Incorporating Hardy Plants in Containers

By Kerry Ann Mendez

As a passionate gardener, I am always looking for exciting new plants to add to my gardens. Of course, this can become an expensive habit. By nature, I am thrifty. I have even been called cheap (I prefer frugal) by some in my family. My budget-wise attitude was put to the test after I became a plantaholic. Thankfully I became very skillful at saving money (and time) in the garden. My fourth book, The Budget-Wise Gardener, provides many of these tricks and tips.

Replacing Annuals

One cost-saving method is replacing many annuals that I used to plant in containers, with perennials, deciduous shrubs and vines. Don't get me wrong, I still use annuals for nonstop color, but now I supplement annuals with striking long-lived plants.

These hardy beauties can be overwintered in the container (stored in an unheated garage or shed after plants are fully dormant) or be replanted in a garden for a winter siesta. Next spring, many will be divided and shared with friends or used in other locations in the yard or in another container. Now there are far fewer annuals that get tossed into the compost pile each fall.

Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

When combining perennials and other hardy plants in planters, I use the same design techniques as with annuals: utilizing thrillers, fillers and spillers. The options are endless!


Below are a few of my containers as examples. I hope this article helps you think outside the box and become more creative and money-wise.

Example #1
  • Hydrangea 'Tuff Stuff'
  • Hakone Grass 'All Gold'
  • Heucherella 'Pink Fizz'
  • Coral Bells 'Primo Wild Rose'
  • Lamium 'Pink Pewter'
  • Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' (Annual)
Example #2
  • Toadlily 'Samurai'
  • Astilbe 'Delft Lace'
  • Heucherella 'Art Noveau'
  • Lamium 'Pink Chablis'
  • Ajuga 'Pink Lightning'
  • Creeping Yellow Jenny
  • Coleus 'Campfire' (Annual)
  • Senecio 'Angel Wings' (Annual)