Low-Maintenance Outdoor Potted Plants to Transform Your Space

Outdoor potted plants can add cool greenery and softness to patios, porches, stoops, decks, and even fire escapes. Bare outdoor areas can be instantly transformed with some tall greenery in giant tubs, climbing vines, hanging blooms, and a few smaller plants in quirky-cool pots for interest and whimsy. The possibilities are endless!

The plants on this list promise to be low-maintenance and to add personality and interest to your outdoor spaces. They’re also quite tough, able to withstand some temperature fluctuations and windy conditions.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic for pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA’s searchable database.

October Daphne (Hylotelephium sieboldii)

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These super-hardy succulents are ideal for filling in the sunny spaces below other, taller plants, and will keep weeds down and make a pretty green carpet in a bigger pot.

October Daphne is closely related to sedum succulents, which contain over 300 species with various different leaf shapes to choose from. They need full sun or close to it (otherwise they will get leggy), but they can withstand freezing temperatures, making them ideal for outdoor planting.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 4-9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to half-sun.
  • Soil Needs: Mother soil.

Rose

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Roses make great container plants and they will also climb beautifully if trained that way. While you might think of roses as being finicky and difficult to grow, newer cultivars and hybrid varieties mean this is much less true than it used to be.

Be sure to look for a rose labeled “easy care.” As long as you give it plenty of sun and regular watering, you’ll be surprised how little care more modern roses need.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 5-11 but depends on rose variety.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acidic.

Clematis (Clematis viticella)

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Clematis is also a beautiful climbing option for a large pot, although it will need a trellis to cling to. This plant also offers a great way to get height in your outdoor space quickly and without growing (or buying) a large tree.

There are many colors and varieties of clematis—and they are all easy to grow and produce plenty of flowers—but purple is a classic choice.

Do not confuse this plant with sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora), which is a highly invasive noxious weed (it has small white flowers).

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 4-8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained.

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

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Once established, rosemary is so tough you’ll barely ever need to think about it again (except to trim it back when it grows out of the pot you’ve put it in). It will deal well with dry conditions and will overwinter like a champ, even keeping its dark green color throughout the years.

Rosemary likes plenty of sun and will get leggy and sparse in shadier spots.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: Zone 7-11 (but some cold-hardy varieties are available).
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Light, well-draining.

Hosta (hosta)

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With pretty, giant leaves and a quite hardy disposition, hostas are ideal container plants. Keeping them in pots will also prevent deer from eating them—because deer do love their hosts!

These are shade-loving plants, so hostas will do best in a shady patio or under a potted tree that has wide boughs to protect them from the sun.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 3-9.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich potting soil.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum)

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This tough little plant doesn’t look like much most of the year. Its pretty green leaves are small and glossy, and it is inoffensive and easy to overlook. But in late winter or early spring, depending on your climate, it blooms with the most decadent-smelling white jasmine flowers, which feel extra-special since nothing else is blooming when they are.

Ideal for pots on the patio (put next to the door and enjoy the scent as you come and go), they will overwinter well in zones 8a-11a. There is also yellow-flower winter jasmine that doesn’t have a scent.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 6-10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade.
  • soil: Moist, well-draining.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

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A great porch plant, this one is another option for shadier outdoor spaces. While often hung under porch eaves, Boston ferns will grow nicely in a planter as well.

In addition to minimal sun (some indirect light is great), these ferns need moisture, so keep the soil moist and give leaves a regular mist. Other than that, this is an attractive, easy-to-care for plant.

In climates that freeze, this fern will need to be brought inside, as it won’t survive freezing or near-freezing temperatures.

Native to Florida, when planted elsewhere it can crowd other plants, so keep it in containers or pots.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 10-13.
  • Sun Exposure: Bright and indirect; sun shouldn’t shine directly on leaves for long periods.
  • soil: Needs a rich, loamy mix (no sand or pebble mixes).

String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)

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Another option for the bottom of a planter or hanging basket, this type of succulent grows quickly and easily as long as it gets plenty of sun and is relatively protected and out of major winds, so the corner of a patio or deck is ideal.

The string of pearls is so unusual and such a nice compliment to broader-leafed plants that it deserves inclusion here.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 9-12.
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, direct light.
  • soil: Sandy, dry soil that drains well.

Japanese Maple (Acer japonicum)

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Yes, technically this is a tree, but it grows slowly enough that it’s a popular container plant often seen on patios and decks in big pots.

The Japanese maple is an ideal larger plant for bigger pots and can hold its own as a statement plant. It can overwinter successfully outdoors in most climates, including those that freeze, but it will lose its leaves in winter, so keep that in mind if you use your patio in the winter months.

Be sure to opt for the Acer japonicum variety, as the Acer palmatum type of Japanese Maple is considered invasive in some Eastern US states.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 5-7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade.
  • soil: Rich, moist potting soil.

Azalea (Rhododendron)

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Many azaleas are very cold-tolerant and make ideal low-maintenance container plants that can overwinter without much care in most places.

They bloom magnificently in the spring and come in a variety of colors, leaving behind pretty leaves the rest of the season. Pick native azaleas for best results in your climate.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 5-9; some varieties hardy to zone 4.
  • Sun Exposure: Bright light to direct sun.
  • soil: Well-draining soil.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

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Lavender is hardy, grows slowly, and tolerates dry conditions once established. It does need full sun, but it overwinters well even in very cold conditions (be sure you get English lavender for the cold tolerance, as other lavender types don’t deal with cold as well).

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 5-9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or close to it.
  • soil: Dry, well-draining.

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

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You’ll often see hydrangeas in front of porches or along garden edges, but they take time to get big, so it makes sense to grow them up in a nice big pot before putting them in the ground. Alkaline soil causes pink flowers to develop while acidic soil creates blue flowers (soil pH is easier to control in a pot, another advantage), so keep that in mind.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 6-11.
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full shade.
  • soil: Rich and well-drained.

Coleus (Coleus scutellarioides)

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Coleus is another shade-loving plant with beautiful leaves, like hostas, and pairs well with them in containers.

It grows easily all summer and fall as long as it is well-watered. This one will die back in most places during colder weather except for the warmest climates.

Note that coleus is considered invasive in Hawaii.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 10-11.
  • Sun Exposure: Part to full shade.
  • soil: Well-draining.

Geraniums (Pelargonium)

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Geraniums need full sun or they get leggy and don’t bloom much, but other than that, they are very easy to grow and both leaves and flowers are showy and attractive.

Drought-tolerant, geraniums bloom all summer and into fall. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies also find their flowers very appealing.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 9-12.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • soil: Well-drained.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus)

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Mock orange blooms from spring to summer and can grow into a 12-foot by 12-foot bush, but can also be trimmed and kept in a large planter or used to make a screen in a container.

Its tiny blooms smell like orange blossoms, which is part of the plant’s appeal, but it’s also incredibly tough, tolerating dry conditions and over-pruning.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 4-8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • soil: Well-drained soil.

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

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Blueberry bushes are native to the US and produce delicious fruit—but they also make a great foliage bush, turning reddish in the fall and sporting bell-shaped flowers in the spring. They will bring pollinators to your garden and do well in the ground, as a hedge, or in a container.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 3-8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • soil: Well-drained, acidic soil.