Quick and Easy Summer Sun Containers, 1-2-3!

Originally appeared at National Gardening Bureau

Create beautiful sun container gardens quickly and easily with just one, two, or three plants.

There’s a reason container gardening is so popular. It’s easy for new gardeners to grow plants without a big time or money commitment. Experienced gardeners use container gardens to add focal points, design elements, and curb appeal to their homes. Apartment dwellers or homeowners with small yards can grow beautiful blooms or tasty treats, even without an in-ground garden space. Container gardens add instant color, style, and beauty, inviting pollinators to visit balconies, while also providing a place to grow delicious homegrown tomatoes on a patio.

But for many gardeners, container gardening may seem a little daunting. After all, if you spend time flipping through garden magazines or searching Pinterest for container planting ideas, you may feel a tad overwhelmed about where to begin. Don’t worry: we’re here to help! We’ve put together some super easy container planting ideas for you that will have you filling pots with fabulous flowers, foliage, and food!

Many National Garden Bureau members offer plants perfectly designed for container gardens. From pretty petunias that serve as “spillers” in combination plantings to dwarf flowering shrubs or compact pepper plants perfect for a patio pot, you’ll find a huge array of plant options to create beautiful container gardens.

To help you get started, try one of our easy-to-create-and-care-for container combinations. Here are options for sun container gardens, using either one, two, or three types of plants per container.

Pick your favorite, and get growing!

Beginner Tip for the New Gardener

Choose a container with drainage holes. Most plants dislike soggy soil, so proper drainage is important.

Summer Sun Containers 1-2-3

One for Sun

If you’re looking for a big burst of low-maintenance color for your container garden, make your life easy: plant only one variety of annual or perennial plant, or add one shrub that will fill the container. It doesn’t get any easier than filling a container with soil and popping the plant in it!

For a single sunny sensation, consider planting the quintessential summer flower: a gorgeous rose. Unlike high-maintenance heirloom varieties of the past, newer varieties offer long-lasting summer color for container displays with little maintenance. Try shrub roses like Grace N’ Grit™. Performing beautifully in heat and humidity, as well as hot, dry weather, these disease-resistant roses look lovely all season long. The compact size makes them ideal for container growing. Plus, there’s no need to deadhead these roses: they stay neat and tidy without pampering. Whether you enjoy classic red, pink, yellow, or pink bi-color, these beauties will fill your containers with gorgeous blooms for months.
Use a single plant like a rose in your container design - National Garden Bureau
If you love the bright burst of cheer sunflowers provide but don’t have space for the towering blooms, you’ll love branching varieties that produce flowers on multiple shorter stems throughout the season like SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl. This sunflower blooms continuously, each plant produces 1,000 (or more) flowers from spring until frost—without deadheading! The 32-inch tall flowers fill containers perfectly with their charming blooms. Each plant grows 40-inch wide, so one plant may easily fill your container, depending on its diameter. Celebrate the Year of the Sunflower with Sunflowers!
Sunbelievable Sunflowers make a beautiful single container planting for any garden and landscape - National Garden Bureau
For an easy, classically good container look, plant petunias. These aren’t your grandmother’s petunias: new varieties offer bold colors, mounding habits, and pretty designs. Take a look at Amore® series of petunias: the pretty “stripes” are actually a heart-shaped design! Plant a potful of petunias for a sweet conversation starter.
Amore Queen of Hearts Petunias are a easy, classically look for any container - National Garden Bureau

If you adore hummingbirds and want to attract more visitors to your garden, try planting a container filled with flowers they love. “A project I did this year was natural hummingbird feeders,” says Chris Berg, Director of Marketing for Dummen Orange“The challenge was to get gardeners to replace their glass hummingbird feeders with a naturally feeding hanging basket. We have the world’s first hanging basket salvia, Hummingbird Falls, which creates a hummingbird highway anywhere we’ve planted it.”

Planting hummingbird-friendly flowers in a patio container or hanging basket is the perfect way to attract these cuties so you can watch them as they zoom by for a sip of nectar!

Salvai Hummingbird Falls will bring hummingbirds to your garden when you add this to your hanging baskets - National Garden Bureau

Two for Sun

If you’d like to mix up your container garden a bit while keeping it fairly simple, consider the option of planting a “thriller” with a “filler” or a “spiller”. Container designers refer to “thrillers” as the tall, stunning plant that takes center stage in the container—it’s the star of the show. You might choose a tree rose, hibiscus, or a tall annual or perennial, like angelonia or coneflower.

Add a filler

A “filler” surrounds the tall plant, adding a pretty layer of color and texture to the container design, while a “spiller” literally spills over the edge of the container, trailing color over and below the pot’s edge. If you’d like to stick with two plants for your container garden, consider pairing a tall “thriller” plant with a shorter, complimentary choice of flower or foliage.

“People can get intimidated about what to plant, says Jennifer Calhoun, Marketing Specialist North America, Benary“Sometimes simpler is better. Find a plant you love, then find something kind of opposite that complements it. If you have a large round flower (like a Nonstop® Begonia), look for something small and light to pair with it (like Euphorbia Snow Mountain or Nassella Pony Tails). I also love bright bold flowers like Rudbeckia Amarillo Gold. They grab your attention!”

Hibiscus Jazzy Jewel is a great addition to two plant combinations - National Garden Bureau
Colibri™ Pink Lace is an excellent combination planter - National Garden Bureau
Colorburst™ Rose Cape Fuchsia can be added to any combination planting to add bright color - National Garden Bureau
Evolution™ Colorific™ Coneflower for any combinator plantor - National Garden Bureau
When pairing plants, consider either choosing a complementary color scheme or analogous colors. Complementary colors are those opposite one another on the color wheel, like red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange. Analogous colors are those found next to each other on the color wheel, producing a more harmonious, soothing combination. It’s purely a personal preference, but it can help you get started with selecting plants you like for your container garden.
Beginner Tip for the New Gardener

When selecting plants to combine for a container, choose plants with similar light, water, and soil needs.

Three for Sun

When creating a container garden, the three-plant combination is probably the most classic design, using the “thriller, filler, spiller” recommendation. While the combination works beautifully to help you think about proportions and height, consider also using three varieties of the same plant to create rich colors and texture. For instance, three varieties of calibrachoa in different colors, either complementary or analogous, create an easy, bright, and cheerful container planting.

You can take the guesswork out of designing an aesthetically pleasing display with pre-planted container combinations. Each combination includes varieties tested for performance that blend well and last all season.

Look to our Combination Page for numerous pre-planted container combinations for your garden.

Blushing Bride is a pre-planted container combination that takes the guesswork out on designing a display - National Garden Bureau

Create Your Own Sun Container

But half the fun of container gardening is trying your hand at design, right? After all, your container garden should reflect your favorite colors, textures, and personality. Think about your favorite plants. Choose one that’s taller, one that’s shorter and fuller, and one that trails, and have fun playing with combinations. Mix up your plantings with perennials and annuals, if you like. Some designers use a tall grass or compact evergreen shrub as a thriller, and then change the fillers and spillers to reflect the seasons.

The only “rule” is to select plants you like—and that grow well together in similar conditions!

Try these pretty tri-combinations to get you started:

Rudbeckia Amarillo Gold in a sun combination - National Garden Bureau
Beginner Tip for the New Gardener

Use lightweight potting soil designed for containers, instead of garden soil. Potting soil allows water to drain well without the soil compacting, which can smother the roots.

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