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10 Large Potted Outdoor Plants

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Plants in containers are a simple way to transform the ambiance of an area, whether you’re working with just a little space or wish to make a big statement.

You can grow hundreds of plants in pots, including sun- and shade-loving varieties. Also, you aren’t limited to planting only plants hardy in your area because containers may be relocated to a warmer place, such as a heated greenhouse or even inside the house, during the winter.

From colorful annual flowers to sturdier shrubs, vines, perennials, and even small trees, you can grow almost everything you can think of in a container.

To help you design a show-stopping container garden, we’ll look at ten of the most spectacular selections for large outdoor potted plants.

A man in an apron transplants a ficus tree in a large flower pot

A Rundown of Ten Large Outside Potted Plants

NameBasic Information
Japanese MapleSize: 10–25 feet in height; 10–25 feet in width
Sun exposure:  indirect sunlight, shade
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 5–8
Others: small trees with appealing leaves 
RoseSize: depending on the species
Sun exposure: full sun, indirect sunlight
Care level: medium maintenance
USDA Zone: 4–10
Others:  beautiful fragrant flowers in many varieties and colors
Fountain GrassSize: 6 to 12 inches in height, 1 to 4 feet in width
Sun exposure: full sun, indirect sunlight
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 6–11
Others:  red/purple foliage
BougainvilleaSize: 20 to 30 feet in height; 20 to 30 feet in width
Sun exposure: full sun to partial shade
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 9–11
Others: beautiful, colorful blooms
Arborvitae (Thuja)Size: 6 feet or taller
Sun exposure: full sun to partial shade
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 5–8
Others: evergreen container plant
FernSize: depending on the species
Sun exposure: shade, indirect sunlight
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 3–8
Others: lush green foliage
HydrangeasSize: 1–3 feet in height; 2–12 feet in width
Sun exposure: full sun to partial shade
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 3–9
Others: beautiful, long-blooming flowers
Wedding Cake TreeSize: 10 to 15 feet or taller
Sun exposure: full sun, indirect sunlight
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 6–9
Others:  interesting, unique foliage
Japanese Silver Grass 
‘Morning Light’
Size: 4–6 feet in height; 3–4 feet in width
Sun exposure: full sun, indirect sunlight
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 5–9
Others: arching white-and-green variegated leaves
HostaSize: depending on the species
Sun exposure: shade, indirect sunlight
Care level: low maintenance
USDA Zone: 3–9
Others: colorful foliage ranging from blue-green and gold to white and green

1. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum spp.)

Japanese maple bonsai in Omiya bonsai village at Saitama, Japan

Japanese maples should be your go-to choice if you’re looking for a tree with beautiful ornamental foliage.

The variety of these trees’ colors, sizes, and shapes is overwhelming, with hues like lime green, yellow, orange, red, or burgundy.

A Japanese maple’s average annual growth rate is 1–2 feet. However, it is best to stick to small to medium varieties when growing in a container. 

The Japanese maple is also available in dwarf and bonsai forms.

2. Rose

Attentive gardener wearing gloves checking the rose buds in his garden

Roses planted in pots are a sophisticated way to add color and life to any setting.

If you want to add some color and scent to your porch, patio, or front entryway, a potted rose plant is a great choice. 

When growing roses in containers, size is important; the bigger the pot, the better.

To fit the massive root systems of roses, a standard-sized rose should be potted in a pot that is between 8 and 15 gallons in capacity.

Miniature and shrub roses are ideal for growing in containers.

Roses that climb or grow to be more than 5 feet tall or wide should be avoided because they are a chore to transport and store throughout the winter if needed. 

3. Fountain Grass

Giant Fountain Grass in the garden

Because of its arching, fountain-like growth pattern, fountain grass is well-suited for pot growth. Even more so, the grass stands out thanks to the gorgeous scarlet hue of its leaves.

Fountain grass comes in various species and cultivars, all easy to maintain and with colorful grass plumes all summer and into early fall.

Fountain grass prefers full sun and warm temperatures; thus, it does well in regions lacking trees and other natural shade sources.

4. Bougainvillea

Colorful Bougainvillea plants in tall cement pots are arranged in a row in the garden

Bougainvillea is one of the most beautiful flowering plants in the world.

Vines of various colors, including pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and white, bloom profusely over walls, fences, and pergolas. 

Bougainvillea can be cultivated as a vine, shrub, or even a small tree.

The plant can be shaped to fit your preferences. The earliest blooming occurs in the third year. 

Your bougainvillea will need to be treated as an annual or brought indoors for the winter if you reside in a zone lower than 9a. 

5. Arborvitae (Thuja spp.)

woman gardener is in her cottage garden standing and holding two Arborvitae trees in a planter pot

In addition to its usefulness in the landscape and as a bordering plant, arborvitae may also be grown successfully in a container.

Arborvitae is a fantastic choice if you want an evergreen container plant for your front porch or patio.

Arborvitae stands out due to its distinctive pyramidal shape and lush, fan-shaped green leaves. 

A wide range of sizes and colors is available in the arborvitae family. But container gardening makes it simple to limit the spread of arborvitae, whether you’re growing it as a shrub or a tree.

Place the arborvitae container in a location that receives full sun to partial shade.  

6. Fern

Home plant fern on windowsill against background of street

A fern is the perfect plant to give dimension and lush greenery to a shady patio or backyard. With hundreds of species available, you will discover a fern that does well in your region.

Ferns can be easily grown in containers.

They require regular watering, a shady location, and plenty of moisture in the soil.

These shade-loving plants are adaptable and can be grown in various container arrangements.

Another perk of growing ferns in pots is that you can tailor the conditions to the requirements of each variety. But generally, ferns should be placed out of the way of strong winds and direct sunlight.

7. Hydrangea

Purple hydrangeas in pots at the entrance of flower shop

Hydrangeas are a worthwhile plant to grow in containers since they can get fairly large and give beautiful flowers throughout the summer.

Place a potted hydrangea wherever you need outstanding beauty, and it will thrive.

There are a variety of hydrangeas for any setting, whether full sun, moderate shade, or anywhere in between.

The hydrangea is one of the most popular flowering plants for gardens.  In addition to their beautiful, long-blooming flowers, these plants are a welcome addition to any landscape, thanks to their gorgeous, thick green foliage.

Although hydrangeas are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3–9, growing them at either end of the spectrum can be difficult.

Therefore, growing them in pots is an excellent option, allowing you to bring your hydrangea indoors during harsh weather.

8. Wedding Cake Tree

cornus controversa also known as Wedding Cake Tree in a pot with price tag

The wedding cake tree is a small deciduous tree with a distinctly branched trunk and limbs that bear slightly oval leaves with broad cream margins that turn yellow in the fall. 

The wedding cake tree can live for many years if given the proper care and attention.

Wedding cake trees can withstand light frost and windy conditions. 

The wedding cake tree has a rather moderate growth rate, at around 1 foot per year.

This tree thrives in well-drained, somewhat acidic soil, where it can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet on average. 

9. Japanese Silver Grass ‘Morning Light’

Japanese silver grass ("morning light") in winter sunlight

‘Morning Light’ is one of the most widely grown grasses, and it also thrives in pots.

The breezy plant structure softens the landscape, while the white along the leaf margins adds a splash of color. 

‘Morning Light’ is a warm-season plant, which means it will not begin to grow until the end of spring or the beginning of summer. Hotter temperatures stimulate its rapid development and blooming.

This plant can reach heights of 4–6 feet and is characterized by its dense, arching foliage and seed stalks. 

10. Hosta

Potted hosta on a Wisconsin deck

Hostas are a popular plant for shady gardens and may be grown in various containers.

They are beautiful both on their own and when paired with other plants that thrive in pots.

The trouble with hostas is that they come in such a diverse range of shapes, sizes, and colors that there is no standard approach for planting them into pots. 

Color is an important factor to consider while selecting a variety.

  • Full shade requires a hosta with dark, blue-green coloration. 
  • Most varieties of hostas will flourish in containers that get a mix of light and shade. Pick any of those leafy greens.
  • A hosta can be kept alive and well in a sunny container. The bright lime green and yellow hues of the best sun-loving hostas are amazing. 

Final Thoughts

Limiting your options when shopping for container-grown plants might be difficult due to the wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes available. To help you start, I compiled the above list of some of the best plants for outdoor containers.

Remember that plants in containers require more attention than those grown in the ground when making your selections.

Even if your containers drain well, you must still remember to water and fertilize your plants regularly. The type of plant, the environment, and the size of the container will all influence the specifics of your assistance.

Also, the roots of a plant grown in a container will be exposed to the cold of winter.

To survive the winter, plants in pots must tolerate temperatures of at least two USDA Hardiness Zones lower than where you live.


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