We always say one of the top ways to turn a house into a home is with plants — and this rings true for inside the home and outdoors — but we know many of you are renting or have limited garden space. With that in mind, we decided to chat to the experts to bring you the top 20 plants that love living in pots.
For those with just a humble outdoor space like a courtyard, patio or balcony, pot plants are a great alternative to adding colourful flowers and lush greenery to your place. But knowing which variety of plants will actually survive and thrive in pots can be tricky.
Never fear, our top 20 list has got you covered!
Sun vs shade
First up, it’s important to note how much sun or shade your plants will get each day. This will play a big role in choosing the right plants for your space as some plants can handle a lot of sun, and others thrive in the shade.
The sun lovers
1. Herbs and vegetables
Not only do herbs and vegetables thrive in pots, they will also provide you with an abundance of deliciousness for your cooking!
Pot-loving herbs include basil, mint, parsley, thyme, coriander, bay laves and chives. For vegetables, go for spinach, silverbeet, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and capsicum.
Opt for concrete or terracotta pots when planting herbs and vegetables as they don’t heat up as much as plastic pots which can dry out your soil.
2. Potted colour
Potted colour is a fabulous way to add a little colour (obviously!) and happiness to your space. Annuals (meaning they have a life-cycle of just one year) are easy to grow and usually quite affordable.
For winter to spring season, try pansies and when things heat up over summer, go with petunias.
Succulents are arguably one of the most forgiving range of plants (we’ve still managed to kill a few though!). They come in a huge variety of colours, shapes and sizes so go with what suits your style.
Agave, echeveria and bromeliads are some of the hardiest varieties. For those gardeners just starting out, we suggest going with something small and on the cheaper side so you’re not as disappointed if your plant baby doesn’t thrive!
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Believe it or not, blueberries are quite simple to grow and love living life in a pot. Be sure to give yours an acidic soil mix with good drainage, and choose a dwarf variety so it doesn’t outgrow its home.
Another of our sun-loving plants that thrive in pots is bougainvillea. The ‘Raspberry Ice’ variety is a terrific one to start with, however it’s best to choose a dwarf bambino range to keep it from getting too big.
They’re a hardy plant and provide stunning colour when in flower. They grow well in all areas of Australia, except super chilly spots.
We will admit, growing citrus is not our forte, however with the right love, care and attention, citrus trees grow great in pots. Dwarf plants come in a range of fruits including lemon, lime, cumquats, Australian native finger lime and more. There are even some wonderful ‘fruit salad’ varieties that grow 2 or more different citrus on the one tree.
Growing your citrus in pots is ideal for moving them to a protected space when the weather turns cold. Having said that, if you live in an area that experiences harsh frosts, growing citrus probably isn’t for you.
7. Pelargoniums and geraniums
These coloured beauties love living life in a pot. Go for regal pelargonium, zonal geraniums and ivy geraniums. Pelargoniums are hardy and love hot, dry positions. Avoid these ones if you live in the tropics.
8. Mexican orange blossom
How exotic does this one sound?! This is another pot-lover that has glossy green foliage and white flowers that give off a lovely perfume aroma.
If you want a low-maintenance plant that loves full sun, then cordylines are the plant for you. Their long, spiky leaves come in a whole range of colours from lime green to red, pink or even purple.
Give them some love with soil that has plenty of nutrients in it and a drink every so often. They’ll pretty much look after themselves after that!
The final sun-lover in our plants that love living in pots is wisteria. These stunning flowering plants go great in pots, if you choose the right variety. Look for Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) or Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) to keep them manageable in your pot.
The shade lovers
11. Peace lily
This glossy-leafed plant is fabulous for those with more of a brown thumb because it actually SHOWS you when it needs to be watered. Super hardy and forgiving, its leaves droop when it’s in need of a drink and thrives in a warm spot out of direct sun.
Best grown in cooler areas of Australia, this plant actually prefers pots over being in the ground. Be sure to give it good drainage as it can be a little temperamental to grow. Don’t let this put you off though, it has gorgeous perfumed flowers which bloom through the winter.
Happy to call a pot home, camellias will flower and continue to grow happily for many years. Different varieties call for different levels of shade, so it’s best to check with your nursery to get the right one for your place. For example, sasanquas like part-shade whereas japonicas love full-shade.
With its fabulous bulbous base, the ponytail palm loves the pot life. It’s also super versatile, taking shade or sun, plus it’s easy to grow and relatively low-maintenance.
This one belongs to SC writer, Dan, and started life as a teeny-tiny plant. Since moving into this larger pot, it’s grown about 5 times in size! As a regular plant-killer, if Dan can keep this one alive, anyone can!
With beautiful flowers and an array of foliage, begonias are the way to go. They have so many different varieties, all with different leaf shapes, colours, sizes and patterns. As for the flowers, take your pick! White, pink, red, orange, yellow and more! These babies love their pot to be kept in the shade.
Talk about a colour burst! Azaleas as SO pretty and come in heaps of beautiful flower colours.
To grow azaleas in pots, it’s best to choose the smaller varieties. Avoid keeping these guys in cement pots as they don’t react well to alkaline which can come from lime in the pot and affect the soil.
Ask at your local garden centre or nursery to see which variety grows best in your area.
17. Dichondra silver falls
With the right amount of love and care, silver falls can be an absolute show-stopper. Check out all that dripping gorgeousness!
Known for its silvery-green foliage, silver falls prefers rich but not heavy soil in a well-draining pot. Make sure you give it a decent size pot so it can really show off in all its glory! It looks great in hanging baskets too.
With lovely long green leaves and bold orange flowers, clivia is a plant that loves life in a pot. Some say it’s virtually un-killable (sounds like the perfect plant to us!) but there are a few factors to keep in mind.
Too much sun can scorch their flowers so keep this one in the shade. They also don’t need much water and if you live in a frost-affected area, maybe keep your clivia inside during the winter.
We were a bit reluctant to include ferns on our list, because we’ve not had a whole lot of luck growing them ourselves (just keeping it real, Lovelies!). However, we see so many others having great success with the humble fern so we thought maybe it was just us, and we should include it anyway!
Many fern varieties do great in pots, and there are LOADS of them (over 100,000 in fact). Give your fern some good soil enriched with compost that will retain moisture. They like a good drink, but be careful not to waterlog them, causing root rot.
As with almost all plants, it’s best to choose the right fern for your climate in order to keep them thriving (perhaps this is where we went wrong and should take a leaf out of our own book — pun intended!).
For those tropical vibes, even through winter, look no further than the palm. Rhapis palms and kentia palms are easy to grow and thrive in a shady position.
Palms can grow pretty huge when planted in the ground, but are still happy as can be in a pot. Young palms require smaller pots to keep their roots dry and warm. Once it gets a little bigger, you can upgrade to a larger pot.
A few more tips
As always, be sure to use a good quality potting mix. Most pot plants will also need good drainage to avoid root rot. When you bring home your new plant baby, always repot it into a larger sized pot than the one it was growing in so it has room to settle in.
Hot tip! Before watering your plants, poke your index finger into soil down to your knuckle. If the soil sticks to your finger, it has enough water. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If you can’t get your finger down far enough, the soil is too compact and needs to be replaced because the water cannot get down to where it’s needed.
And finally, look after your plants and feel free to move them around to find their perfect growing spot.
Did your favourite plant make the list? Do you have any other plants that love living in pots we didn’t mention? Tell us in the comment section below!
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