Container Plants That Come Back Every Year

My Garden Life
May 10, 2021
Table of Contents
Certain plants are so easy to grow that they are more aptly described as ‘hard to kill.’ Hard to kill plants are extremely drought tolerant and form new roots from the tiniest bit of living root or stem. These hardy selections tend to spread quickly, so growing them in a pot outdoors is a great way to enjoy them without allowing the plant to become invasive in your landscape.

Perennial Plants for Container Gardening

If you’re looking for a few container plants that you can put on your deck and forget about, consider the following:

Close up photo of Chameleon plant and English ivy

Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) is a tricolor groundcover with pink, red and cream variegation. It’s a perfect complement to English Ivy (Hedera helix), especially the dwarf variegated varieties. Both plants tolerate sun or shade and create a colorful combination of leaves in one pot.
Close up photos of comfrey plant and ostrich fernComfrey (Symphytum officanale)grows from bombproof rhizomes to form lush leaves up to 2 feet (.6 m) long and displays dainty blue flowers. It grows well in shade and has a soft woodsy look, like Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), one of the few ferns that qualifies for the hard-to-kill category.
Close up photos of prickly pear cactus and Delosperma, ice plant
Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp.)is a cactus that’s easily propagated by setting a piece of it in the soil. It’s known for the fiesta of brightly colored flowers that appear in summer and goes well with Ice Plant (Delosperma spp.), a smaller, but equally tough succulent that forms a thick groundcover and sports daisy-like flowers.

Tips for Overwintering Perennials in Pots

The roots of perennial plants grown in containers are more vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Move your planters to a sheltered position for the winter months to ensure the plants survive until spring. Place the pots in a garage, shed, or along a wall that blocks winds from the north or west. In the spring all that will be needed is some tidying-up to trim off dead leaves or stems.

Depending on rainfall you may need to water your pots into the winter months, or until the soil freezes. This means that as long as temperatures are consistently above 32 degrees F, you’ll want to check occasionally to make sure the soil isn’t dry. Feel the soil with your fingers, if the top two inches of soil feels dry to the touch, you should give the plant some water. Also, you do not want to apply fertilizer during the winter when the plants are dormant. When new growth starts emerging in the spring, you may resume routine watering and fertilization.

The soil in your planters can become compacted and depleted of nutrients over time. It’s a good idea to remove the plants from the pot every three years to replace the soil. Doing this in the spring will get them off to a good start. This is also the perfect time to divide plants if they seem overcrowded. Use the plant divisions to create new planter combinations or share with plant-loving friends and family!

4 Comments

  1. Patricia Ann Shelton

    Will day Lillies come back each year if they are planted in’s a pot?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Patty,
      There are many dwarf daylily varieties that would grow well in a pot. Look for varieties like ‘Stella de Oro’, ‘Purple de Oro’, ‘Happy Returns’, ‘Rosy Returns’, ‘Little Business’, ‘Baby Betsy’, ‘Bitsy’, and ‘Apricot Sparkles’ – just to name a few of the many miniature daylilies that are now available. These dwarf hybrids typically grow no taller than 18-24” (45-60cm) and bloom over a longer season than their larger cousins.

      Like any potted plant, dwarf daylilies will eventually outgrow a pot after a few seasons. At that point you can simply divide them at the roots. Refresh the soil in your pot and replace with a plant division. Dividing your plant will leave you with extra plants for potting, growing in your garden, or sharing with others. If you live in a region with hard winters, be sure to follow the “Tips for Overwintering Plants in Pots” to keep your potted daylilies safe through the winter.

      Reply
    • Jeanine Arroyo

      Do you have to water plants when you over winter them?

      Reply
      • My Garden Life

        Hi Jeanine,
        Such a good question we amended this article with more information. The answer is “yes”, you might need to continue watering your potted perennial plants as long as the temperature remains above freezing. Feel the soil with your fingers, if the top two inches of soil feels dry to the touch, you should give the plant some water. Once freezing temperatures set in, you can withhold watering and resume in the spring when new growth appears. As always, coordinate your watering with rainfall.

        Reply

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