring them indoors for winter to protect them against frost – sometimes this can also help to prolong their flowering.

Hardy geraniums can also be grown in borders, all year round. Our advice on how to grow hardy geraniums will give you a helping hand.

7. Make a statement with conifers

container gardening ideas: conifers in woodlodge large pots

(Image credit: Woodlodge)

For modern plots, a row of dwarf conifers is a great way to make a statement whilst bringing a dose of green to a space. Plant a few in a row along a wall for a structural look, or use either side of a gateway for a grand entrance. 

Opting for faux lead planters still offers a chic display, but means they'll be lightweight enough to move around should you wish.

8. Add a Mediterranean vibe with a simple olive

container gardening ideas: olive tree in pot

An olive tree in the Julius XXL Tuscan terracotta pot from Gardenesque offers an elegant look

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

Speaking of potted trees, if you're looking to transport your plot to sunnier climes, then an olive is a must-have.

In milder regions you can leave these evergreens outdoors all year round, simply keep them in a sunny spot and make sure they have lots of good drainage. Just a single plant can bring a whole new look to a space – pair with a large terracotta pot for a final rustic flourish.

Want to opt for an alternative? Check out our best trees for small gardens buying guide.

9. Choose cottage garden favourites

container gardening ideas: woodlodge woodland planters

Pair pastel-hued blooms with Woodlodge Fuji pots

(Image credit: Woodlodge)

If you'd love to bring some cottage garden ideas to your patio, then how's this for inspiration? Digitalis, Penstemons, and purple Veronicas are garden classics full of country charm. And, whilst undeniably gorgeous in a sumptuous border, they are just as pretty in pots. Sweetly scented sweet peas and lavender make wonderful alternatives, as does pale-hued Cosmos.

Plant one variety per container and cluster them together, or plant up larger pots with a mix. Either way will help to recreate the bountiful, romantic look so quintessential to this style.

10. Celebrate spring with potted bulbs

container gardening ideas: spring bulbs

Add an explosion of colour to your patio scene

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

One of the biggest joys of spring is seeing all the glossy bulbs burst into life. So, planting up plenty of containers with the likes of tulips, Muscari and daffodils is a surefire way to evoke a sense of delight.

Mix up the look by using a jolly variety of pots. Place them on different levels, so you can really appreciate the display all at once – try propping some up on bricks, or placing alongside steps. We're loving the bold impact this collection brings to a patio space.

11. Try a container shade garden

container gardening ideas: shade garden with hostas and ferns

Create a cool shaded corner with Hostas and ferns

(Image credit: Vanessa Kidby)

If you've already discovered our shade garden ideas then you'll know there are many ways to transform a gloomier spot in your plot. Container planting ideas can come in handy here, too.

An array of ferns and Hostas make a textural mix which will reinvigorate a darker area with their bright green hues. Add a birdbath to welcome feathered friends to the scene and maybe a lantern (LED candles are a fuss-free choice). Your shaded space will have a fresh new look in no time.

12. Add a contrasting backdrop

container gardening ideas: black shed with pink flowers

Pair vibrant pinks with darker backdrops, such as this shed painted in 'Dark River 0494' in woodcoat finish from Colourtrend (fence painted in 'Polished 0209', also in woodcoat finish)

(Image credit: Colourtrend)

We love the use of black for garden walls, sheds, or fences. It adds a crisp, contemporary coolness, which when styled right feels cosy rather than oppressive. So if your plot is sporting this chic look (or if you're reaching for the paint brush anytime soon), then take inspiration from the image above.

As we think you'll agree, black provides a striking backdrop for vibrant blooms such as hot-pink lupins, purple Salvias, and hydrangeas. And, by keeping them in pots, you can mix and match as the mood takes you, to switch up the look.

Don't forget you can grow many types of veg in containers too – here you can spot lettuces sitting snugly in the side trough.

13. Make a mini herb garden

container gardening ideas: herb pot from Gardenesque

Create a one-stop shop for herbs with the kitchen herb planter from Gardenesque

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

This pretty pot is perfect for growing all your favourite herbs in one place. Not only will it look lovely, but your cooking will level up a notch as you get creative with all the fresh new flavours.

What's more, its smaller size makes it a great addition to even the teeniest balcony. And, when the weather turns cooler, you could even bring it indoors to liven up a kitchen windowsill.

Our guide on how to create a herb garden will help you get started. But if you want to try something different, fill it with alpine strawberries instead. It'll add a summery touch that everyone will love.

14. Create a serene winter display

container gardening ideas: hellebores with moss

Pair hellebores with moss for a natural vibe

(Image credit: Michelle Garrett/Future)

Container gardening ideas are a brilliant way to liven up a wintery scene. The likes of ornamental grasses, variegated ivy, pretty Cyclamen, and winter pansies all make wonderful planting choices. But of course, one of the most loved winter blooms has to be hellebores.

Their understated elegance is hard to resist. And there's so many varieties on offer – try  'Winter Sunshine' for creamy petals tinged with pink, or 'Harvington double purple' for inky, ruffled blooms.

Recreate an enchanting woodland vibe by underplanting their luscious foliage with verdant moss. A galvanised planter makes a good finishing touch, adding a vintage charm.

15. Go eco-friendly

container gardening ideas: Elho green pot with grasses

(Image credit: elho)

These pots are made from recycled material from artificial grass production waste – which is why they're such a stunning shade of green. Eco-friendly and stylish – they're a winner in our book.

Double up on the theme by filling them with ornamental grass, or, as seen above, more Hydrangea paniculata (we told you they were back in vogue!).

16. Brighten up indoors

container gardening ideas: daffodils indoors on yellow shelves

Don't forget about indoor container gardening ideas, too

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Container gardening ideas are a wonderful way to bring colour indoors as well as out.

Learn how to force bulbs indoors for early spring displays – a simple pot of deeply-fragranced hyacinth will elevate any living space. 

Of course, come spring, daffodils are a first-rate choice for spreading positive vibes. Just look at that fabulous yellow hue.

17. Create a patio-sized orchard

container gardening ideas: apple tree and pear tree in Lechuza container on patio

Short on space? Try potting up a mini orchard with the Trio Stone container from LECHUZA

(Image credit: LECHUZA)

Enchanted by the idea of picking an apple or pear from your very own garden? There's no doubt that an apple pie made from home-grown produce sounds really rather special. 

However, for many of us, the idea of a full-blown orchard is a little far-fetched. But that doesn't mean to say you can't create a mini-sized version. Overcome those space limitations with this clever container, which is perfect for planting espalier fruit trees. 

A great choice for a patio, or even a balcony, it can also double up as a screen for added privacy, once planted up. What's more, the clever design comes with its own irrigation system, so is brilliant if you're looking for low maintenance garden ideas.

18. Liven up a corner

easy planters

(Image credit: Harrod Horticultural)

Long stretches of hedging or other evergreen planting often benefit from an injection of colour to add some interest. A large planter is ideal for this. 

This container is one that will last and last. It's made from galvanised steel powder coated with colour and comes in a range of sizes. A great choice for planters is lemon-hued Achillea, which flowers from June to September and looks stunning. It's also good if you like dried flowers.

19. Turn heads with vibrant colour

easy planters

(Image credit: Harrod Horticultural)

In exotic shades of bright red, orange and yellow, the spikes of red hot pokers add a tropical mood to the garden that lasts from April right through to November. They love being planted up in a container, too. 

They look good on their own, but also work as part of a striking combo paired with purple blooms, such as the lupins seen here in this durable planter.

Positioned against a wall or fence, it will provide a focal point to detract from a dull boundary.

Which container should you pick for your plants?

container planter ideas: hyacinths and daffodils in pink pots

A springtime pairing of daffodils and hyacinths will always look lovely in pots

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

When picking your pots, 'It's vital to consider the plants and the type of containers they will be suited to,' says Michael Wooldridge, Director of Woodlodge. 'Root space is crucial, so ensure the containers you choose are large enough to accommodate the plant growth over time.'

'Then there is the shape of the container to think about,' Michael continues. 'Taller pots suit trailing and weeping plants such as ivy, which will spill over the pot rim. These pots are also ideal for growing lilies or Clematis, which both need a deep, cool root run.' 

Shallower containers are best suited for low-growing perennials, shrubs, alpine plants, bulbs such as crocuses, herbs, and vegetables, he says. These usually require more surface space.

'Topiary and small trees will also need a substantial base, so square containers are best suited.' Plus, the square shapes complement topiary shrubs and trees that have been pruned into formal shapes, as well as spiky architectural plants, he adds.

What is the right soil to use for container gardening?

low maintenance garden ideas: pots

An assortment of container gardening ideas adds tons of character to this modern space

(Image credit: Future)

LECHUZA offers their expert advice for choosing the right soil for your container gardening ideas. 'Fill your containers with a high-quality potting soil,' the team says. And if you're thinking of just using the soil directly from your garden, you might want to reconsider. Potting mix, they explain, includes ingredients like perlite and vermiculite which improves aeration and keeps soil loose and well-draining. Earth from your garden is likely to harden and compact when dry.

However, many potting mixes don't always contain enough nutrients for your plant, so be sure to fertilise regularly, they continue. Mix a slow-release fertiliser into your soil when you pot up, then regularly treat plants to a liquid plant food added into your watering can when you water. Some brands offer pre-mixed feed which is designed specifically for container gardening – simply pour into pots straight from the bottle.

For a soil alternative, you can use a mineral substrate mix, such as the LECHUZA-PON, the team says. This stabilises the ideal PH balance for healthy plant growth and provides the optimal air to water ratio, thus reducing the plant's vulnerability to diseases, they explain. 

What's more, the substrate creates a balanced nutrient distribution in the root area of the planter. It acts like a buffer, that absorbs excessive fertiliser and then gives it back to the plant when needed. And as an additional bonus, it won't condense over time, meaning it can be used for years without having to be replaced.

How do I pick container plants?

Garden trends: Cox & Cox plant containers

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

When picking your container plants, LECHUZA advises to go for ones that suit your lifestyle. This will help you get the most success, and enjoyment, out of your new displays. 

'For example, if you're not keen on watering, then grow succulents and other drought-resistant plants,' they say. You can also get self-watering pots to do the hard work for you (they have a fantastic range). Head over to our garden planter ideas for lots of lovely designs.

'If you want something that will last and return to bloom again next year, choose to plant perennials,' they continue. 'Be sure to deadhead or chop back when necessary to encourage further growth and keep them blooming.'

'Alternatively, if you like to chop and change with the seasons, plant annual flowers and swap out for new ones as and when you need to. Just do a little research and find out what works for you.'

And if you'd like to have a go at growing vegetables in pots, then head over to our guide for lots of top tips.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.