Beautiful Drought-Tolerant Container Crops For Full Solar And Warmth

In anticipation of a gorgeous summer, we know our readers will be seeking out drought-tolerant container plants for full sun and heat. Water-wise gardening is all the buzz right now, and for good reason. Saving water is a crucial step in global conservation, and it also saves money. Still, finding container plants for full sun and heat requires some planning.

You may already have some experience of growing drought-tolerant plants for your yard or garden. However, container plants need more water on average than in-ground plants because of the small soil space and evaporation. Choosing drought-resistant container plants can reduce their water needs – without lessening their visual appeal. We round up the most vibrant and drought-friendly options for pots, tubs and window boxes.

Choosing the Best Container Plants for Full Sun and Heat

Container-bound plants grown in bright, sunny locations must be adaptable to such conditions. If you are hoping to fill containers for a water-wise garden, avoid low-light plants, those with large leaves, and plants that require consistently moist soil. You can grow both annual and perennial container plants for full sun and heat locations. Most annuals and frost-tender perennials will be a one-season option, while annuals that self-seed and frost-hardy perennials will provide many seasons of color.

(Image credit: Francesca Leslie / Shutterstock)

Annuals for Pots

Annuals are often the first plants available in nurseries. They provide brilliant color in many sizes and forms. Annuals are also easy to grow from seed, which is a smart cost-saving option. Most annuals are excellent small container plants for full sun and heat. Petunias are classic annuals in a wide range of tones and petal adornments, while strawflowers make excellent cut blooms for dried arrangements. See also:

  • Geranium: Growing scented geranium varieties in containers, you will be guaranteed a long-lasting display. The plant continues to bloom until the first frost.
  • Blanket Flowers: Brightly hued and rayed, container-based blanket flowers look stunning in tones of gold, yellow, salmon, orange and red.
  • Marigold: Lion-like and golden headed, marigolds work well in pots. As well as making vibrant floral displays, they attract pollinators and also self-sow.
  • Lantana: Bright, fragrant and pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant potted lantana will develop clusters of tiny flowers on tall stems. They also have attractive leaves.
  • Rudbeckia: Another rayed bloom, rudbeckia (aka black-eyed Susan) brightens up tubs and troughs with orange, yellow, burgundy and even chocolate hues.
  • Zinnia: Cheerful potted zinnia plants are easy to grow, come in almost every color of the rainbow, and are also self-sowing.

terracotta pots of rudbeckia in bloom

(Image credit: AngieC333 / Shutterstock)

Perennials for Pots

Perennials come up year after year in most zones, provided the selections are frost hardy. Over time, they can be divided to produce more plants for free. Smaller perennials do best in containers. Some highly rewarding options include:

  • Coneflower: Pot-based echinacea or coneflowers will delight for a long summer season. They are available in shades of purple, pink, yellow, white and green.
  • Dianthus: Commonly known as pinks, dianthus plants bring a clove scent to the air. These compact sun-lovers, relatives of the carnation, are ideal for pots.
  • Meadow Sage: Meadow sage (or salvia) presents with spikes of deep blue blooms suspended over silver-green foliage. They delight with easy-going summer shows.
  • Sedum: There are many types of sedum to choose from, with both upright (Hylotelephium) and trailing varieties working well in containers.
  • Pincushion Flower: Scabiosa plants (aka pincushion flowers) are fairly compact plants. Containers are ideal for their airy blue flowers and delicate honey scents.
  • Yarrow: Feathery leaves and upright flower clusters define these easy-natured container options. Grow yarrow in hues of white, yellow, gold, pink, red and orange.
  • Tickseed: Coreopsis or tickseed plants offer abundant golden flowers that tumble from slender stems. These reliable summer perennials are beloved of pollinators.
  • Herbs: No kitchen garden is complete without a few potted herbs. Sage, rosemary, lavender and catmint produce flowers, attract pollinators and season recipes.

galvanised tub of mixed pink dianthus in flower

(Image credit: Francesca Leslie / Getty Images)

Vines for Pots

With a little support, certain vines make excellent drought-tolerant container plants. Stakes, a wire cage or a small trellis can help these vines grow vertically. Consider:

  • Bougainvillea: While the bouganvillea’s flowers are insignificant, the hot pink leaves are outstanding, making them impactful and resilient in summer heat.
  • Cape Leadwort: With their flowers of blue and white, cape leadwort (also known as plumbago) continues to bloom until the first cold snap.
  • Trumpet Creeper: You will need a large container after a few years, but the trumpet vine plant produces trumpet-shaped flowers that are irresistible to bees.

pink bougainvillea in white stone container

(Image credit: Ratsadapong / Getty Images)

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Care for Drought-Tolerant Container Plants?

To keep roots cold, select light-colored containers and pots that are glazed to conserve moisture. Use good-quality potting soil that drains well. Provide enough depth for mature plant roots. Avoid overcrowding the container. Keep the soil surface half an inch (1.5cm) below the pot lip to allow for water to collect.

How Often Should I Water Drought-Tolerant Container Plants?

Plants that are watered deeply but infrequently develop the best root systems. Water early in the morning before all the moisture evaporates away in the heat of the day. Keep new plants consistently moist until they are established. Once they have developed a good root system, water when the soil is dry.

Consider setting up drip irrigation for your containers. This targets water just to the roots and avoids waste. Use organic mulch around the root zone to retain moisture in the soil and help keep plant roots cool.

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