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This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
This tuberous begonia bears green heart-shaped foliage with red veining and claret-stained undersides that steal the show when backlit. Pendent clusters of slightly fragrant, satiny pink or white blossoms open from midsummer until frost. It makes a good perennial companion for ferns and hostas.
This is a sweet Swiss chard with beautiful candy-apple-red stalks and dark green, crinkly leaves with touches of red. Both the leaves and the stalks are very ornamental and 'Ruby Red' is great in a vegetable or cottage garden, or in an ornamental bed or border. It is especially attractive when grown with plants whose colors call attention to the red coloring. Although related to beets, the root is inedible, but the leafy greens are valued for their mild flavor and high nutritional value.
Rosettes of cabbage foliage are grown as annuals for fall and winter interest. Color intensifies in cooler temperatures (below 50°F). Good for bedding and containers.
Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
Though subtly colored, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ draws comment wherever it inserts itself. The steely purple bracts and leathery gray foliage of this annual seem extraterrestrial poking up among more conventional herbaceous plants. It is an annual from the Mediterranean region with leaves like a eucalyptus and flowers like a purple euphorbia. This plant produces large black seeds that drop to the ground in late summer and germinate in fall to start the cycle all over again if growing conditions are right.
Totally Tempted™ cuphea has nonstop, bright red summer flowers that don't need deadheading. It doesn't mind summer heat and has a more compact habit than most cultivars in this species, growing to just a foot tall and a little wider.
This exotic-looking beauty has a fantastic bold form and strong appeal. Its pendulous leaves sit on tall, upright stems. King Tut® is a rapid grower that makes an impressive centerpiece in the landscape. It likes wet places like water gardens or waterside and is perfect for containers without drainage holes. This papyrus is easy to grow and untroubled by pests or diseases.
'Marine' heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of fragrant deep violet-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across.
Heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of deep violet-blue or lavender-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across. Cultivars vary in height as well as bloom fragrance and color.
A seldom-seen annual or short-lived perennial, this easy-to-grow plant performs as the perfect filler in beds and containers. It forms a well-branched compact mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves, which provide an interesting textural backdrop to its charming, hibiscus-type flowers. The flowers are truly stunning with their cream petals, purple-hued undersides, and deep burgundy centers. While each flower lasts only a single day, the plant blooms profusely all season and produces inflated seedpods. The flowers will not normally open on a cloudy day, but this is a small price to pay for such a gem of a plant.
Yellow blooms resembling orchids and large, glossy leaves makes 'Jungle Gold' an interesting addition to containers, where it will bloom more profusely than if it were in the ground. It performs well in shade.
This plant has a sparsely branched form and narrow lance-shaped, pale green leaves. Cup-shaped hooded flowers 1-2 inches across, either singly or in clusters, are followed by explosive seed capsules. A variety of colors are available, including rose, lilac, and creamy yellow.
Unlike most trailing lobelias, this cultivar does not falter in hot temperatures. Techno® Blue is covered in intense, cobalt blue flowers. Its semitrailing, mounding habit is a great addition to containers and hanging baskets.
The yellow-green trumpet-shaped flowers of 'Lime Green' flowering tobacco mix well with many other colors in the garden. Growing to 2 or 3 feet tall, this annual's flowers attract hummingbirds and are fragrant at night.
Broad, deep-green leaves nearly a foot long and panicles of flowers the color of a Granny Smith apple make this Nicotiana a great companion for many other garden plants. It looks especially handsome with dark-foliaged trees or shrubs like purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) or ‘Diabolo’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’). It is also good with grasses. N. langsdorffii comes into its own as a moderator wherever colors clash. That chameleon-like quality makes this nicotiana’s propensity to self-sow most welcome; no matter where its progeny appear, they look great.
This African daisy blooms nonstop from early June through October, even in extreme heat. It has an attractive mounding form and is an ideal candidate for pots and baskets. Its daisy flowers are pale yellow with maroon centers.
10 Plants for Year-round Containers
These survivors can stay in pots for years, lending consistency to your designs
by Muffin Evander
Celebrate Spring with Cool-Season Containers
Fill your pots with colorful plants that don't mind chilly weather
by Dennis Schrader
Planting Spring Bulbs in Containers
by Richard Hartlage
Spring Containers for Every Style
Whether you want a traditional tapestry or a more modern motif, these designs will kick your season off right
by Jennifer Brennan and Tony Fulmer
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
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