Bright & bold container plants

What’s the new look for containers this season? Bold, beautiful combinations that sparkle with colorful personalities: big blooms, surprising foliage and “oh-wow!” tropical hues. Expand your palette this spring and reap the rewards all summer. Click ahead to meet three plants that can add a lot of punch to your containers.

Croton Codiaeum variegatum pictum

The Jackson Pollock of houseplants, croton offers outdoor containers splashy foliage in green, red, yellow, orange and black. Leaves range in shape from large almond shapes to curly or strappy and thin. Choose tall plants to stand out above the others in the container. Try popular varieties such as ‘Petra’ at left, ‘Andrew’, which has narrow green leaves with creamy white accents, speckled green-and-yellow ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’, and ‘Mammy’ whose red, green and yellow leaves twist and turn. Crotons need bright light to make their colors pop. In cold-winter regions, bring croton indoors before frost and set it in a high-light area to overwinter.

Type Tender perennial

Blooms Rarely blooms, leaves green, red, yellow, orange or black from spring through frost

Light Full sun to part shade

Size 1 to 8 ft. tall, 1 to 3 ft. wide

Cold-hardy USDA zones 9 to 10

Heat-tolerant AHS zones 12 to 1

Source Local garden centers

Tropical hibiscus Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

If jazzing up your front entryway is a summer goal (and shouldn’t it be?), turn to the tropics. Tropical hibiscus offers showy plate-size flowers that bloom in an array of brilliant, see-from-the-street colors. ‘Erin Rachel’, at left, has 5-inch flowers. Flowers come in single or double form and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. There is a hibiscus size and shape for every container: shrubby and large, trained into a tree form, or dwarf. Hibiscus like moist soil, so you may need to water every day in summer. If flowers start to drop, the plant may be too dry.

Type Tender shrub

Blooms Orange, red, yellow, pink, purple, white or swirly bicolors summer through frost

Light Full sun

Size 2 to 10 ft. tall, 2 to 8 ft. wide

Cold-hardy USDA zones 9 to 11

Heat-tolerant AHS zones 12 to 1

Source Monrovia®

Nerium oleander

Whether loose and shrubby or pruned into a tree form, oleander offers many charms for containers, including ample flower clusters and attractive evergreen foliage. Oleander produces single or double flowers that bloom in beautiful pastel and hot colors. These plants can grow as wide as they are tall, so use a large container. If you are a forgetful waterer, no worries: Oleander is drought-tolerant and forgiving. This plant can take a light frost, stands up to coastal salt conditions and is deer-resistant. Pollinators love it. ‘Petite Pink’ grows about 4 feet tall. ‘Hardy Red’, at left, is one of the most cold-hardy oleanders, good to USDA zone 8.

Type Tender shrub

Blooms Pink, rose, white or yellow summer to fall

Light Full sun to part shade

Size 4 to 20 ft. tall, 4 to 10 ft. wide

Cold-hardy USDA zones 8 to 10

Heat-tolerant AHS zones 12 to 1

Source Almost Eden

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