Best Plants and Top Tips for Summer Containers

Only a couple months away from the height of the Arizona heat, now is an excellent time to start planning for summer containers in your yard. Container gardening saves you space, and gives you plenty of design freedom since the pots are moveable. The smaller space also makes pest and weed management easier, and best of all, the beautiful flowers add a lot of visual interest without a ton of effort.

Choosing the right plants to survive the summer heat is key, as is a bit of understanding of what makes a container garden successful.


container flowers

What Makes a Good Container?

Containers come in a variety of materials, colors, and sizes. It's best to avoid choosing dark colors for pots since they heat up quickly.

Larger plants — or multiple plants grown together — need larger containers so their roots have room to grow and breathe. In a cramped pot, water can't drain from the roots, which can harm the plant, and standing water can cause root rot. It's best to choose a container with several small drainage holes rather than one big one.

If you choose multiple smaller containers rather than fewer large ones, keep in mind that smaller containers dry out quicker, so they'll require more frequent watering--especially with our summer heat! You’ll want to water your containers daily when temperatures exceed 81 degrees.

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How to Prepare Your Container

Before adding soil, make sure the container is clean—you should wash your pots each year to reduce the risk of disease and eradicate any overwintering pests. To cleanse your pots, scrub them in warm water, dish soap and a wire brush. Then, disinfect with a 1:9 bleach and water solution, and rinse with clean water before drying thoroughly.

If you're reusing some old containers you found in your shed, double-check that they weren't used to store any toxic materials. This is especially important if you'll be growing food in these pots.

Opt for well-draining potting soil that can retain water since containers tend to dry out quickly due to their size. Mixing sand into the soil can improve drainage, and adding organic matter, like compost, will help the soil's ability to hold water.

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Plants for Summer Containers

The great thing about using containers is that you can grow plants with various requirements, like shade and water needs, near each other, which isn't always possible when growing directly in the ground. With that said, be careful to not put plants with different lighting or watering requirements in the same container.

There are numerous plants you can grow in containers as long as you consider the conditions they require. Although having limitless options to put together a container can seem daunting, you can follow the thriller, filler, and spiller rule to help guide you!

By combining these, you'll have containers that look professionally designed. There are some crossovers between thrillers, fillers, and spillers—some plants might fall into two categories—but keeping these words in mind will help you with your design.

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Thrillers are the tall, dramatic, and colorful main focal points in your container design. Place thrillers, like tall grasses and bold flowers, at the center of the container if the pot will be viewable from all sides, or if the container will only be viewable from a few sides, place the thriller at the back. Some of the best flowers for summer containers in Arizona that make excellent thrillers are Cosmos, Gomphrena, and Salvia.

Fillers round out the design by filling in space. Place these medium-height flowering plants between thrillers and the edge of the container. Examples include Marigold, Vinca, and Zinnia. Herbs like mint also make great fillers that can survive our summers in Arizona.

Spillers drape over the edges of the container to add some low-growing dimension. Place these near the container's outer edges. Try adding Calibrachoa, English Ivy, String of Pearls, and Portulaca as spillers.

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How to Maintain Your Container Garden

Check your containers for weeds and pests regularly, and add fertilizer about once a month. Compared to plants grown in the ground, containers require more frequent watering, so keep an eye on those pots and find a system that works for you! You can either water by hand or set up a drip irrigation system, but make sure you're giving your plants a deep drink rather than letting the water sit on the surface. Once temperatures hit the 90s, water containers every morning.

Adding containers to your landscape design helps you maximize the space you have plus lets you flex your creativity muscle. If you want any more flowering pot design inspiration, stop by one of our Arizona SummerWinds Nursery locations. We also offer home delivery and curbside pick up for any supplies you need to get started on your summer container garden!


About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.