Best Patio Plants: No matter where you live, you want to make the most of the sunny days. Spending time on the patio is even more relaxing when you add seasonal color and interest with potted plants, planters or beds of annuals, perennials and shrubs. And since many plants attract tons of pollinators, you’ll love watching butterflies, bees and hummingbirds flutter while you drink your morning coffee or sip your iced tea.
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To find the right plant for your conditions, observe how much direct sunlight your patio receives at different times of the day: full sun means more than six hours, and the partial sun is about half that. Total shade means that your patio receives less than an hour or two of the sun or only a little sun in the morning.
No matter how much you fall in love with a plant, consider its needs before buying it: shade seekers cannot stand the heat and sun-seekers never do well in the shade. Before purchasing shrubs and perennials, which return annually, check your USDA hardiness zone (find yours here) to determine if the plant can survive winter in your area. See our favorite annuals, perennials, and shrubs to add spice to any patio.
Mandevilla is a beautiful flowering vine that requires a trellis. It flowers all season with little care and you can bring it for the winter in cold climates when the night temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Full disclosure: It is a bit messy indoors, as it drops leaves and flowers with lower light levels. It likes full sun, although it takes advantage of the afternoon shade in the hottest climates.
There’s a reason these sturdy annuals have been popular for decades: they thrive on neglect! The marigolds come in bright colors, including classic oranges and yellows, but new varieties are available in creamy white. They take the heat, last until hard frost, and look great in beds or containers without any effort on your part. Give them full sun.
Lavender has beautiful purple spikes and silver foliage; it is drought tolerant once established. Give it full sun and plant a variety that will survive in your hardiness zone so that it returns next year. Edge your patio with it or plant it near the seating areas to enjoy its classic scent.
Do you have shade? The fuchsia develops in full shade. This superb annual is offered in saturated shades of red, purple and pink. It looks great in containers or baskets. Hummingbirds also love this plant. This plant is best purchased from a local nursery because its delicate nature makes it difficult to send it intact or germinate the seeds.
Look for short varieties to add architectural interest to the pots; tall types provide excellent shielding if used to border the patio in the ground or in pots. Most are perennial but read the label to be sure. Most need full sun.
This magnificent shrub is available in several different sizes and types. Hydrangea flowers appear from early to mid-summer and last until a hard frost and are extremely easy to dry for flower arrangements or wreaths. Most types need the sun to flower best, but they like the afternoon shade in warmer climates. Make sure to plant one that suits your hardiness zone.
Blue, purple or white lobelia looks great in baskets or mixed containers. This year needs mainly shade, although it tolerates a little morning sun. It flowers best in cool weather, so if it starts looking irregular in mid-summer, cut it and it should bounce in the fall.
For a sunny terrace, succulents are a fun option! They come in hundreds of sizes, shapes and colors and require almost nothing from you. Some are cold hardy and will survive winter, but if not, you can certainly dig up some and put them in pots to bring them indoors and enjoy them on a sunny window sill.
The pretty purple, pink or white flowers of this plant attract pollinators and last until frost. Torenia are lovely cascading pots on a shaded patio. Some have a slightly grape scent.
Every garden needs at least one rose! The types of shrubs or landscapes are not as difficult as you think, and they bloom from early summer to a hard frost. There are a wide variety of varieties, so read the label and look for the ones that will survive in your hardiness zone. They bloom best in full sun.
With tiny white, pale pink or purple flowers, the gentle, low-growing alyssum looks beautiful draped over the sides of the containers. Plant it where you can smell its sweet honey smell. It is another favorite of pollinators. It needs full sun, but will take shade.
Think outside the box: new types of strawberries have been bred to be more compact and ornamental, and new varieties of blackberries and raspberries have no thorns! Plant them as a low border or in decorative pots. They prefer full sun.
For drama, nothing exceeds a caladium! The heart-shaped leaves in striking reds and pinks make this plant a favorite accent in pots or along the borders. Eat them as annuals or, in cold climates, dig up the tubers before winter and store them in a cool, dark place for replanting next year. They are lovers of the shadows.
Angelonia loves heat! These annuals with tiny orchid flowers come in pretty pastel or deep saturated tones. Some types are straight, others cascade from baskets or containers. Give them a part in full sun.
Even if you have never grown edibles, cherry tomatoes or all kinds of dwarf tomatoes are a good place to start! Many new varieties are compact, so they work well in containers – and they look good too! Give them full sun.
For long-lasting color and easy care, begonias are the answer. These annuals come in all sizes, shapes and colors, some prefer partial shade and others tolerate the sun. Read the plant label to find out which type you are buying. Big plus: begonias bloom without having to take your breath away or remove the exhausted flowers, all season.
Cat mint is a hard perennial like nails with gray-green foliage and small purple flowers for most of the summer. Pollinators love it! Newer varieties keep a more vertical and mountainous shape and do not tip over. Plant it in full sun along the edge of your patio or in containers.
This superb annual is a hummingbird magnet! With bright orange, red or purple flowers all season, get ready to enjoy the show. Give the cuphea a separate pot because it tends to clutter other plants. He likes the full sun.
Herbs are among the easiest edible plants to grow. Create a small herb garden next to your patio or place them in pots. Perennial herbs, such as oregano, thyme, chives and sage, will come back every year. Annuals, such as coriander and basil, are easy to grow from seeds. Some, like rosemary, can be brought indoors for the winter. Herbs need full sun.
Sweet potato vine
This annual vining has colors ranging from lime green to the deepest burgundy with interesting leaf shapes. It is extremely resistant and it needs a lot of space to spread in the planter or the bed. It prefers full sun, but will take some shade.