When the air turns chilly in fall, gardeners often discard, propagate, or find a home in the ground for their outdoor potted plants. It’s a pity because much of this is a waste of effort and plants. Many perennials and shrubs can live for several years in a container. By taking advantage of this characteristic, you can reduce the amount of time and money you spend on your pots. Your containers can provide you with year-round interest, depending on the plants you choose, and you can lend consistency to your designs.
For a plant, life in a container is much different than one in the ground. Containers can provide excellent drainage, but the plants depend on you for water and nutrients. Shrubs and larger perennials often stay smaller in a pot, though this depends on the plant, climate, and container. Also, containers don’t insulate a plant’s roots from winter temperatures.
The general rule of thumb for container-plant survival through the winter is that the plant should be hardy to two zones colder than your USDA Hardiness Zone. But in my Maryland garden, which barely qualifies as Zone 7, I have successfully overwintered plants that shouldn’t have made it and I have failed with some that should have. Through trial and error, I have found a wide array of plants that can live year after year in a container. I have selected the 10 best that are not only tough enough to survive but also look great while doing it.