17 Annual Flowers For Pots and Container Gardens

Written by Jennifer Haase
Published: September 16, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Kathy Reasor
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Look no further if you seek annual flowers perfect for pots and container gardens! We’ve rounded up 17 great options, from pansies to petunias. And whether you’re looking for something colorful, easy-to-care-for, or both, we’ve got you covered. So, keep reading to discover 17 annual flowers for pots and container gardens you and your family could plant together.

But before you plant anything, select the garden pots you’ll need first.

Choosing Garden Pots for Annual Flowers

Many types of containers work well for annual flowers, and the best ones are those with good drainage. Garden centers and antique shops offer a wide selection of different-sized containers. Terra cotta, metal, plastic, ceramic, and concrete are common materials used to make pots for gardening. Even an old boot makes a fun flower container when you add a small pot with soil inside it first, plus puncture holes in the bottom for better drainage.

Now onward to our list of 17 annual flowers for pots and container gardens! Which ones are your favorites?

1. Cosmos

Cosmos Bipinnatus
Cosmos flowers come in a wide variety of colors and petal layers.

PIN-CHIEH LIN/Shutterstock.com

These delightful annual flowers come in various colors, including bi-color and striped. Some cosmos varieties have single blooms, and other fluffier varieties have double the petals. For example, the ‘Double Click Bi-Color Rose’ has 3-inch fluffy double blooms in lavender and white, whereas the ‘Chocolate Cosmos’ features 2-inch single blooms in rusty brown.

Deadhead your cosmos for consistent blooming. And if you plant hardy cosmos in growing zones 4-8, you could rescue their tubers at the end of the season to grow them again next year. Store cosmos tubers in a cool, dry place until spring.

  • Colors: orange, apricot, white, pink, purple, red, yellow, brown or ‘chocolate,’ striped, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 2 feet tall, 2 feet wide

2. Dahlia

large dahlia flowers
Some dahlias reach 6 feet tall!

Dahlias are tuberous annuals that typically grow large, showy blooms up to 10 inches in diameter. Give these flowers full sun when possible, but dahlias might tolerate partial shade. Keep their soil moist, but don’t overwater, or the dahlia’s tuber (its main source of nutrients) could rot.

There are many varieties of dahlias; some grow significantly bigger than others. Make sure you know what kind of dahlia you’re planting before choosing container size and which other plants you might add to the same pot.

  • Colors: white, pink, orange, yellow, purple, lavender, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: up to 4-6 feet tall and 2 feet wide (depending on the variety)

3. Four O’Clocks

Mirabilis jalapa (Marvel of Peru, Four o'clock flower)
Mirabilis jalapa (Marvel of Peru, Four o’clock flower). These flowers open only at night.

iStock.com/Magdevski

Four o’clocks are tender perennial flowers often grown as annuals. Though some four o’clock varieties – like the Colorado Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora) – are much hardier perennials that might grow for several seasons in colder growing zones.

As annual flowers for pots, four o’clocks are quick-growing and drought tolerant. This flower has small trumpet-shaped blooms. Four o’clocks also have a sweet fragrance like honeysuckle.

  • Colors: white, pink, purple, red, yellow
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 2 inches tall and 5 inches wide

4. Geranium

Red geranium flowers in a pot.
Geranium flowers are popular plants for pots and garden boxes.

iStock.com/MayaAfzaal

Geraniums are a popular annual flower for pots and container gardens. They have star-shaped flowers that bloom in clusters of warm colors like red, orange, or pink. But did you know that geraniums also come in blue or lavender varieties? The ‘Johnson’s Blue’ or Cranesbill geranium (Geranium ibericum ‘Johnson’s Blue’) has soft blue petals in 2-inch blooms. The Johnson’s Blue geranium has green foliage in summer that turns gold and red in autumn.

The geranium is beloved for being easy to grow plus pest and disease resistant. And this sturdy flower attracts butterflies to your container garden.

  • Colors: white, pink, purple, red, orange, blue, lavender
  • Sunlight needs: full sun or part shade
  • Mature size: up to 36 inches tall, 36 inches wide

5. Impatiens

Red and orange impatiens in a flower bed.
Impatiens come in bright colors and are fantastic plants for flower beds and borders.

iStock.com/Joe_Potato

Impatiens are another excellent choice for annual flowers in attractive pots on the deck or porch. Or in pots placed right in a garden bed to give it height and unique interest. Impatiens are ideal for containers because they’re a rare annual that thrives in the shade. Plus, they don’t need much attention other than daily watering in hot temperatures.

Blooms on impatiens plants are round and vary in size depending on the cultivar (variety). But all impatiens varieties bloom in a mass of flowers when given proper care. So don’t overwater your impatiens and prune them when they reach 3-4 inches high.

  • Colors: white, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, lavender, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: partial to full shade
  • Mature size: up to 6 inches tall, 24 inches wide

6. Marigold

Are Marigolds Poisonous - Marigold flower
Marigolds are cheerful flowers that are easy to care for.

EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Marigolds are annual flowers often planted in pots and containers. These cheery blooms come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, and red. Marigolds are known for being easy to grow and care for, making them a great choice for beginner gardeners.

Pot marigolds are bushy plants with double 2-inch blooms. They remain bright and cheerful container flowers all season if you give them full sun and regular pruning.

  • Colors: yellow, orange, red
  • Sunlight needs: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: up to 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide

7. Million Bells

Calibrachoa sunrise orange decorative flowers (million bells).
Calibrachoa sunrise (million bells) orange decorative flowers. These flowers can grow and spread like flowery vines.

iStock.com/chert61

If you love petunias, million bells flowers are a close relative with a similar look. Also known as Calibrachoa, million bells are a cousin of the petunia in the Solanaceae family of plants. They have bell-shaped blooms and trail beautifully down the sides of garden containers. And these annual flowers are known for their long blooming season and ability to tolerate heat and humidity.

  • Colors: yellow, pink, purple, orange, red, white
  • Sunlight needs: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: up to 6 inches tall, 24 inches wide

8. Morning Glory

Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue' Morning Glory Flower
Morning Glory flowers have large, trumpet-shaped blooms and come in many vivid colors.

Hemerocallis/Shutterstock.com

The wide trumpet-shaped blooms of morning glory flowers are fun to see climbing or trailing out of your favorite garden pots. Often used as ground cover flowers, morning glory plants quickly spread and take over their container in a sunny spot. However, don’t be surprised if these annual flowers don’t bloom until quite late in the season. So be patient, as they will dazzle you when they finally appear.

  • Colors: blue, orange, purple, pink, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 10 feet tall (as a climbing plant) and 6 feet wide

9. Moss Rose

Colorful flowerbed of hogweed or Portulaca also known as moss roses.
Colorful flowerbed of Hogweed or Portulaca, also known as Moss Roses.

iStock.com/Lex20

Moss roses are semi-succulent flowers with small ruffled petals. Grown often as ground cover, this plant is a self-seeding spreader! Moss rose flowers are perfect as trailing plants in containers and will grow back again next year in warmer growing zones. However, multi-colored moss rose also grows as an annual in colder growing zones.

Note that moss rose blooms close at night, then perk up again in the morning. And if you don’t want them to self-seed, deadhead the spent blooms.

  • Colors: white, pink, peach, purple, red, yellow, orange,
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 6 inches tall, 2 feet wide

10. Nasturtium

Nasturtium - South American trailing plant with round leaves and bright orange, yellow, or red ornamental edible flowers
Nasturtium – South American trailing plant with round leaves and bright orange, yellow, or red ornamental edible flowers.

iStock.com/Nadya So

Fragrant nasturtiums are climbing annual flowers with small funnel-shaped blooms on long stalks. Butterflies love these trailing plants, and so will you. However, nasturtiums need lots of sunlight over their pots to keep blooming from summer through fall.

  • Colors: cream, red, orange, mahogany, yellow
  • Sunlight needs: full sun is best
  • Mature size: up to 10 feet tall, 3 feet wide

11. Pansy

Purple Pansy Flower
Pansies are hardy plants that often bloom even in the colder weather.

Leecy Jones/Shutterstock.com

Pansies are some of the best annual flowers for pots because they are fragrant, hardy, and bloom for long periods. Pansy blooms have delicate overlapping heart-shaped petals with a yellow center. These dainty flowers could bloom up to a whopping six months if you regularly pinch off the spent blooms.

Though pansies are hardy annual flowers, they do attract pests. Watch for signs of midges, slugs, snails, and spider mites. Rabbits love to nibble on them too. However, at least the deer will stay away from your pansy pots as they are not a snack that deer enjoy.

  • Colors: blue, white, yellow, orange, purple, lavender, black, apricot, pink, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: up to 9 inches tall, 12 inches wide

12. Petunia

Petunia
Petunias are a tender perennial that originally came from South America.

Maya Afzaal/Shutterstock.com

Petunias are one of the most popular annual flowers for pots and containers. And there are so many petunia colors available for home gardening it can be tough to choose which ones to grow each year!

The petunia plant has soft funnel-shaped blooms on trailing foliage that can quickly become leggy. So, prune them often if you don’t want petunias growing beyond the edges of your garden containers.

  • Colors: blue, white, pink, purple, red, yellow, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 18 inches tall, 48 inches wide

13. Snapdragon

Snapdragons. Snapdragon pink flowers in the garden. Spring and summer background. Vertical photo
Snapdragon flowers get their name from the bloom’s head: if you pinch it just right, the flower opens like the mouth of a dragon!

iStock.com/Borislav

Snapdragons have tall spikes bursting with tiny blooms. These showy plants are gorgeous as annual flowers in pots on the deck or patio in full sun. Snapdragons make stunning cut flowers, are easy to maintain, and are resistant to many plant diseases.

If you notice your container garden smells a bit like grape soda, that sweet scent is coming from your snapdragons!

  • Colors: white, pink, peach, purple, red, yellow, orange, bi-color
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide

14. Sunflower

Sunflowers at Sunset
Sunflowers come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

iStock.com/Katie Simmons

Sunflowers are fun annual flowers for pots that are easy to grow for kids and beginner gardeners. Put them in a sunny area and give sunflowers a deep watering once a week. If the leaves droop, that means they need more water.

To plant sunflowers in containers:

  1. Choose a garden pot at least 12 inches wide, 12 inches deep.
  2. Fill the pot with well-drained soil.
  3. Plant the sunflower seedlings about 6 inches apart and water them well.

Giant sunflowers, like the “firecracker” variety, grown in pots may need extra support because they can get top-heavy as they mature. Stake the sunflowers with a tomato cage or trellis to keep them from tipping over.

  • Colors: yellow, orange, burgundy, brown, red, bi-color
  • Sunlight needs: full sun is best
  • Mature size: up to 36 inches tall, 18 inches wide

15. Sweet Alyssum

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) flowers, California
Sweet Alyssum grow in large bunches of small white flowers.

iStock.com/Sundry Photography

There’s nothing like the beauty of sweet alyssum cascading from pretty garden pots and containers. Sweet Alyssum blooms in a mass of tiny, delicate white flowers. These sweet but hardy flowers are drought tolerant but also prefer full sun. However, a bit of shade during sweltering days will help sweet alyssum plants stay their healthiest.

  • Colors: most are white, but some varieties come in purple, peach, or pink
  • Sunlight needs: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: up to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide

16. Verbena

verbena
There are around 150 species of verbena flowers.

Flower_Garden/Shutterstock.com

Verbenas are quick-blooming trailing flowers that can handle the heat. They might quickly grow out of their containers early in the season, but verbenas do well with pruning. Plus, you’ll want to trim verbena plants back a couple of times between spring and fall so they keep blooming for you.

The verbena plant blooms with round clusters of tiny funnel-shaped flowers. Verbenas come in many different varieties, like the Fragrant Sand Verbena (Abronia fragrans), with white flowers and a lovely vanilla scent.

  • Colors: white, pink, purple, red, yellow, blue, lavender
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 36 inches tall, 36 inches wide

17. Zinnia

Zinnia, Flower, Agricultural Field, Growth, Summer
Zinnias come in a variety of colors and petal shapes.

iStock.com/AlinaMD

With their big and bright pom-pom blooms, zinnias are ideal annual flowers for pots and cutting gardens. Zinnias grow on tall, strong stalks up to a foot tall, depending on the variety. These vibrant annual flowers are drought resistant, pest resistant, and bloom for long periods.

Your zinnias will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, plus lots of “oohs” and ahhs” from the neighbors! However, give zinnias plenty of room in your container garden pots. If they grow too close together, they might contract powdery mildew. This nasty fungal disease could eventually kill the plants.

  • Colors: white, pink, purple, red, yellow, orange, bicolor
  • Sunlight needs: full sun preferred
  • Mature size: up to 1 foot tall, 1 foot wide

Best Practices for Annual Flowers in Pots

In most growing zones, annual flowers in pots need frequent watering to keep from wilting or dying. That means many of your pots will need watering every day. And in the hottest temperatures, some pots may need to be watered twice daily. Plus, all your garden pots need well-draining soil, so make sure containers have drainage holes.

Have fun mixing and matching annual flowers together in each pot. For example, tall snapdragons look stunning when surrounded by trailing million bells. Get creative with your pairings, but make sure your flowers have plenty of space to grow.

Up Next:

Giant red zinnia flower
Zinnias come in a variety of colors and petal shapes.
iStock.com/Kathy Reasor
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About the Author

I've been a professional writer for over 12 years, specializing in nature themes, including plants and animals. My areas of interest include pets, sea animals, and flowers. Plus, I can't get enough of red pandas and hummingbirds! I also enjoy gardening, nutrition studies, and snuggling with my cats in my spare time.

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Sources
  1. Better Homes & Gardens, Available here: https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/annual/impatiens/
  2. Gardenia: Creating Gardens, Available here: https://www.gardenia.net/plant/tropaeolum-majus-nasturtium
  3. Gardenia: Creating Gardens, Available here: https://www.gardenia.net/plant/geranium-johnsons-blue-cranesbill