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5 Outstanding Container Plant Performers

5 Outstanding Container Plant Performers

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

I grew a lot of container plants this past summer. Some were old stalwarts like ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato, and some I’d never grown before, like Sun Parasol ‘Sunbeam’ mandevilla. I experimented with growing caladiums from tubers – a success – and tried coddling an especially stunning pansy, Viola ‘Tiger Eye’, through the summer into a fall rebloom. That was a total failure. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and when it comes to gardening, even the failures are fun.

Here are the plants that performed especially well in containers last year; ones I recommend and will seek out again:

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Photograph courtesy of Suntory Flowers.

Granvia Gold Strawflower: These everlastings, with their big, brilliant yellow flowers started blooming in early summer and provided nonstop color until Thanksgiving when I finally pulled them out. They had stopped growing more than a month earlier, but being strawflowers, their papery blooms were still vibrant and cheerful even though the plants weren’t alive.

Granvia Gold strawflower (Bracteantha bracteatum) is a vigorous grower, up to 30 inches tall. These plants want lots of sun or they become lanky. You can cut and dry the flowers for crafts.

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Photograph by Therese Ciesinski.

Primo ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera: I had one of these in my garden a few years ago, and it looked amazing paired with lime green hostas and underplanted with stonecrop sedum. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the winter and I’d been meaning to replace it ever since. Many heucheras with so-called “black” leaves are actually a deep purple, but ‘Black Pearl’ comes closer to a true black than most. This perennial looked great in a pot as a foil for other plants, especially those with orange or red flowers.

‘Black Pearl’ can take sun or shade. Knowing from experience that it wouldn’t overwinter in its container, in late summer I planted it in my shade garden. Fingers crossed this one makes it.

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Photograph by Therese Ciesinski.

‘Carolyn Whorten’ Caladium: I started these from tubers during the winter, and had fun watching them grow. There were extra tubers in the bag and all of them sprouted. Instead of three caladiums, I had five, so was able to place pots of them all over the deck. Their pink and green leaves with red midribs never flagged and stayed bright and fresh throughout summer and into fall. With leaves like these, you won’t miss flowers.

Caladiums are shade lovers, but can handle some sun. They love heat and humidity. Don’t overwater or the tubers will rot.

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Photograph courtesy of Suntory Flowers.

Sun Parasol Sunbeam Mandevilla: Like buttah. That’s the color of this mandevilla’s flowers, a buttery yellow shade unlike anything else I grew last year. These heat-loving vines usually come in shades of red, pink, or white, so a yellow mandevilla was a natural stand out.

These plants need lots of sun to put on their best show. This bushy hybrid grows to about two feet in length, though mine stayed a little shorter due to it not getting enough sunlight. It was covered in flowers and buds all summer.

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‘Sungold’ Cherry Tomatoes: Easy, reliable, tasty, and prolific are why ‘Sungold’ has become one of the most popular cherry tomatoes for home gardeners. These bright orange orbs are juicy, sweet, and low in acid. I grew a single plant in a container – a very deep container – and by late summer it was a tangle of vines festooned with dozens of orange tomatoes. We had a late, warm fall, and although the vines were dead, tomatoes were still ripening. I couldn’t believe I was still picking these off the vine into November.


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