Top 10 Water-Wise Container Garden Plants

By: Jessie Keith

Proven Winner’s Good Morning Sunshine is a cool-colored, textural container garden recipe custom made for hot, dry weather.

No matter where you live, you can always count on bouts of hot, dry summer weather. That’s why it’s smart to fill your outdoor containers with drought-tolerant flowers and foliage plants. Sure, you can always water heavily and fill your pots with water-holding potting soil, but water-wise plants provide real container garden insurance. They will perform beautifully in the dog days of summer, saving you time, money, and worry.

 

Top 10 Water-Wise Container Garden Plants

These ornamentals create a great pallet for water-wise container gardens. Once established, they will tolerate drought and shine in summer heat.

Agastache Alcapulco® Salmon Pink

Hummingbird Hyssop (Agastache hybrids)

These fragrant garden flowers add upright color to containers and attract hummingbirds. There are lots of varieties that vary in height, some reaching 2-3′ and others staying quite compact. The colorful members of the Alcapulco® Series are vigorous and come in pastel shades of rose, orange, and pink. Pinch the old flower stems back to encourage new flowers all summer long.

 

Angelonia Angelface® Blue

Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia Angelface® Series)

These bedding flowers produce nonstop blooms all summer long in shades of pink, purple, rose, and white. The annuals are offered by Proven Winners® and their flowers attract bees and butterflies. Even though they look delicate, they can take high heat as well as drought.

 

 

Bidens Goldilocks Rocks® (image by Proven Winners®)

Tickseed (Bidens ferulifolia)

Bright gold flowers make tickseed a sunny choice for containers. The low, mounding annuals add substance to plantings and bloom all summer long, attracting bees and butterflies. The variety Goldilocks Rocks® is especially tough and will thrive in even the worst summer weather. Tickseed is self-cleaning, so there is no need to deadhead.

 

 

Catharanthus Cora® Violet

Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)

Bushy Madagascar periwinkle blooms effortlessly until frost, making it a mainstay for sunny, drought-tolerant containers. It comes in lots of bright colors that can be purchased at practically any garden center. Its flowers are favored by butterflies, and many great varieties exist, such as those in the compact Cora® Series.

 

 

Cuphea Vermillionaire® (Proven Winners®)

Cigar Flower (Cuphea ignea)

Talk about a resilient garden flower! Cigar flower is a big, bushy ornamental that becomes covered with orange-red, elongated flowers throughout summer. The tubular blooms attract hummingbirds and don’t stop until frost. The Proven Winners® hybrid Vermillionaire® is especially large and colorful.

 

 

Euphorbia Diamond® Delight (Proven Winners®)

Euphorbia (Euphorbia Diamond® Series)

The delicate, white blooms of these tough garden flowers look like snowflakes and will complement almost any container planting. Euphorbia in the Diamond® Series are offered by Proven Winners® and their popularity is a testament to their ease of growth and beauty. The mounded, slightly cascading plants are self-cleaning, look great all summer, and will bloom until frost.

 

 

Lantana Bandana™ Rose

Lantana (Lantana camera)

All lantana are as tough as nails, and the bushy plants give container gardens a colorful, robust look. The glowing flowers are produced in warm, bright, multi-colored clusters that attract butterflies. Some varieties are more compact than others, like those in the Bandana™ Series.

 

 

Artemisia Quicksilver (Proven Winners®)

Wormwood (Artemesia Quicksilver™)

Grown for its icy, silvery leaves and appealing mounded habit, Quicksilver™ is a tough wormwood that looks good with both warm- and cool-colored plantings. It’s toothed leaves are fragrant and resistant to deer and rabbits.

 

 

Pennesetum Fireworks (Proven Winners)

Annual Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

This elegant grass brings soft, airy height to containers and comes in lots of shades–from the multi-colored ‘Fireworks‘ to the russet red Red Riding Hood. By midsummer, it will produce ornamental foxtail plumes that persist into fall, even after they have turned brown.

 

 

Dichondra Silver Falls (Proven Winners)

Dichondra (Dichondra Silver Falls™)

This is the ultimate drought-tolerant spiller for impressive pots! The foliage effortlessly cascades down like a waterfall of silver and can be gently pruned back if it becomes too long. Its neutral color combines well with many other plantings.

 

 

Container Design

Diamonds and Emeralds is a more neutral container recipe from Proven Winners. (Image by Proven Winners)

Container gardens must have plants with the same sun and water requirements. For professional looking pots, go for plants with contrasting textures, heights, and habits, and devise a clear color scheme.

The standard container design formula includes a vertical, mounding or bushy, and cascading plant married in a complimentary arrangement where plant heights blend into a fluid design. Contrasting leaf textures (fine, bold, airy, or spiky) will lend even more dramatic looks to your container. Choosing a smart color scheme is the final design factor.

Harmonious color choices make beautiful gardens. Colors may be contrasting but complementary (on the opposite end of the color wheel, such as purple and yellow, orange and blue, and red and green), warm or cool (reds, oranges, and yellows are warm and blues, greens, and purples are cool), or in similar hues (pink with pink, purple with purple, and so on).  Neutral plants and flowers, such as tan-, white-, silver-, and black-hued plants, fit with practically any color group. Click here to view some great container designs by Proven Winners®.

 

Container Preparation & Care

Larger containers hold more water and give roots more space, so opt for big pots able to sustain your contained gardens—especially when growing multiple plants in one pot. Containers must always drain well, so make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom and a base able to hold residual water.

The proper mix also makes a difference. For best performance in hot, dry weather choose Black Gold® Moisture Supreme Container Mix or OMRI Listed® Black Gold® Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix. Both contain natural ingredients that hold water well. Adding a slow-release fertilizer at planting time will also boost performance.

Water-wise plantings require less water, but they still need timely irrigation. Your watering plan will depend on the size of your pot and the plants chosen. Those planted in large containers with water-wise plants often require water every three days or so. If your plants look lush and healthy, you know you are giving them what they need.

Summer Breeze is a warm-hued, water-wise container recipe from Proven Winners. (image by Proven Winners®)

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.