The Q&A Archives: Container Pots

Question: I need some suggestions for the best type of perennials to plant in my pots....I want color and fullness.....Thanks, Tina

Answer: Unfortunately, based on my experience, I would not recommend perennials for container use. They generally do not bloom for more than a week or two, that is simply the nature of perennials.

They also tend to outgrow their containers quickly. When you think about the mature size of a three year old perennial that is performing at its peak, and understand that its roots need a proportionately generous amount of soil, then you know that you would need a big container for each plant.

The major problem however is that it is difficult to overwinter them in containers under home conditons. Since their roots are not as well insulated as they would be in the ground, they are exposed to extreme cold and also to soil temperature variations and "freeze-thaw" conditions as the temperatures oscillate in spring. Both of these are very stressful on plants.

The best place for trying to overwinter perennials in containers would be a cool greenhouse or unheated hoophouse. If you do not have access to that, you would need to move the containers to an unheated garage, or sink the containers in the ground in a sheltered location with wind protection, or try to insulate their roots by heaping mulch around the containers but not over top of the plants, or possibly try a coldframe in a shaded location. Even with these efforts, the survival rate tends to be low.

In my experience, hostas and violas and daylilies (Hemerocallis) will sometimes overwinter if kept in a large container in a sheltered but shaded location. You might experiment and see what works for you.

If you truly want all summer color, you might try some high performance annuals such as Wave petunias for a sunny spot, or impatiens for a shady spot. These bloom until killed back by frost and do very well in containers if kept well watered and fertilized regularly with a water soluble fertilizer per the label directions.

I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging about the perennials.

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