Gardening Guru successes for full sun container planting

I spend a great deal of time planning the design of my container planters every season, keeping in mind that at least ten of them are in full sun all day long. Over the years, I have had many trials and tribulations trying out different combinations to get the best display. So, I wanted to share with you some of my most successful results.

Although I typically switch up the colours every year, the containers that line my driveway always get a combination of cosmos and wave petunias. My most favourite combination over the years has been the newer hybrid red cosmos with dark purple wave petunias. The colour combination is spectacular and both plants’ adaptation to the full sun, and sitting next to my driveway with the sun reflecting off the black asphalt for almost one hundred percent of the day, is the front winner of everything I have tried over the years. Typically, my cosmos grow to be about one hundred and twenty centimetres by the end of the season and the wave petunias look like an explosion of flowers, which hides the entire pot by early August. Almost every one passing by comments that, from the street, they look like cedar shrubs with flowers on them.

Another container success to boast about is using a hybrid rose as a feature plant in the middle of a container (in place of a Dracaena spike). I am talking about the roses that often come into the big box stores either in a plastic bag or a small pot and are less than ten dollars, but are not usually rated for our zone. These usually go on sale in early spring because they are starting to grow in their bag, right in the store and I purchase them at this time, with the intention of using them as an “annual” plant. However, you could always try over-wintering them inside as a house plant for the winter. A hybrid rose makes a nice long-term flowering feature plant that can be complemented with most annuals. Just one thing to note, is that the plant itself is deer resistant because of the thorns but I have found that the deer will carefully snip and eat the flowers off the stems.

Gardening Guru Tip: If you are looking for roses, hardy to our zone, do not buy these bagged roses. Visit your favourite nursery where they have many roses hardy to our area. Roses for garden use are an investment and need to be carefully selected for your needs and conditions.

If you need some additional ideas for plants that can tolerate all day full sun and very hot conditions in containers, I encourage you to give the following a try:

Licorice root

I have had tremendous success with both regular and dwarf varieties of this plant. Even in the hottest and driest summers, they have developed cascading branches over one hundred and twenty centimetres in length and they can tolerate low water conditions, as well.

Gerbera daisies

I choose red, yellow and/or hot pink for a colourful impact, especially in contrast to their dark green foliage. One word of caution though, Gerberas do not like to dry out, so you must water daily to ensure continuous blooms all summer long. Aside from daily watering, they are low maintenance and only need to have the spent blooms trimmed off when dead, in order to encourage continuous blooming.

Hanging carnation varieties

You usually see these already planted in a hanging basket in our area nurseries but some nurseries have them for sale in small pots for you to plant. I have planted a burgundy variety with licorice root and loved the great contrast against the silvery foliage of the licorice root. These come in many colours, so experiment. A little deadheading and regular watering go a long way in ensuring prolific and continuous blooms all summer.


There are so many dahlia varieties available today and they are superb grown in containers and intended as your tall focal plant. Started in early spring from a corm or purchased from the nursery already potted, they can take on the appearance of a small flowering shrub in your container. Some varieties produce flowers that blow the imagination. With so many colours and flower variations available you cannot go wrong but warning this can turn into an addiction. Dahlias can also be dug up and saved from year to year. I have heard many gardeners admit that they were hooked on dahlias after the very first one.

I hope this this column provides you with some fresh ideas to try for your full sun container planters next season and add onto your gardening successes.