Summer container ideas – 11 seasonal looks for colorful pots and planters

These dramatic summer container planting ideas will help you to create standout displays for your patio, deck and porch

A collection of summer pots on a patio
(Image credit: Getty Images/Photos by R A Kearton)

Summer container ideas come into their own in the warmer weather, with a wide selection of flowering plants to choose from that are at their very best. From ideas for large patios and decks to more modest terraces and balconies where space is tight, there are plenty of planting ideas that will work for you.

A simple mix of color, texture and form using containers in a variety of heights and sizes has maximum impact. Whether you like tiny terracotta pots featuring individual flowers or large tubs packed with a range of plants of varying textures, you'll be needing ideas and inspiration on how to create successful color schemes and planting combinations that work for your space.

Our brilliant selection of simple summer container planting ideas will inspire you to freshen up your garden with instant displays of vibrant summer plants that will last for months. 

Pansies and violas in container

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography via Getty Images)

Create instant impact with these 11 summer container planting ideas

Want to fill your outdoor space with stunning planting combinations this summer? Our expert tips and tricks will help you tick all right boxes. 

1. Opt for low-maintenance summer blooms

pots planted up with pelargoniums

Pelargoniums are always a classic choice for summer containers

(Image credit: Pelargoniums for Europe)

Plant up easy-care, brightly colored pelargoniums in containers to create a lovely summery mood. Pelargoniums promise abundant and continuous blooms, and these diverse flowering beauties score highly with their bright colors. They also require very little care.

To ensure the plants develop well, the containers should have a diameter of about 8in or hold at least two litres of soil.

You can plant pelargoniums individually in pots and place several next to each other to build up a central display for your patio gardening ideas. They will thrive in even the smallest pots and won't need lots of watering either. In full sun to partial shade locations, standing, semi-trailing and trailing pelargoniums are ideal as a planting theme.

2. Create a seasonal display with a stylish window box

zinc window box with mauve Scabious flowers

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Sleek steel window boxes, like this one from Wayfair, will look stylish planted up simply with one variety of flower such as these dainty mauve scabious. As well as for working on window sills of period properties, window box ideas like this look just as good in a modern aesthetic.

Scabious is also known as the pincushion flower because of its shape and comes in a range of colors, from white through various shades of blue to darkest burgundy. It makes an excellent filler in summer container ideas but also looks good on its own. It's a long flowering plant that's loved by pollinating insects too. Just remember to keep snipping off any faded flowers to keep new blooms coming all summer long.

3. Fill a hanging basket with tumbling flowers

hanging basket planted up with petunias and Calibrachoa

Hanging baskets will add a burst of color all summer long

(Image credit: Squire's Garden Centres)

Make a great first impression at the front of your property with some summer plants for hanging baskets crammed with beautiful blooms to give you loads of pleasure right through the warmest months of the year. Plant plenty of colorful blooms and lush foliage that will spill generously over the edges of the basket to create a naturalistic look.

Some of the best plants for hanging baskets include Calibrachoa (million bells) with its trumpet-like flowers in a wide range of colors, including purple, pink, red, yellow, orange and white. Team this with clouds of dainty lobelia, and trailing petunias, which come in a range of colors from white to dark purple – and look out especially for the gorgeous petunias with ruffled double blooms that will add a touch of luxe to your look.

4. Try an unstructured look for your summer container

black pot planted with dark red petunias

Add some drama with bold colors and trailing plants

(Image credit: Crocus)

Loose and airy planting of flowers like cosmos, achillea and verbena bonariensis lets you create a wonderfully natural and unstructured look in your summer container ideas. Walmart has a great deal on 6 verbena starter plants. 

Offering sumptuous color all summer long, a trailing petunia like the 'Tidal Wave Red' pictured above looks wonderful with its rich, velvety red flowers spilling over the edges of a pot. It thrives in full sun and moderately fertile well-drained soil, and will flower from late spring to the first frosts.

Petunias are a versatile choice for seasonal containers. Choose from trumpet shaped or double ruffled blooms, or more subtle ones featuring delicate marbling detail on their petals. They look particularly spectacular planted in a solid color block of magenta pink, inky purple or dark crimson. 

5. Combine a fragrant mix of lavender and summer herbs

cream ceramic pot planted with lavender, chives, thyme and rosemary

Plant up containers with a mix of herbs for a practical but pretty addition to your patio

(Image credit: Nicola Stocken/Future)

Scented herbs such as thyme and rosemary, and flowers like lavender can be combined in pretty summer container ideas that appeal to the senses as well as being a handy option for the kitchen. Hailing mostly from the Mediterranean these tough drought-tolerant plants combine to create a tapestry of muted soft grey-green and pale blue colors that's easy on the eye.

Mediterranean plants like a sunny position if they’re going to thrive and they do well in poor soil, so this means they're easy and low maintenance when combined in a container. 

The mild winters and hot dry summers of the Mediterranean lends itself to hardy and low-growing plants that like these conditions including lavender and herbs. So if your garden gets plenty of sun and you have mild winters, a summer container planted up with these will suit your space well.

6. Style up a summer container with succulents

zinc planter with succulents

Go for a more contemporary look with succulents

(Image credit: Nicola Stocken/Future)

If you've been learning how to care for succulents, filling a summer container with them is a beautiful and versatile alternative to traditional planting schemes, and it’s so easy to do. There's such a huge range of succulents available now that you'll have a hard time choosing a look. Plus, they make a great option if you're creating an outdoor table centerpiece

Go for a combo that works well in terms of shapes, colors and textures. A good place to start is by checking out common succulent varieties like echeveria, sedum, sempervivum and aeonium.

Try to vary the colors of your succulent garden to include a mix of greens, reds and mauves. Most of the plants used in this container will be available from your local garden center or nursery, or you can find assorted succulent packs such as this one from Amazon.

Use plenty of grit with the compost to create the well-drained soil that succulents love and go easy on the watering too.

7. Fill hanging planters with pelargoniums

hanging planters with pelargoniums

Hanging planters like this are ideal for small spaces or balcony gardens

(Image credit: Pelargoniums for Europe)

Happy go lucky pelargoniums are one of the varieties of flowering plants that are happy planted up on their own in quite small pots that can then be grouped together to create a display, such as these pretty hanging planters. They're one of the best balcony plants too as they don't take up much space.

They are a great choice if you haven't got much time and are looking for low-maintenance plants as they don't need a lot of watering or care. Just remember to keep snipping off any faded flowers to keep on enjoying the Mediterranean vibe.

8. Add height and texture to pots with ornamental grasses

planters filled with ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses are a low-maintenance option for your summer containers

(Image credit: Crocus)

Rhythmic planting of airy ornamental grasses in summer containers creates texture and interest, as well as an understated elegance. The choice is huge as they come in a range of eye-catching colors and textures, everything from rich gold and luminous silver to inky black and lush green varieties. 

You can discover a wide range of ornamental grasses at Nature Hills

The trick to add that special wow factor is to plant one type of ornamental grass in a container to maximize the impact rather than mixing them in with other plants as a filler. The shimmering grass becomes the star of the show rather than the supporting act. 

Grasses can be the crowning glory of even the smallest urban garden. They look after themselves, don’t need watering or feeding, and require no deadheading, which makes them a definite plus if you’re looking for low-maintenance options. 

Generally undemanding about soil, they enjoy dry conditions, so add some horticultural grit to the compost when planting up your container.

9. Plant up vintage-look containers for summer color

vintage tin bath filled with lupins and other flowers

Get creative with your planters for summer impact

(Image credit: A Garden/Alamy Stock Photo)

Old containers, pots and planters can be picked up in thrift stores and online. As well as looking good they have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, making them a brilliant option if you're looking for inexpensive garden ideas. This old tin bath is planted with lupins, zinnia, pelargoniums, foxgloves and ivy for an untamed look that's right on trend.

Galvanised tubs and buckets are great and widely available - these oval galvanized tubs from Walmart are exactly what you need to get the look. Remember to add drainage holes in the bottom if you find one. This will help prolong their life as you don’t want the bottom to rot. Using plenty of grit or other drainage material in the base too will ensure any water flows through freely.

10. Pick white flowers for an elegant summer vibe

planter filled with white flowers

Stick to a single color scheme for a classic look

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography/Future)

Choosing one color for your planting scheme is an easy way to create a professional look for your containers, and none is more elegant than white.

Bright and breezy daisy-like cosmos add height, floaty texture and luminous white flowers to containers all summer long. They’re easy to grow, love the sun and don’t need much looking after. Just snip off the flowers as they fade and more will keep coming.

Fill out your display with verbena to add another layer of abundant, pure white blooms. Very easy to grow, they will flower reliably all summer as long as your container is in a sunny spot and has well-drained compost.

Both cosmos and verbena are easy choices if you're new to summer container ideas, and they both come in jewel bright colors too if you're looking for a bolder look for your garden color scheme.

11. Choose sustainably and opt for eco containers

selection of black planters on steps

(Image credit: Primeur)

If you're interested in creating a sustainable garden, look for eco-friendly containers made from recycled materials like rubber, plastic, fibreglass and crushed stone, many of which are frost proof and will not fade, rot or crack so they're good buys long-term too as they won't need replacing so often. 

Try also looking for terracotta pots at salvage yards and upcycling old drawers for your planter box ideas as another way to reuse existing materials. Large catering cans that previously held olive oil or pureed tomatoes and old wooden wine boxes are also good options.

FAQs

What can I plant in a summer container?

For ideas on what to plant in a summer container think about what you would most like to grow as there are no hard and fast rules. In fact, most things will work given the right growing conditions and it's a great opportunity to try out new ideas.

It can help to choose a theme such as grouping together plants that are bee friendly, a particular color or scented. Alternatively focus on the position of your container and choose plants that will thrive in either a sunny or shady spot according to the location and conditions.

If you're interested in growing vegetable in pots, containers are ideal for creating a mini-veg garden especially if space is tight. Salad leaves like lettuce and rocket, herbs such as parsley and basil, edible flowers like nasturtiums, chillies, tomatoes and dwarf French beans are all good crops to try.

Likewise if you would like to try your hand at growing fruit, such as raspberries in pots, berries and dwarf or miniature fruit tree varieties are the way to go. Try strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, while lemons and figs are good mini-tree options too.


The range of plants, flowers and vegetables you can grow throughout the summer containers is vast, so you're bound to find plenty of varieties to suit you. Try out our herb planter ideas for even more inspiration.

Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about flowers, plants, and garden design and trends since 2015. Having already studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently adding to her list of qualifications with an RHS Level 2 course in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development. In addition to homesandgardens.com and livingetc.com she's written for gardeningetc.com, Modern Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors magazines. 

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