17 Robust Annuals for Summer time Containers

With long summer days comes abundance in the garden, from dynamic foliage to a profusion of blooms, making pots and containers overflow with artful charm. Summer also brings temperature and weather variables and activities that pull us away from the garden. Fortunately, there are lots of reliable flower and foliage annuals that don’t bat a petal at high heat, periods of drought, and even humidity.

To give container plants a head start, employ a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. Good air circulation is essential for many annuals, especially in humid environments, so allow pots airflow by giving them space between walls and structures and granting a little more room between clustered pots. Containers tend to dry out more quickly than in-ground plantings. For their best growth, annuals benefit from water during dry spells, and most prefer evenly moist soils, with some allowed to dry out between watering. 

For colorful potted arrangements that withstand summer’s heat, opt for durable garden performers suited to container culture and warm-season conditions. Here, we’ve compiled a few favorite—and tough—garden annuals for a nonstop show in summer containers.

Mexican Zinnia

This annual offers vibrant blooms and attracts pollinators.

Mexican, or Haage, zinnia is a fast-growing annual with a blanket of gold flowers until frost. Flowers have ray petals with orange center disks. Some varieties are red, orange, purple, and tricolor, with single, double, or semi-double one-inch blooms.

Mexican zinnia is disease-resistant and grows vigorously in high heat and humidity. It prefers loamy soils with high organic matter and good drainage. Allow containers to dry out slightly between watering sessions.

Among these zinnia’s many merits are a long bloom season, flowers that attract pollinators, and deer resistance. This tough annual is a Dallas Arboretum “Flameproof” selection from heat-tolerant plant trials and a Fleuroselect winner.


Lantana camara in a large black pot features rough, green, ovate leaves and clusters of small, tubular flowers in a mix of colors like red, orange, and yellow.This rugged plant boasts vibrant blooms and tolerates dry spells.

Lantana brings bubbles of bright, colorful bloom clusters that perch on leafy stems. Each cluster holds petite blossoms that span the color spectrum from pale peaches and pinks to bright reds, oranges, and yellows.

Lantana is rugged and reliable and grows well in containers with both upright and trailing forms. It prefers regular watering but doesn’t need much supplemental irrigation, as it tolerates dry spells. Err on the dry side between watering sessions; lantana doesn’t do well when overwatered or in soggy soils. Lantana thrives in full sun and needs no fertilizer to bloom all season.

For extra heat resistance and drought tolerance, look to the ‘Bandana’ series with vivid and deep color combinations. Plants reach 12 to 26 inches tall in enticing varieties like ‘Cherry,’ with deep magenta blooms highlighted with mellow orange and yellow. ‘Cherry Sunrise’ brightens the same trio of colors in lighter shades, and ‘Lemon Zest’ brings shades of light and deep yellow. The ‘Bandito™’ collection brings the same rich hues in a more compact version, great for containers, with plants reaching 12 inches tall.

The ‘Lucky’ lantana series boasts improved form with good branching and tolerates heat and other stressful summer conditions. The small grower reaches 12 to 16 inches tall. ‘Flame glows in orange-red, ‘Sunrise Rose’ in rich magenta and rose with yellows, and ‘Lavender’ bears soft and delicate lilac, pink, and white shades.

Many of these cultivars are invasive in certain parts of the US. Check to ensure you’re not living in one of those before planting. Also note that most straight species grow tall, over six feet. Give lantana lots of space to grow, and don’t be afraid to prune often in warmer regions.


Mandevilla in a large green container in a sunny garden, has glossy, dark green leaves and produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, and red.This tropical vine thrives in heat, boasting vibrant trumpet blooms.

Mandevilla is a showy tropical vine with large trumpet blooms from spring through fall. Varieties in red, pink, yellow, and white stand out among glossy, veined leaves in rich green.

Mandevilla is an excellent plant for the summer container garden. It is resistant to heat, drought, and disease, and it is adaptable to a variety of light conditions. Mandevilla are vining plants that benefit from support like a trellis, obelisk, or arbor. For plants with bushier growth that don’t need support, look for mandevilla’s close relative, Dipladenia. Mandevilla overwinters indoors where not hardy in bright, indirect light.

‘Sun Parasol’ is a heat-loving selection with large blooms and leaves. Plants grow six to eight feet for a focal point container specimen with pink, white, and crimson flowers. The ‘Sundaville’ collection brings durable summer varieties in various colorful trumpets, from classic to new cultivars.


Close-up of a blooming Gomphrena globosa in a clay pot, has oblong, green leaves and round, clover-like flowers in vibrant purple color.Add a wild pop of color with these low-maintenance blooms.

Gomphrena globosa, or globe amaranth, is an old-fashioned garden favorite with petite pink, red, gold, magenta, or white flowers. The flowers have a papery texture and perfectly globe-shaped pom-pom blooms. They add a delicate yet wild pop of color to summer container arrangements and have a long bloom time.

Gomphrena requires little tending as a low-maintenance grower. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soils and withstands heat, humidity, and dry conditions. Plants may overwinter in mild climates or reseed.

Look for ‘Fireworks’ for tall stems (reaching three to four feet) with bright pink powder puffs. Each puff glows with little tips of vibrant yellow. ‘Fireworks’ has an airy texture and blooms more prolifically than other gomphrenas. It makes a “thriller” plant in container arrangements.

‘Ping Pong’ gomphrena in white, purple, and lavender is as cute as it sounds, with little ball-shaped blooms. ‘Ping Pong’ is a more compact selection that reaches one to two feet tall.

Sweet Potato Vine

Close-up of a lush Ipomoea batatas plant in a hanging pot, which features large, purple, heart-shaped leaves.Add bold tropical flair with these lush, cascading vines.

Ornamental sweet potato vine trails with lush, broad leaves in lime green, purple-black, or variegated. Long stems cascade to spill over containers. These vigorous growers tolerate full sun and high heat, even in reflective situations.

Sweet potato vines’ tropical look and bold color contrast nicely with blooming annuals. They are highly versatile, easy-care plants that tolerate periods of dryness. The large leaves wilt in intense heat and rejuvenate with regular water. If vines get leggy, trim them to promote fullness and new growth.

‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime’ is beautiful in summer containers with heart-shaped leaves in bright green. This variety has a compact habit that won’t ramble far or compete with other plants. ‘Tricolor,’ with mint green leaves splashed with creamy white and lilac pink, is another less vigorous grower that won’t overtake nearby plants.


Angelonia angustifolia has narrow, lance-shaped leaves and produces spikes of snapdragon-like flowers in shades of pink with contrasting dark purple throats.Thriving in heat, Angelonia offers vibrant, nonstop summer blooms.

Angelonia is one of those nonstop blooming annuals unfazed by summer heat. Plants produce colorful bloom spikes in rich blue, purple, pink, rose, white, and bicolor tones that cool down the warm-season display. Two-lipped flowers line stems among fine textured, deep green foliage. 

Angelonia is drought, heat, and humidity-tolerant, thriving in full sun with rich soils, good drainage, and plenty of air circulation. In humid areas, look for the ‘Archangel’ and ‘Serena’ series, both highly disease-resistant to phytophthora fungus rot.

These colorful annuals have a mounded, bushy habit with upright or trailing stems, depending on the variety. The plants are self-cleaning and don’t need deadheading to promote flowering.

‘Archangel’ has more giant bloom spikes and a taller form, reaching one foot tall. The ‘Serenita’ series is an All America Selections winter, with a more compact habit and deeper colors – perfect as a container highlight.


Many different species of Coleus plants in clay pots, featuring brightly colored, variegated leaves in combinations of green, red, pink, and yellow, with serrated or lobed edges.Colorful foliage brightens any garden or container with vibrance.

Coleus brings dynamic foliage to the annual display, like colorful flags, brightening shady areas, and emboldening plantings. With its adaptability and “filler” habit, coleus is versatile to many garden conditions and endless container planting combinations.

Coleus cultivars serve both sunny and shady garden locations. Look to the Kong series for huge leaves in full shade conditions and numerous others for a tapestry of color. The ColorBlaze collection brings bright hues that withstand full sun, as do varieties like ‘Inferno,’ ‘Wasabi,’ and ‘Redhead.’

Coleus needs regular water to thrive, and those in full sun require more than those growing in the shade. Light purple bloom spikes accent coleus in late summer; pinch blooms and trim leafy stems if plants get too tall or sparse to promote lush foliage and a tidy appearance.


Scaevola aemula features fan-shaped flowers in shades of purple, with trailing stems and small, lance-shaped leaves.
Cascading blooms in vibrant hues thrive in sunny, dry landscapes.

Scaevola, or fan flower, is a lovely spreading annual with fan-shaped blooms in blue, lavender, pink, and white. Scaevola trails beautifully in pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets, with fan blooms punctuating dense, leafy stems.

Carefree scaevola tolerates heat and drought and is pest-resistant. It grows best in sun to partial shade in hot, dry conditions. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Plants are “self-cleaning” and don’t need deadheading for continual blooming.

The ‘Whirlwind’ scaevola withstands heat, humidity, and drought. Its circular blooms are blue-purple, white, or pink. Plants reach 8 to 18 inches tall. The ‘Fairy’ series boasts delicate flowers in similar hues. It has a low-growing habit of 6 to 10 inches tall. 


Pentas lanceolata has lance-shaped, green leaves and clusters of bright red star-shaped flowers.Continuous star-shaped blooms in vibrant summer hues adorn potted arrangements.

Pentas amp up the annual display as summer temperatures rise. Star-shaped red, pink, lavender, and white flower clusters bloom continuously until frost, adding vibrant color to potted arrangements.

The ‘Butterfly’ series of pentas brings top performers with low maintenance needs. ‘Butterfly’ pentas boast extended blooming and varietal colors, including pure white, lavender, rose, and violet. Plants reach 12 to 24 inches tall, each with up to 20 bloom clusters for hummingbirds and pollinators to relish.

‘Graffiti’ pentas are lower-growers at 12 inches tall max and bloom early in the season for an extended bloom time. Their dense and uniform flower clusters are magenta, pale pink, white, and red.


Melampodium divaricatum features small, bright green, ovate leaves and produces abundant, daisy-like yellow flowers.Bright yellow blooms cascade like sunshine from lush green foliage.

Melampodium is a true annual featuring bright, sunshine-yellow blooms and rich green foliage. These prolific annuals live up to their common name (butter daisy) with ray-petaled flowers continuously through summer. The velvety leaves form a softly textured mound to complement the vibrant flowers.

The sun-loving melampodium is among the easiest annuals to grow. Once established, it is drought-tolerant. Proper spacing for good air circulation, especially in humid climates, will prevent powdery mildew. Plants don’t need deadheading or pinching to retain their tidy appearance and bloom profusely with little garden intervention.

Gold flowers blanket ‘Showstar’ melampodium on mounding plants that reach 14 to 24 inches tall. Try ‘Million Gold’ with bright yellow flowers on 10-inch stems for a compact container selection. The abundant flowers attract pollinators, and the seeds offer a food source for songbirds.

Scarlet Sage

Salvia coccinea has soft, green, ovate leaves and spikes of tubular red flowers.Delicate spikes of tubular flowers thrive in hot, dry gardens.

Salvia coccinea is a compact, two to three-foot sage with spikes of tubular flowers that bloom in the spring. Emerging earlier than other salvias, the tube-like blossoms last until frost. ‘Coral Nymph’ produces lovely coral-pink blooms, while ‘Summer Jewel’ flourishes in bright red.

Salvia coccinea is extremely heat and drought-tolerant and grows with little maintenance in hot, dry conditions, preferring full to partial sun. Flowers benefit from deadheading to promote more blooms. The aromatic foliage of salvia is deer and rabbit-resistant

Other tough, annual salvia selections include Salvia splendens ‘Vista’ series in red, purple, lavender, salmon, and white. Upright bloom spikes reach 10 to 12 inches tall with full blooms among dark green foliage.


Celosia plants in black containers have brightly colored, plume-like flowers in shades of red, yellow, orange, and pink, with green leaves.Vibrant plumes of color effortlessly bring summer gardens to life.

Celosia blooms in plumes of brilliant color that stand out in the annual planting. It brings wild texture in streaming colors of red, magenta, yellow, and orange. Celosia grows best in full sun with well-drained soils and is durable and low-maintenance. 

The ‘Century’ Series features tall, fuzzy, full plumes in vivid colors with improved performance. Stems reach up to two feet for a big thrill in summer containers. Celosia ‘New Look’ is an All-America Selections winner with intense red plumes and dark foliage. Plants grow 10 inches tall, and plumes retain their scarlet color longer than other celosias.

For a refreshing twist, opt for the ‘Ice Cream’ series in pink, orange, red, and yellow. A mixture brings a creamy swirl to the summer pot in plants that reach 12 inches tall.


The Catharanthus roseus plant displays shiny, dark green leaves with a smooth texture, complemented by vibrant, five-petaled flowers in shades of pink.Annual vinca adds vibrant color and thrives in sunny containers.

Annual vinca is a low-maintenance plant that brings abundant color. Blooms range from pastel to bold hues against an attractive backdrop of deep green, glossy foliage. Flower “eyes” brighten bloom centers in contrasting colors, often clear white, yellow, or pink.

Annual vinca makes a good filler specimen for containers in lots of sunlight and high heat conditions. Trailing varieties create lovely accents and spill over the sides. 

The ‘Cora’ series features upright and trailing selections with large blooms, improved disease resistance, and strong purple, white, and magenta colors. ‘Cora’ upright varieties grow 12-16 inches tall, and ‘Cora Cascade’ plants reach six to eight inches tall and 32-36 inches wide.


Flowering cuphea plant in a large purple container, features tubular flowers in shades of purple, with small, lance-shaped leaves.Vivid tubular blooms attract pollinators through summer’s heat and into fall.

Cuphea brings sprays of small, tubular blooms in vivid colors, from fiery reds and oranges to cool pinks and whites. The flowers appear in summer through fall and produce nectar that draws pollinators all season.

Cuphea llavea ‘Sriracha’ is a tough performer in summer containers with compact plants under two feet tall. Shades of violet, pink, and rose keep right on blooming through high heat. 

More of a spreader, ‘Flamenco Samba’ blooms in scarlet flowers with dark purple centers that resemble little bat faces and ears (hence, bat face cuphea), ‘Tiny Mice’ is a dwarf counterpart at one foot tall with adorable purple flower faces and red-petaled ears.


Alternanthera ficoidea 'Party Time' has striking, variegated leaves in shades of green and hot pink, with an overall compact and bushy appearance.Bold, colorful foliage thrives in sunny spots and containers.

Alternanthera gives a tropical pop of foliar color, with leaves in ruby red, deep purple, and chartreuse. Leaf shapes add textural interest and range from rounded to threadlike on dense forms.

Particularly tough alternanthera varieties include ‘Little Ruby,’ a compact grower reaching 12 inches with deep purple-burgundy and green foliage, and ‘Purple Knight,’  reaching 16 to 20 inches tall with densely-packed leaves in purple with violet undersides.

Alternanthera grows best in evenly moist, organically rich soils in full sun to partial shade. Its color is most vibrant in full-sun containers.

Ornamental Pepper

Five potted capsicum annuum plants on a windowsill have dark green, ovate leaves and produces small, colorful fruits that range from green to red, yellow, orange, and purple.Add vibrant contrast and lasting beauty to summer containers with peppers.

Ornamental peppers add high contrast and visual interest to summer containers, with shiny pops of color among dark purple and green leaves. The showy peppers range in size from long candles to rounded pearls; some are flashes of fiery color, while others are deep and dark in chocolate and mahogany.

Ornamental peppers thrive in the heat of summer, and fruiting lasts well into fall. Although ornamental peppers are technically edible, many are intensely hot and best enjoyed for their looks.   

Ornamental pepper plants are available in compact and dwarf varieties, perfect for container culture and overwintering indoors. ‘Black Pearl’ is exceptionally heat tolerant and needs minimal supplemental water. This All-America Selections winner features black foliage to match its shiny, round fruits. Peppers age from black to red for added interest.


Close-up of flowering verbena plants in a hanging container on a sunny balcony, featuring finely cut green foliage and clusters of small, tubular pink flowers.Cheerful clusters of star-shaped blooms thrive in sunny gardens.

Annual verbena yields cheery clusters of small, star-shaped flowers on the tips of mounding or trailing stems with dark green foliage. Blooms range from pastels in white, blue, and peach to rich red, magenta, and violet hues. 

Verbena tolerates bright sun and drying out between waterings, but it appreciates regular water for best blooming. Perennial verbena, like ‘Homestead Purple,’ is a good performer in hot, humid climates. Trim verbena if it gets leggy to rejuvenate growth.

‘EnduraScape’ verbena grows and blooms on summer’s hottest days while tolerating fall and spring temperatures in the teens for an extended bloom season. Plants grow 8 to 12 inches tall, and varieties are striking dark purple, blue, and delicate pink.

The ‘Tapien’ series grows as a spreading verbena (ideal for trailing over container edges) and is known for superior heat tolerance and mildew resistance. Plants grow only four to six inches tall and spread one to three feet.

Final Thoughts

Hard-working annuals make summer container displays a breeze. Healthy soil, sufficient water, and ample air circulation ensure they perform at their best.

With tough plants at the helm, summer heat and variable conditions are easier to weather for floriferous displays in containerized selections. The main part of container gardening is to have fun creating (and enjoying) exciting plant combinations with dynamic foliage and flowers. With so many good summer options, there are durable performers for any growing zone.

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