30 Heat-Tolerant Container Gardens for Sweltering Summers

Southwest Mix
Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

You're doing your best to beat the heat this summer—shouldn't your containers do the same? Sweltering temps can take a toll on your favorite planters, but we have a few ideas for container gardens with heat-resistant plants that will thrive even on triple-digit days. These plants will help your garden coast smoothly through the dog days—calm, cool, and collected. Many of the featured plants hail from tropical locales, meaning they can take the swampy humidity. Others come from dry environments and require minimal watering, which is essential in high heat. Just make sure that you give these plants good drainage and room to breathe, and then kick back and enjoy your planters all season long.

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Ever-Blooming Lantana

Blooming Lantana
Hector Manuel Sanchez

You'd never guess that a plant so pretty would be so hardy. But lantana can stand up to the sunniest, hottest, driest conditions with ease. (Plus, its multi-colored flowers bloom prolifically until the first frost—a real draw for butterflies.) Plant in well-draining soil and water regularly at first to get the roots established. Then leave it be, except to water once a week during dry spells. Many varieties are perennial in USDA Zones 8 and up.

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Mighty Mint

Mighty Mint
Southern Living

Mint is a great addition for a container garden, which will hold its aggressive, spreading nature in check. Not only does mint smell divine; it is also a tough plant that thrives in full sun or partial shade (protection from the afternoon sun is beneficial in hotter climates). Mint prefers moist soil and should be watered consistently. Set some near your patio so you can pick sprigs for summertime cocktails.

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Sun-Loving Annuals

Resilient Trio
Melina Hammer

This resilient trio of containers makes the most of heat-tolerant plants like geraniums, calibrachoas, and mecardonias. Choosing tough plants with gorgeous, bright blooms brings the best of both worlds to your container—they're easy to care for and visually captivating. Water regularly and deadhead faded flowers for nonstop blooming all season long. These plants are grown as annuals in most climates, but are winter-hardy in USDA Zones 10 and 11.

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Classic Boxwood

White container with boxwood topiary, phlox, star jasmine, and lemon thyme
Robbie Caponetto; Produced: Mark Thompson

Boxwoods are a sturdy evergreen that can be planted in containers and sheared to your desired shape, adding a touch of class to any garden. Combine it with heat-loving annuals like the white flowering vinca pictured here for seasonal color. Boxwoods will grow in full sun, but benefit from afternoon shade in hotter climates. Plant in well-draining soil and water weekly during hot, dry weather.

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Fascinating Foliage

Shady Container
Ralph Anderson

Flowers aren't required to create a captivating summer container garden. Here, the swordlike foliage of cast iron plant contrasts with frilly apple-green coleus, blood-red caladiums, airy asparagus fern, and variegated ivy. All of these plants do well in full or part shade—and protection from the sun's rays means less watering is required to keep the soil slightly damp.

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Pair of Palms

Palm Pairs
Laurey W. Glenn

We used Chinese fan palms for bold architectural interest and added color with scarlet bromeliads and gold-variegated acuba and ivy. For those who prefer a native species, silver saw palmetto (Serenoa repens 'Cinerea') is another great heat-tolerant option for containers. Both can grow in full sun or part shade, while bromeliads prefer dappled light or full shade. These palms are officially hardy in USDA Zones 8 and warmer, though some have been known to survive in cooler climates. You can bring these plants indoors in winter to assure their survival.

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Captivating Climbers

Climbing Blooms
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Frame an architectural feature of your home, like this window, with pots of tropical mandevilla vine. Mandevilla is an ideal choice for color in even a "this-is-the-hottest-summer-ever" climate. It prefers full sun and will thank you by blooming profusely until the weather cools in fall. Plant in well-draining soil and water when dry. Give it a support to grow on—a bit of wire can do the trick. Perennial in USDA Zones 10 and 11.

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Gorgeous Geraniums

Gorgeous Geraniums
Laurey W. Glenn

Heat up your container by adding glowing red geraniums, popular bedding flowers that also come with pink or white blooms and lobed or scalloped leaves. Geraniums (Pelargonium sp.) can survive periodic dryness, but will bloom best if watered when dry. These plants flower generously in full sun, but set them somewhere with afternoon shade during extreme heat.

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Sun-Loving SunPatiens

Sun-Loving SunPatiens
Hector Manuel Sanchez

An ideal choice for a humid, sweltering clime, this cheery planter combines 'Tropical Salmon' SunPatiens, foxtail asparagus fern, and 'Neon' pothos. It's a cheery dose of bright hues for hot days and warm nights. SunPatiens can grow in sun or shade, while pothos prefers full or part shade. Water these plants regularly.

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Elegant Topiaries

Elegant Forms
Laurey W. Glenn

These planters showcase waxleaf privet (Ligustrum japonicum) topiaries that add instant elegance to the entry. Creeping Jenny and a selection of peachy annual flowers add adornment to the base. Waxleaf privet can grow in full or part sun and is perennial in USDA Zones 7–11.

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Global Color

Solo Planting
Helen Norman

Include heat-loving plants that hail from far and wide to create a globe-trotting garden. Here a 'Vogue Audrey' mandevilla take center stage among 'Baby Tut' dwarf papyrus, a South Asian elephant ear plant, and a South American sweet potato vine 'Blackie.' All of these plants thrive in full sun; papyrus prefers moist soil.

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Cottage Charm

Verdant Vibes
Alison Miksch

This exuberant mix is reminiscent of wild meadows and cottage gardens. A rustic container planting combines lantana, impatiens, and coleus with maroon Joseph's coat and creeping Jenny in a charming arrangement that will last all season. This combination will do well in full or part sun.

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Bright Blooming Zinnias

Classic Zinnia Freestanding Container Garden
Alison Miksch

It wouldn't be summer without the cheery blooms of zinnias. These butterfly magnets come in almost every color of the rainbow, flower from late spring until frost, and depending on the variety, grow from a few inches to several feet tall. Zinnias grow best in full sun and if watered when dry. Cut the long stems for a summery bouquet—the plants will branch and produce more flowers.

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A Succulent Basket

Sunny Hanging Basket
Southern Living

Fill a hanging basket with succulents for a drought-tolerant container that can be brought indoors for winter if you don't live in a frost-free area. The rosettes of Echeveria are every bit as ornamental as flowers, while trailing succulents like string of beads or sedum can be used to spill out of the basket. Echeveria can take full or part sun, while other succulents typically grown as houseplants may prefer filtered sun or bright shade.

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Gravel Garden

Lively Succulent Container Garden Mix
Southern Living

You can also mix and match your favorite succulents in a terracotta pot filled with a bed of gravel for an easy, super tough, well-drained container garden. These succulents will enjoy basking in the sun while you do.

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Big and Bold Containers

Spring to Summer Container Garden
Southern Living

Plant impatiens after all danger of frost has passed in spring and it will thrive throughout the months of heat and humidity. Here, the homeowner chose to plant impatiens by the poolside in large containers, giving it room to take off and produce large masses of colorful blooms. With the exception of SunPatiens, all impatiens appreciate part shade. Water regularly to keep the flower show going.

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Sensational Cycads

Easy-Care Palms
Laurey W. Glenn

These sturdy urns are planted with sago palm (Cycas revoluta), a sensational container plant with dramatic foliage and a Jurassic feel. This slow-growing "palm" is actually a prehistoric cycad that is hardy in USDA Zones 9 and warmer. Sago palm doesn't like wet feet, so water when the container is mostly dry. It can grow in full sun or part shade.

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Brood of Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks and Shade
Van Chaplin

Buy a brood of hens and chicks and plant them together for a container that couldn't be easier to maintain. Note that this container is lifted off the ground for good drainage. These succulents do best when planted in cactus potting mix or gritty soil in full sun or light shade, where they will produce offshoots and keep your brood growing. Even better, hens and chicks are winter hardy in USDA Zones 3–8.

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Tropical Inspiration

Tropical Inspiration
Melina Hammer

In this container, we combined 'Maui Gold' elephant's ear, orange SunPatiens, citronella plant, Persian shield, and angel vine for a tropically inspired planter in a palette of vibrant hues. Place in full sun or part shade, water regularly, and dream about your next beach vacation.

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Summer Herb Garden

Basil, Lemon Grass, Rosemary, and Plumbago Container Garden
Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mark Thompson

Make your containers do double duty by planting sun-loving herbs like basil and rosemary. For a tall thriller plant, try citrus-scented lemongrass. These plants will add a savory perfume to the garden and spruce up a weeknight dinner, too. Woody plants like rosemary tend to be drought-tolerant, while more tender herbs like basil do best with regular watering.

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Southwestern Style

Southwest Mix
Alison Miksch; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

This Southwest-inspired container includes heat-resistant succulents in a variety of textures, shapes, and colors for an eye-catching combination. Variegated yucca, the red blooms of kalanchoe, and a trailing sedum all thrive in full sun with minimal watering.

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Sunny Combo

Coleus and Lantana Container Combo
Southern Living

The fiery hues of coleus combined with a trailing, sunny yellow lantana will cheer you up when it's as hot as blue blazes outside. Set on a sunny stoop and water when the soil dries. The lantana's blooms will attract bees, birds, and butterflies until first frost, while the coleus will feed pollinators if allowed to bloom in the fall.

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Nooks and Crannies

Succulent Styles
Alison Miksch

Take advantage of life's tenacious ability to thrive in every available crevice for a creative succulent garden. Keep things interesting by arranging containers in different sizes and styles, like this old-fashioned strawberry pot and giant clam shell. Plant with a rowdy mix of succulents in different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures for a stunning effect.

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Perfect Plants for the Heat of Summer

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Desert Dwellers

Agave Container Garden
Southern Living

If you really can't be bothered with watering, agave is the way to go. The succulent foliage of the "century plant" can be variegated, green, blue, or silver, sometimes hairy, and often rimmed with spikes. Plant in gritty soil in shallow, unglazed terracotta planters for good drainage. Some agave plants are winter hardy to USDA Zone 7, but must be protected from excessive moisture to survive until the next blazing hot summer.

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Cactus Accents

Green fresh cactus in pot with shells
Techa Tungateja / Getty Images

Add an assortment of cacti into your arrangement for a drought-tolerant accent. If they can thrive in desert climates, surely they can survive in your yard—at least when planted in sharply draining soil in full sun. Bring them indoors for the winter and place in a sunny window.

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Taste of the Tropics

Metal Wall Hanging Container Garden with Summer Plants
Design by Mark Thompson; Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

This wall-hanging container garden brings a taste of the tropics to the porch. On the far left, we filled the planter with the Mexican shrimp plant and 'Aquamarine' pilea, which hails from the rainforests of South America, along with pteris fern, selaginella, sword fern, and arrowhead vine.

The middle container features asparagus fern, triostar stromanthe, and neon pothos. The latter two are tropical plants, while the first is winter hardy in USDA Zones 9 and warmer. In the rightmost container garden, we used the tropical neon pothos, humidity-loving arrowhead vine, and selaginella, which is hardy in most of the South. This trio can grow in part sun or bright shade.

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Something Blue

Wooden Bowl Container Garden with white scaevolas, blue plumbagos, ‘Lucita’ echeverias, and flapjack plants
Container Design by Mark Thompson; Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

This summery combination is worthy of a wedding in June. The containers were planted with Australian, heat-loving white fan flower (Scaveola). South African blue plumbagos add a burst of color and thrive in the heat, as do the flapjack plants. Then we added the bluish rosettes of 'Lucita' Echeverias, making certain to use a container with good drainage.

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Standing Tall

Modern Freestanding Container
Alison Miksch

This container garden stands tall and proud, making certain we take notice of even the most diminutive plants. The planters are filled with string of pearls, purple Calibrachoa (known as million bells), blue ageratum, ivy, and other fine-textured plants for a pretty display. Blue ageratum is heat-tolerant but can be susceptible to powdery mildew in high humidity. Spacing plants for good circulation can help.

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Lush Greenery

Container Garden Window Box
Ralph Anderson

Add lushness to your window box planter with this combination of holly fern, 'Aaron' caladium, and 'Key Lime Pie' heuchera (coral bells), 'White Nancy' dead nettle, and a light pink vinca. All will grow in part sun and are winter hardy around the South (with the exception of caladiums, which are perennial in USDA Zones 9–11).

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