Looking for small outdoor container plants!
May 22, 2018 7:03 AM   Subscribe

So I've found myself with a plethora of 4 and 6 inch terra cotta pots and I'm wondering what outdoor plants would do okay in such small containers on my patio. Flowering plants preferred. I'd rather not have herbs because I don't cook much these days, but could be convinced. Also I have absolutely no interest in succulents or cactus.

I live at the edge of the Great Basin Desert. USDA zone 7a, Sunset zone 1a. The climate is very dry, but I'm fine with daily watering. I have access to full sun, filtered sun, and shade.

It gets down into the 40s at night in the summer and if they're annuals we don't have to worry about the freezing and snow, but if anyone suggests perennials, I have a place to overwinter plants indoors if necessary. I also don't mind repotting in a year or so.

I can start from seeds but it's sort of late in the season for that. I also have access to a very prolific Mennonite greenhouse with all sorts of flowering plants, herbs, and veggies.

posted by elsietheeel to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite flowers for small pots are portulaca, petunias, and dahlias.
posted by rmless at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Portulaca was going to be my recommendation too. They don't mind drying out, which will happen with terra cotta. I have some portulaca in little tin buckets that I totally abused/neglected over the winter and early spring. Just last week I trimmed off the dead parts and repotted them, and now they're singing.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Portulaca are most definitely succulents. I agree they'd be easy and look lovely on a patio in the desert, don't know how rigid the "absolutely no interest in succulents" is.

Bromeliads come in many varieties and are bright and showy even without the bloom. Any epiphyte will prefer a small pot.
Coleus are another super easy splash of color in small pots, I'd overwinter as cuttings inside.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:23 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Impatient are great in the shade. Geraniums, ivy,. Check with the people at the greenhouse, they love to talk plants.
posted by Enid Lareg at 9:38 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some ideas:

Micro-miniature roses
Johnny Jump-Ups

In 6 inch pots:
arabian jasmine
posted by Altomentis at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

4" and 6" pots are pretty small, so, honestly, I'd just fill them up with fun annuals, expect them to grow over a season and start over again next spring. Water them every day for sure, maybe even twice a day in full sun. I'd buy six-packs and put two or three cells per pot. Make a big grouping of them. If you have a ton of pots and can leave some empty, turn them upside-down and place a planted pot on top. That way you can make a little "display" that has some height. Just pick out any ol' annual that catches your eye! Look at the tag to see if it's for sun or shade. Geraniums don't mind drying out a bit, which makes them forgiving. Deadhead your pots and you'll have color all summer.
posted by missmary6 at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Big day-night temperature differences are perfect for Night Sky petunias, because they help that galaxy pattern form. I've been growing them for three years now as annuals in 4-inch pots, and as long as you water and deadhead regularly, they'll be a cascade of purple-white until late autumn.

And geraniums can be easily overwintered at least once, especially if you transplant them from the 4-inch pots to the 6-inch ones come spring.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:52 AM on May 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just a plug here to consider focusing on pollinator-friendly plants to do your local bees and hummingbirds a favor. Most of those flowers are gorgeously showy and fun anyway - look for things like climbing nasturtiums and give them a trellis or rope to climb.

I grow a lot of herbs just so I can let some of it bolt - bees and pretty little goldfinches looove my bolted basil and parsley and cilantro, and the great thing about those herbs when they bolt is they bolt super tall (my parsley is taller than my spring tomato plants right now, and the little birds who like my bolted herbs also find tomato hornworms pretty tasty) and shoot way up above whatever flowers they might share a pot with.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not as easy to find but worth it, heliotrope has wonderfully fragrant flowers.
posted by Botanizer at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have always found marigolds to be tough as hell.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

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