In this article, the various plants that can be used in containers in spring to give colour throughout this season will be highlighted.
There are a number of perennials, shrubs and bulbs that can be used to give colour and form to any containers, as the garden springs once again to life in the new growing season.
You need to plan ahead as spring containers are normally planted up in autumn. In order to have a successful spring container, bulbs need to be planted from early to late autumn, making sure that tulips are planted in November to reduce the growing tips from being frost damaged.
Small bulbs, such as crocus, muscari, dwarf narcissus, and dwarf irises, are ideal in small pots, whilst tall daffodils and tulips look better in large pots, mixed with spring-flowering bedding, such as violas, wallflowers and primroses.
The normal procedure is to plant the spring flowering bedding over the bulbs to provide interest in winter and a spectacular display in spring. Containerised shrubs, such as Camellias and Rhododendrons are used to provide green colours in winter and blooms in spring.
What follows are plants that will do well as part of a spring display in containers.
AURINA SAXATILIS (Gold Dust)
This is an ideal perennial for spring containers, where masses of long-lasting yellow flowers are produced. The low growing (up to 23cm in height) evergreen perennial has the blooms sitting above oval, grey-green leaves. Look out for variegated form called ‘Variegata’ which has cream edge leaves. Sow directly in a multipurpose compost in full sun.
BELLIS PERENNIS (Bell’s Daisy)
This familiar 20cm tall mound-forming perennial, often grown as an annual, has mid-green leaves. In spring wither single, double or pompon flowers of pink, white or red flowers appear. Prefers to be planted in multipurpose compost with spring bulbs in full sun.
BERGENIA (Elephant’s Ears) ‘Silberlicht’
This evergreen perennial has large, oval, dark green leaves, from which clusters of white flowers with red-tinged stems appear. This 45cm tall plant look good when planted with spring bulbs in a container filled with soil-based compost. Prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade.
CAMELLIA JAPONICA (Common Camellia)
This 3m tall upright evergreen shrub has large, glossy, oval leaves. It needs to be planted in a moisture retentive ericaceous compost in a sheltered site, where late frosts or cold winds will not damage the large red, pink, or white flowers. Prefers to be grown in the partial shade.
Alternatives include Camellia x williamsii, which will grow up to 5m in height in similar growing conditions. Other possibilities include Camellia ‘Brushfield Yellow’ and Camellia ‘Water Lily’.
This short evergreen shrub has scale-like leaves that are covered with white, bell-shaped flowers, which appear from spring to summer. Plant it in containers with a gritty ericaceous compost, with small bulbs like dwarf narcissus. Does best in partial shade.
CLEMATIS ‘Frances Rivis’
Normally climbers are neglected in spring container gardens, but not so if you use this beauty. They add height to any patio display when planted in a large pot of soil-based compost. In these conditions, it will grow up to 3m in height and therefore will need to be supported by a trellis. The twining stems produce violet-blue flowers over its divided green foliage.
CROCUS ‘Snow Bunting’
This familiar corm grows up to 7cm in height, where the grass-like green leaves have a white stripe running down the spine of the foliage. Plant in small pots in autumn for an early spring display of fragrant white flowers with yellow centres. Grow in a moisture retentive multipurpose compost in full sun. Other varieties include Crocus tommasinianus and Crocus sieberi.
Another familiar perennial often found in garden, forms a low mound of silvery green leaves. This small plant in early spring produces pink blooms which have a swept-back petal look. Grow in pots of soil-based compost in partial shade, where it will grow up to 10cm in height.
ERICA x DARLEYRENSIS (Darley Dale Heath)
This 25cm evergreen shrub has needle-like leaves, where small urn-shaped flowers of white or pink are produced. Plant in an ericaceous compost in full sun, where it will give some early colour. Look out also for Erica ‘Furzey’
ERYSIMUM CHEIRI (Wallflower)
This biennial is often planted in autumn, along with the bulbs, in container of multipurpose compost in full sun. The green leaves ass some interest into otherwise a drab time in the container garden. In mid-spring spikes of bright yellow, orange, red, or pink, fragrant flowers are produced. It will grow up to 30cm in height. Look out for Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’.
GALANTHUS NIVALIS (Snowdrops)
This familiar bulb should ideally be planted in small pots of multipurpose compost in the partial shade. It can be mixed with heucheras to give a more stunning display, as they will complement each other. This 15cm tall bulb has nodding, white flowers with green markings over grass-like foliage.
HEUCHERA VILLOSA ‘Palace Purple’
This purple foliage perennial appeals as it will provide all year interest in the container garden. The leaves are large, lobed and are glossy. In summer small spikes of white flowers appear. This 45cm tall plant prefers to be grown in a soil-based compost in the partial shade.
HYACINTHUS ORIENTALIS (Hyacinths)
Plant this bulb in autumn where in early spring spikes of fragrant, bell-shaped, yellow flowers are produced. The flowers go well with other evergreen perennials in containers full of soil-based compost in full sun or partial shade. The sword-like leaves are produced before the flowering spikes and soon disappears to re-emerge next year. Other varieties include ‘Dork Dimensions’
IRIS RETICULATA (Dwarf Iris)
You can get a vast array of colours if they are planted with other coloured irises in autumn. Plant in small containers of free-flowing multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade. This 15cm tall bulb will produce purple flowers, with yellow and white markings at the lower edge of the petals. The leaves are grass-like green and offer little interest to the container garden. Iris ‘Pixie’ is another variety to look for.
This tall evergreen shrub that grows up to 3m in height needs to be grown in a large container in a sheltered spot, filled with ericaceous compost. The shrub bears arching stems of spiny, green leaves and white flowers from midsummer to early autumn. The flower resembles a bottle brush head in its configuration (technically known as catkins). The plant looks interesting enough during spring, even if they are not in flower.
MUSCARI ARMENIACUM (Grape Hyacinth)
Plant this spring bulb along with narcissi and early tulips in autumn in pots of soil-based compost in full sun or partial shade. The grassy green leaves are produced first, followed by small fragrant, deep blue flowers held in cone-shaped clusters. The plant grows up to 20cm in height.
NARCISSUS (Narcissus, Daffodils)
There a number of varieties of narcissi that can be planted in containers. All of them prefers to be grown in a multipurpose compost and all of them have narrow, green leaves. They need to be planted in autumn to provide their colourful displays in spring, where they will grow up to 20-60cm in height.
Narcissus ‘Actaea’ flowers in late spring, where scented, white flowers, with shallow red-rimmed yellow caps are produced. Plant in large pots with red tulips.
Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’ bears fragrant, fully double, creamy-white flowers, with yellow speckled cups.
Narcissus ‘Canaliculatus’ bears a cluster of small, fragrant spring flowers, with upward-facing white petals and yellow caps.
Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ has fragrant, double, white flowers with a yellow centre that appear in mid-spring. Goes well with yellow daffodils.
Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ produces creamy white flowers with short, bright yellow cups. Flowers between early and mid-spring, where it will look good when mixed with muscari and polyanthus.
Narcissus ‘Tahita’ produces double flowers in mid-spring with is gold yellow scented blooms with orange splashes at the centre.
Look out also for ‘Dove Wings’ and ‘Mount Hood’
POLYGONATUM ODORATUM (Angled Solomon’s Seal)
An appropriate name for such an exotic looking plant. The perennial has oval lance-shaped green leaves, and in early to late summer, fragrant, bell-shaped, green-tipped white flowers appear. Plant in autumn in large container full of moisture-retentive multipurpose compost, where it will grow up to 60cm in height.
PRIMULA ‘Crescendo Series’
This evergreen perennial is often grown as annuals are ideally suited to be grown in pots and window boxes. The dark green leaves produce clusters of yellow-eyed flowers that petals are red, yellow, purple, white or orange in colour. The 20cm tall perennials look astounding in any spring container filled with multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.
PRIMULA ‘Gold-Laced Group’
These perennials look classy in containers, with their upright stems topped with golden yellow centred dark maroon flowers. Grow them with dwarf narcissi in a moisture retentive multipurpose compost in containers. It will grow up to 25cm in height under these growing conditions.
PRIMULA VERIS (Cowslip)
This perennial grows up to 25cm in height, where a rosette of lance-shaped leaves are noted. In spring clusters of nodding, yellow, scented blooms are produced. Needs to be deadheaded to prolong flowering. Plant in autumn or early spring in moisture-retentive multipurpose compost in partial shade.
There are a number of rhododendrons that can be grown in containers. All of them have rounded, glossy, oval-shaped green leaves. Large clusters of pink, red, white or orange trumpet-like flowers are produced in spring on mass above the leaves. They all prefer to be grown in an ericaceous compost, where they will grow up to 2m in height. My suggestions are for the more compact variety of rhododendron and not the massive one you see in gardens.
‘Dopey’ produces red flowers and grows up to 1m in height.
‘Elizabeth’ also has red flowers but grow only to 90cm in height.
‘Golden Torch’ has salmon-pink flowers and grows up to 1.5m in height
‘Percy Wiseman’ produces pink-cream flowers where it grows up to 2m in height.
SCILLA SIBERICA (Siberian Squill)
Plant groups of these bulbs in small pots in autumn, where in spring upright stems of nodding, bell-shaped, blue flowers are produced. Plant in multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade, where it will grow up to 20cm in height. For a white colour flower grow Scilla siberica ‘alba’.
TIARELLA WHERRYI (Foam Flower)
This short perennial that grows up to 20cm in height has deeply lobed green leaves. In late spring to early summer, white or pink flower heads appear. Grow it as a foil for spring bulbs in a moisture retentive multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.
Tulips make a great addition in container gardening and a number of varieties can be used. All of them prefers to be grown in a gritty multipurpose compost in full sun. The plant themselves have broad pointed green leaves from which a single flower attached to a stem is produced. The bulbs are best planted in November.
Tulipa Clusiana Var. Chrysantha is an early spring bowl-shaped, yellow tulip, which are tinged red. It grows up to 30cm in height.
Tulipa ‘Purissima’ produces bowl-shaped white flowers with purple markings. The tulip grow up to 40cm in height.
Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ produces spring blooms of creamy white with green streaks are in late spring. Look spectacular when planted with red tulips and late-flowering daffodils. It grows up to 30cm in height.
Tulipa ‘Angelique’ produces peony-like pink and white flowers in early spring. It will grow up to 45cm in height.
Tulipa ‘Candela’ produces large yellow bowl-shaped blooms in early spring. They will grow up to 35cm in height.
Tulipa ‘Esperanto’ is a uniquely looking tulip that has a white border to its leaves. In late spring, blooms of red and green edge with pale pink are produced. It grows up to 25cm in height.
VIOLA x WITTROCKIANA (Pansy)
This plant often seen everywhere is such a valuable bedding plant. In late winter and in spring flower of any shade are produced in large numbers, which look astounding when mixed with spring bulbs. The leaves are oval-shaped, but these are not noticed because of the plentiful blooms. Plant in multipurpose compost in full sun.
In this article, the various plants that can be used in containers to give their spring displays have been discussed. There are a number of plants of various colours and forms that can be used. Some even have a fragrance which is a big bonus, and therefore can be planted in containers near the front door.
No matter your preference there is a spring container plant just for you.
If you have a question or you wish to raise a point, please do so in the comment box below.
Try these plants today.