Let’s talk about containers for sun, specifically the ones in our sunny front garden. Our year in containers got off to a rocky start, what with about 90% of my container tulips being killed by the polar vortex. The upside, I suppose, is that I could plant the containers without waiting for the tulips to finish blooming.


The front containers have been filled with a very simple formula, starting with Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) as a filler/spiller. The Sweet Alyssum liked the cool spring and early summer. I can’t remember it ever looking so perky this late in July. And it has made the path to the front door particularly fragrant. Even so, I wonder if it will hold up through August.


In addition to Sweet Alyssum, the other two main plants in the front containers are Zinnias and Salvias. While the Sweet Alyssum were bought at the garden center, the Zinnias and Salvias were grown from seed in the basement.

Most of the Zinnias are a variety known modestly as ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’. Notwithstanding the exclamation point, this is really an enchanting Zinnia. It’s got a fascinating mix of colors: an inner ring of magenta, a middle ring of red, and an outer ring of what could be called deep yellow or light orange.


There is some variation among the flowers, and with each individual flower as they age.

They seem to be very popular with the Monarch Butterflies.


I also planted some ‘Sunburst’ Zinnias, but they seem to have disappeared somehow.


We also have some of the more compact ‘Pinwheel’ Zinnias.


‘Pinwheel’ is supposed to be multi-colored, but all the flowers I’ve seen so far are white or orange.


I also bought French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) and a few Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) to fill in with here and there.


In terms of Salvia, we have ‘Victoria Blue’ (Salvia farinacea) and ‘Big Blue’. ‘Victoria Blue’ is the only one to have bloomed so far. All in all, I’m disappointed that the Salvias are not providing much color so far.


For next year I think I will end up just buying annual Salvias at the Garden Center, and concentrating on the Zinnias and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) for seed starting.


While this year’s containers for sun are nothing fancy, they provide color and scent, so they are more or less getting the job done.

How have your flowering containers been performing this year?

36 Comments on “Front Garden Containers: Nothing Fancy”

  1. The pentas are lush here this year. Like many of our plants, they’re carrying on longer than usual because of really good conditions: plentiful, non-flooding rains, and lots of sunshine in between to dry things out a bit. The “Zowie!” zinnias make me think of Central America, where those colors — orange, magenta, pink, red — often are combined in some of the most cheerful clothing in the world.

  2. I am in awe of that walk to your front door. I am also jealous. The rabbits destroyed every zinnia here and have almost destroyed every marigold. I have caught them on my deck eating the herbs and flowers in the containers. At this point, I have some determined geraniums, two struggling lantanas, some high-spirited impatiens and a some recovering herbs. From a distance, it looks good!

  3. I only have one container with a flowering plant in it. It is a pink impatient and it is doing great. The rest of my planters either have tropicals in them or shrubs. That suits me this year. I have a few Tithonia plants this year. I seeded them into the ground this spring. With all the rain most of them took in one area. That being said there aren’t enough to suit me. Next year I will plant more. And more zinnias because as you have noticed the butterflies love them.

  4. Wonderful, vibrant colors. The butterfly and flower could be called beauty layered upon beauty. For a variety of reasons, no containers. Hope to have them next year. For me, it will be begonias, which flourish in my shady yard. As with hostas, I have come not only to appreciate them but to love them.

  5. What a feast for my eyes! I too have that Zowie zinnia and am smitten with it. I’ve got mine in the ground though. I am having great luck with some newer salvia varieties in large pots. The hummingbirds adore them, and I do too. Have you had the insane amount of rain this year as I have in southwestern Indiana? I wondered if you’re having to fertilize more often. I think my pots are needing more food since they are probably is getting washed out more than normal. I will say, last year I invested in an automatic watering system just for my (many) pots because of summer vacations and wow what a difference that has made.

    • Hi Jaime. May was almost our rainiest month on record. Starting in late June, though, it’s been a bit dryer than usual. I give my containers a single feeding of slow release fertilizer in late spring. Maybe I should do more, I don’t know. How does an automatic watering system work for containers?

  6. I kind of fell down on the container plants this year. I’ve been experimenting with growing perennials in pots with limited success. Otherwise about all I have going is the usual coleus in the box on the front porch. I think a good post might be how zinnias are bred – when I grow them from seed, there seems to always be some mutants.

  7. I actually think that less “fancy” is preferable to the coiffed look of many container arrangements. My porch is in total shade as it faces north AND is covered. My favourite grouping by far: A variety of “unique” looking coleus I planted in a couple of pots purchased during my travels.

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