Top Ten Outdoor Pot Plants That Are Hard To Kill

I am truly shocking with plants.  There's no doubt about it, this is not an unproven fact.  It's the honest to God truth that I am death to all things green, the Harbinger Of Doom to botanicals, the Hand Maid's Commander to horticulture.  Any plant entering my home is on a suicide mission.  I'm not proud of this fact.  I've tried hard in the past to improve my skills in this area by setting watering schedules and regularly replanting.  Unfortunately, my innate laziness and selective memory when it comes to priorities has always let me down and I've put more withered leaves into my recycling bin than I'd care to mention.  Let's just say that the likelihood of me ever being asked to demonstrate my expertise to Monty Don on Gardeners Question Time is very, very small.

My now green courtyard.  Who knows how long this will last?

My now green courtyard.  Who knows how long this will last?

One of the reasons that we bought our home was that the garden was extremely easy to upkeep.  Lawn, hedge.  That's basically it.  A few random Leylandi, a patio and some decking.  We've got a brick wall surrounding the majority of the space and take full advantage of our neighbours trailing plants which hang, unaware that they are entering danger territory, into our back garden.  The main seating area in front of the pergolas is a sensory overload of greenery including the lawn, hedge and fields.  The courtyard which is to the back of the house, however, is completed enclosed.  Aside from the weeds that poke up from between the flagstones, it's as barren as the wasteland in Mad Max.  

I've recently repurposed the courtyard, previously used as a dining area, into an outdoor cinema (weather permitting obvs) and seating area.  It's the perfect space for an outdoor room but it's missing that vital green ingredient.  Any room, inside or out, needs texture and layers to make it work.  It needs contrast and focal points to bring it to life.  So what to do?  The answer is obviously pot plants.  And in abundance.  

This was a conundrum.  Naturally, I had absolutely no idea of what to buy.  Therefore, I did what I am prone to doing in every confusing situation where my knowledge is limited.  I asked my Instagram followers.  Which plants can live in a pot, need barely any attention and can survive ownership of the worst horticulturalist in Yorkshire?

As always, I was inundated with responses, from flowers to evergreens to trees.  I've picked out my Top Ten of the suggestions given, based on the fact that the selection below is of the absolute lowest maintenance.  Much as I love the idea of beautiful floral pots and glorious colours in my garden, I know myself well enough that I wouldn't be able to keep it up and the chances of survival for any unaware plant with proper petals would be minimal.  Anything that goes into my garden needs to be properly hardcore.

Nearly all photography and the majority of the captions below come from the absolute experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (click on the links to find out more about the individual plants) who know what they are talking about.  Unlike me.


Fatsia Japonica (Caster Oil Plant)

A handsome, tropical-looking, evergreen shrub that's deservedly popular. It has huge, glossy, deep green palmate leaves and in autumn, produces showy panicles of spherical, creamy white flowers, which are often followed by round, black fruit. Try it in an exotic-style garden, where the large leaves team well with bamboos and grasses, or as a focial point for a shady corner.  

Can survive in everything from full sun to full shade, as long as it's sheltered.


Hebe Rakaiensis (Shrubby Veronica)

One of the most popular hebes, this has clusters of large, white flowers in early and mid-summer and glossy, fresh, green leaves. This tough, rounded, evergreen shrub forms a neat hummock, and will lend structure to a mixed border or oriental-style garden.

It is salt and pollution tolerant and is therefore suitable for city or coastal gardens.  Needs minimal pruning and can grow to over a metre high.  This particular plant was a very popular choice from the Instagram gardening community.


Lavandula Angustifolia (Hidcote Lavender)

A compact form of the popular English lavender, named after plantsman Laurence Johnston's famous Arts and Crafts garden in Gloucestershire. It produces dense spikes of fragrant, deep violet summer flowers above slender, aromatic, silvery-grey leaves. It is possibly the best lavender for edging paths and borders and the aromatic foliage perfumes the air if you brush against it.

It also works well in a gravel garden, or clipped into a formal sphere for a contemporary look. The flower-spikes are highly attractive to bees and other nectar-loving insects.

I LOVE lavender and have pot planted this in abundance.


Sedum (Hylotelephium Telephium)

The fleshy green leaves have a purple tint when they first appear and this becomes more pronounced as they mature until they turn almost beetroot purple. The bright pink flowers emerge in tight clusters late in the summer and will stay on the plant for many months, although their colour will fade.

This versatile perennial is a perfect filler plant for a sunny, well-drained spot. A valuable late source of nectar for butterflies and bees, the dried flowerheads provide structure and colour in the winter garden.



A shrubby evergreen, with highly aromatic leaves that are traditionally used for flavouring meats including lamb, pork and chicken. A wonderful addition to the kitchen garden, they also make fine ornamental plants and can be grown as a low, informal hedge - ideally where you can brush past them and release their delicious scent.

My Rosemary bush is one of the few pot plants in my garden to have survived since we moved in.  There's nothing more satisfying than going into your own garden to pick herbs rather than paying £15 for three sprigs in Waitrose.


Grasses (Carex Testacea)

From spring to autumn the pale olive-green leaves of this ornamental grass turn a warm coppery-orange. In midsummer it bears small, brown flower spikes. Although it will take some shade, it colours up best in full sun. Grow it among other grasses or perennials, as a specimen plant, or in a large pot.

I've bought this particular one for my own courtyard garden and it's looking great.  Apparently it grows super fast.


Bellflower Campanula (Poscharskyana)

This low-growing, spreading campanula makes ideal groundcover and looks wonderful scrambling between pavings or up a wall, or as an edging plant. It has masses of small, star-shaped, blue flowers, which appear over a long time in summer and early autumn. Once established it can be extremely vigorous, so avoid planting it beside smaller, less robust plants.

I LOVE this plant.  We always had it in our garden when we were children growing up in Somerset, the purple is gorgeous.


Garden Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

An old favourite herb for adding to stews and stuffings. It has bright purple flowers in late spring and early summer and aromatic, grey-green leaves. This bushy, creeping thyme is an excellent ground cover plant. Perfect for a sunny rock garden or for edging paths and borders, the small flowers, which appear in late spring and early summer, are very attractive to bees.

The scented foliage can be used fresh, dried or frozen to add flavour to a wide range of dishes. Keep well trimmed to allow new growth to come through.


Strobilanthes (Brunetthy)

A very attractive dark leaved shrub which is suitable for growing in the open garden or patio planters to provide an attractive contrast to paler plants.  It has almost black foliage, creating the perfect background for it's bright white flowers during summer. It looks lovely planted with brightly coloured flowers.  Delicate, pointed leaves cover the plant from top to bottom on strong, self-supporting stems.

Ideal for a sunny or partially shady spot in the garden including beds, borders and containers. (info and photo courtesy of Gardening Express)


Hosta (Plantain Lily - Francee)

A smart hosta, with heart-shaped, olive-green, puckered leaves beautifully offset by neat white margins. Spikes of trumpet-shaped, lavender-blue flowers appear in July and August and, provided they are protected from slug and snail damage, the leaves retain their freshness until the end of September.

This pretty plaintain makes a statement on its own in a large container, or try it as a bright full stop in a shady area under deciduous trees.






So my plants are potted, my courtyard is no longer a barren landscape and greenery abounds.  I'm hoping that they'll make it through the summer and I will make real efforts to ensure they're well watered and looked after.  Plants are an essential part of my indoor decor and they are just as important for the exterior.  Now all I have to do is to keep the cat, who is drawn like a moth to a flame when it comes to anything even vaguely soil based, as far away as possible.  So I can sit and enjoy my very own version of Kew Gardens with a chilled glass of wine and a bowl of crisps.  Living the dream, cat poo free.


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