15 Plants to Try Outdoors
So, you’ve had success with indoor houseplants. And, this warm weather is inspiring you to try your green thumb outdoors. Groovy Plants Ranch and other local garden centers are stocked with an abundance of beautiful plants. We realize the overflowing tables of plants may be a bit overwhelming so we’ve put together a list of our top 15 proven ones. They’re the perfect accent for your porch, balcony or patio and are ideal for hanging baskets, window boxes, patio containers or a collection of pots.
Annuals That Put on A Show for One Season
If you’re looking for a lot of summer color, annuals are the place to start. They only live one season but they don’t disappoint with their colorful display. They’re especially known for adding lots of curb appeal to the front of your place. To maximize the show, be sure to add a slow-release fertilizer.
- ‘Sunrise Rose’ Lantana -- Lantana is a sun-lover that doesn’t wilt in the heat. ‘Sunrise Rose’ shines with a steam of incandescent pink and yellow flower clusters all season long. It’s a definite magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds.
- ‘Black and Bloom’ Salvia – To add a little height to your containers or flower beds, try ‘Black and Bloom’ salvia. This showstopper grows three feet and features striking black stems with cobalt blue flowers. This newer variety thrives in heat and sun even if you forget to water it. Besides, it’s another favorite for pollinators and hummingbirds.
- Rio Portulaca – Known as moss rose, portulaca is a brilliant flowering succulent that’s easy to grow. The Rio series features colors in magenta, orange, yellow, white and red. They’re perfect for rock gardens, sunny container gardens and mailbox plantings.
- ‘Canary Wings’ Begonia – ‘Canary Wings’ is an award-winning Begonia bred here at Groovy Plants Ranch. We love its chartreuse leaves and bright red flowers. Plant it in pots on a shady covered porch, and the plants will dazzle all summer long.
- ‘Main Street’ Coleus – Coleus are often called the “Hawaiian Shirts” of the plant world for their wildly colorful foliage. This series is named after famous avenues and grows well in sun or shade. Varieties include 'River Walk' in yellow and green, 'Sunset Boulevard' in pink and bronze, ‘Beale Street’ in deep red, and 'Broad Street' in green-edged burgundy. Try planting a mix of them in containers.
Perennials that Return Year After Year
Perennials are fun to grow in containers or flower beds. Try planting some in a container to enjoy up close for a season then transplant them in the ground in the fall to return for years to come. Perennials make a solid investment since the plants return annually.
- ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ Coneflowers – Coneflowers are an easy-to-grow perennial, and ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is one of our favorites for its toughness and mix of orange, red and yellow flowers. Coneflowers grow best in full sun.
- Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – This perennial milkweed’s bright orange flowers invite droves of butterflies including plenty of Monarchs. Late in the season, green seed pods emerge and open to send off silky seeds to sprout more plants next year.
- Sedum – These hardy succulents make great groundcovers in hot sunny locations. They’re also fun to combine in shallow troughs or dish containers. Our favorites include golden ‘Angelina’ and the top-performing Sunsparkler varieties with leaf colors ranging from green to blue-gray to reddish bronze and flowers in yellow, white, or pink.
- Hostas – Hostas are the perfect option for variegated houseplant junkies. Their leaves are speckled, striped and edged in white, cream, gold and varying shades of green from chartreuse to blue-green. They’re also drought tolerant and range in size to fit every shade garden space. Try an adorable mini hosta like ‘Mouse Ears’ for a trough garden or go big with a giant one like ‘Sum and Substance’ under a large shade tree.
- Catmint (Nepata) – This perennial powerhouse is extremely versatile and easy to grow. The mounded plant produces a cloud of purple blooms for weeks. Plus, catmint can handle a variety of tricky soil situations as long as there’s full sun. Try the popular ‘Walker’s Low’ or smaller ‘Cat’s Pajamas.’
Veggies and Herbs to Freshen Your Cooking
Vegetables are perfect to grow in raised beds, larger containers and even grow bags. They just need a sunny location and regular watering.
- ‘Sungold’ Tomatoes – For a cherry tomato, you can’t beat ‘Sungold.’ This bite-size tomato ripens early and can be harvested twice weekly through the summer. The tomatoes are extra sweet and stay firmer longer than other cherry tomato varieties.
- ‘Emerald Towers’ Basil – This well-branched, dark green basil makes a beautiful, towering plant and offers a bountiful harvest. Its columnar shape is ideal for patio pots, raised beds and small-spaced landscapes.
- Rosemary: This Mediterranean herb is easy to grow and beloved for its ornamental and culinary attributes. The key to success is planting it in well-drained soil that’s initially evenly moist. As the plant takes root it becomes increasingly drought tolerant. Since rosemary is only hardy in warmer zones (8-10), it can also be grown in pots in colder climates then overwintered indoors. Favorite varieties include ‘Arp’ and ‘Tuscan Blue.’
- ‘Snack Series’ Peppers: These beautiful, mini-sized peppers are remarkably sweet and flavorful. Try ‘Sweetie Pie’ or ‘Lunchbox.’ Both varieties have tall, strong plants that produce a bounty of peppers.
- Leaf Lettuces: Leaf lettuces are easy to grow in containers and shine as spring or fall crops. Try growing lettuce from seeds or transplants. Some of our favorite varieties include ‘Buttercrunch,’ ‘Red Sails,’ and ‘Simpson.’
Before heading to the store, we suggest taking inventory of your place and your supplies. Check the amount of sunlight for your patio or garden space. Is it in a sunny location (6 or more hours of sunlight), part shade (4-6 hours of sun) or full shade (4 hours or less of sun)? Also, take inventory of your existing supplies. Besides plants, do you need pots, soil, fertilizer, a watering can or hose?
At the garden center, remember to shop smartly by checking plant tags. Do the plants you like need a sunny or shady location? For example, you might want to take shade-loving impatiens out of your shopping cart if you have a sun-drenched patio. Also, consider expanding your plant purchases beyond just blooming ones. It’s nice to have some that will bloom later in the summer. Beyond flowers, think about a plant’s leaves. Coleus, hosta and coral bells (Heuchera) are great options for colorful, textural leaves. Finally, have fun and indulge in something new. Many of the greatest gardening joys come from learning about new plants and experiencing the surprises they bring.For more favorite plants, visit All-American Selections for lists of award-winning flowers and vegetables or National Garden Bureau for its new plants list, educational articles and planting combos.