21 Best Plants for Patios

coleus plants on a patio

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Plants for patios can make an outdoor space feel more inviting and welcoming. Depending on what type of plants you choose, they can carve out a tropical retreat, a formal entertaining spot, a family-friendly area, or a bird and butterfly zone. Whether your patio basks in the sun all day or functions as a shady retreat surrounded by trees, there's a perfect bloom to refresh your open-air room. The right plants will do well as container gardens while others can be planted in the ground to add an element of privacy screening around your patio.

Here are 21 of the best plants for a patio that will make your outdoor oasis burst with greenery, color, and texture.

Warning

Some of the listed plants are toxic to either animals or humans. If you have pets or small children at home, please confirm the safety of your chosen plants by visiting Poison.orgASPCA, or the California Poison Control System.

  • 01 of 21

    Croton

    Croton Plants

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    You may see croton plants (Codiaeum variegatum) in the houseplant section of the garden center, but they make excellent patio plants and will grow much larger with outdoor sun and rain exposure. The leathery rainbow-hued leaves thrive in full sun and only require moderate watering.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 11a-12b
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full, partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining, acidic
    • Mature Size: 3-8 ft. tall, 3-6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 02 of 21

    Pentas

    Graffiti Pink Pentas

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    Few plants have the pollinator appeal of the free-flowering pentas plant (Pentas lanceolata). Cheerful star-shaped and nectar-rich flowers bloom in fat, colorful clusters all summer long, You may see pentas in the garden store under other common names, such as star flower, Egyptian Star Flower, or Star Cluster.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, pink, lavender, red
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile with good drainage, mildly acidic
    • Mature Size: 24-36 in.
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 03 of 21

    Lantana

    Lantana Flowers

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    Lantana plants (Lantana camara) have suffered a bad rap as being invasive in warm areas, but improved cultivars like "New Gold" that are fruitless reduce the plant's ability to spread. Plants bloom continuously in warm, sunny weather, and exhibit drought resistance, especially in larger patio containers.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7a-11a
    • Flower Color Varieties: Mix of red, orange, yellow, blue, white, pink
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, neutral pH
    • Mature Size: 6 ft. high and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 04 of 21

    Coleus

    Coleus Plants

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    There's one very good reason to love coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides). The explosion of new cultivars on the market over the past few years means there are many leaf colors to match any garden design. Grow coleus in some sun or shade, but keep it well-watered for best growth. Deadhead flower spikes to keep plants bushy, or leave them to attract hummingbirds to the patio.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Blue, white, or lavender
    • Light: Part to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, loose, well-drained, and slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 6-36 in. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 05 of 21

    Bromeliad

    Bromeliad Plants

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    The strappy tropical leaves of the bromeliad (Bromeliaceae) are a fun patio accent, whether or not your plants decide to produce a bloom. Plants usually fade after blooming, but you can propagate more by repotting the pups that form around the mother plant. They're typically grown indoors as houseplants, but they may do well in warm weather outdoors in pots.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, green, purple, orange, yellow
    • Light: Bright, indirect light
    • Soil Needs: Fast-draining, acidic potting soil
    • Mature Size: Varies
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 06 of 21

    Caladium

    Caladium Container

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    Not many patio plants will put on a great show in full shade, but caladiums (Caladium spp.) do so happily. One thing caladiums don't like is cold weather. The bulbs will grow slowly or not at all in cool soil, and then spring to life seemingly overnight when summer temps sizzle. Average water needs and a pest-free disposition make caladiums an easy addition to the container garden.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Green, pink, white, red
    • Light: Full to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 12–30 in. tall, 12–24 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 07 of 21

    New Guinea Impatiens

    New Guinea Impatiens

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    Downy mildew disease has turned many gardeners away from impatiens, but New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are unaffected by this malady. Place containers of these colorful and profuse blooms in a shady part of the patio protected from the afternoon sun, and keep plants moist at all times.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-12
    • Flower Color Varieties: Orange, pink, red, white, purple
    • Light: Full or partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 12–18 in. tall, 6–9 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
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  • 08 of 21

    Heliotrope

    Heliotrope

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    What's better, the sweet cherry-vanilla scent of heliotrope (Heliotropium), or the showy violet blossom clusters? This low-maintenance flower is a great container plant and it's not prone to any serious diseases. The plant benefits from six hours of sun so it will need to stay watered so the soil is evenly moist but never waterlogged.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, lavender, purple
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy, and neutral pH
    • Mature Size: 1-4 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 09 of 21

    Million Bells

    Million Bells

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    Million bells (Calibrachoa) give you all of the showy tubular blooms of petunias, without the bother of the tobacco budworm that often plagues petunia blooms. Unlike petunias, million bells bloom prolifically in high temperatures and full sun. But if you live in a dry climate, revive your plants by misting them when the sun goes down. Add them to the edge of a patio urn or hanging basket, where they will cascade and trail attractively over the sides.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink, yellow, red, violet, white, blue, magenta, bronze
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining, acidic
    • Mature Size: 3-9 in. tall and 6-24 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes (mostly, but not always)
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  • 10 of 21

    Wax Begonia

    Begonia Patio Plants

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    From the popular wax begonias (Begoniceae) to more complex tuberous begonias, few plants tolerate such a wide variety of growing conditions. Fleshy stems help patio begonias tolerate drought, and plants are equally happy in sun or shade, but never put them in direct harsh sunlight.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, pink, red, bicolored
    • Light: Full sun or part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 6-12 in.
    • Deer Resistant: Yes (not always, though)
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  • 11 of 21

    Hibiscus

    Hibiscus Flowers

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    Jumbo blooms and neon bright colors make the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinensis) a patio favorite. Just be sure to provide plenty of sunshine and water to keep the bold blossoms coming until fall. The tropical hibiscus is very sensitive to cold temperatures, looking its best in the 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit range, and shutting down when temps drop below 50.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Various, including white, red, pink, yellow, orange
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well, moist-drained, neutral to acidic
    • Mature Size: 3-10 ft. tall and 2-8 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
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  • 12 of 21

    Ornamental Pepper

    Ornamental Peppers

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    Move over flowers and foliage, because the brilliant fruits of ornamental peppers (Capsicum annuum) shine as brightly as any blooms on a hot summer day. Ornamental peppers are ready to grow on your patio as soon as the weather is right for growing tomatoes. Although ornamental peppers are small plants with small root balls, they grow well in large pots that don't dry out too quickly. Plant them at the container's edge, in front of a tall spiky plant like purple millet, and enjoy the rainbow of colors.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Color Varieties: Varies, including red, purple, yellow, orange, black, or white
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy, slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 6 in. to 3 ft.
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 13 of 21

    Foxtail Fern

    Foxtail Fern

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    Foxtail ferns (Asparagus aethiopicus) add a fun sculptural accent to patio containers and hanging baskets, looking like a Medusa-inspired gathering of bright green plumes. Plant this perennial evergreen in partial shade, and keep it constantly moist.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Does not flower
    • Light: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide 
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 14 of 21

    Creeping Jenny

    Creeping Jenny Plants

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    Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), also known as moneywort, is the perfect patio plant for container edging, ground covers, hanging baskets, or anywhere you want a splash of chartreuse foliage. The flowers are tiny and short-lived. The plants like constant moisture and fare better in partial sun than in stronger afternoon sun, which can bleach the leaves.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining sandy, loamy, or clay, acid, alkaline, or neutral
    • Mature Size: 2-4 in. tall, 12-18 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 15 of 21

    Pelargonium

    Zonal Geraniums

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    Also known as a zonal or regal geranium, the appearance of pelargoniums (Geraniaceae) in garden centers in late spring seems to set off a planting frenzy that coincides with Mother's Day. If you decide to gift some tropical pelargoniums to Mom for her patio, tell her to grow them in full sun, water regularly, and feed monthly. Check out 'Aristo Black Beauty,' with deep purple flowers with a pink picotee edge.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-12
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, purple, pink, magenta orange, salmon, white, bicolored
    • Light: Full light, tolerates light shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium-moisture, well-drained soil, slightly acidic
    • Mature Size: 5-36 in. tall, depending on variety
    • Deer Resistant: Sometimes
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  • 16 of 21

    Cannas

    Canna Lily

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    Cannas (Cannaceae) command attention wherever they grow, and the taller varieties like 'Giant Durban' make great screening plants for the patio. Cannas are very hungry and thirsty plants, so keep them very moist and feed them with a balanced plant fertilizer to help them reach their potential.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, pink, cream, white; solid color or with contrasting spots
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining, acidic
    • Mature Size: 1.5–8 ft. tall, 1.5–6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 17 of 21

    Purple Fountain Grass

    Purple Fountain Grass

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    An urn full of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) waving merrily in the breeze is one of the easiest ways to add instant texture to a bland patio setting. The plants look gorgeous as standalone specimens, but also make handsome partners with trailing plants like the sweet potato vine. Though it's low-maintenance, keep the plant away from windy areas, and it may need staking to prevent full flopping.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Burgundy red
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist but well-drained, neutral to acidic
    • Mature Size: 3–5 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 18 of 21

    Golden Bamboo

    Bamboo Patio Plant

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    Golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is a stunning privacy plant that sometimes forgets its manners when it invades the garden with its rapidly growing rhizomes. This most popular type of bamboo grows quickly and tall, reaching around 20 feet in height. But there are even taller bamboo plants, such as black bamboo which can reach heights of 30 feet.

    Smaller plants, such as heavenly bamboo grow to 7 feet and may be a better choice for patio container gardens. Another container garden alternative would be the smaller bamboo variety Pleioblastus chino 'Variegatus,' which grows about 4 feet tall. Use a container at least 18 inches wide and deep, and water frequently. Bamboo likes some shade in the hottest part of the day.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Rarely flowers
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, neutral to acidic
    • Mature Size: 12–20 ft. tall, 12-25 ft. wide (clumps of canes), 1–2 in. thick (individual golden bamboo canes)
    • Deer Resistant: Yes (though not all of the time)
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  • 19 of 21

    Dwarf Alberta Spruce

    Dwarf Alberta Spruce

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    If you're craving an evergreen container specimen for the patio, consider the tidy habit of the dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca), which maintains a perfect conical form without trimming or shaping. Plants are hardy to zone 2 in the ground and may survive the winter in a container in a sheltered area.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Does not flower
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, acidic
    • Mature Size: 6-8 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 20 of 21 below.
  • 20 of 21

    Gardenia

    Gardenia Bush

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    Long cultivated for its heady fragrance, the Gardenia spp. is a Southern plant, and often grown as a houseplant, but you can also grow these delicate white flowers as a patio specimen. Gardenia roots don't like to be disturbed, so choose a large container that will be a long-term home for this plant. Add mulch to keep roots evenly moist and prune after flowering.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, cream
    • Light: Full sun or partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil, peat-based potting mix for containers
    • Mature Size: 5-6 ft. tall and spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
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  • 21 of 21

    Boxwood

    Boxwood Planters

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    An elegant boxwood (Buxus) shrub, with its dense leaves that easily trim into a neat silhouette, provides an air of formality for a patio. Boxwood comes as shrubs or small trees, but your best bet for the patio would be dwarf varieties, such as "Petite Pillar," which maintains a tidy shape in containers. Larger cultivars like "Green Tower" will also make excellent landscaping accents or screening plants.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Green and yellow
    • Light: Full, partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, neutral to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 2-8 ft. tall (varies by species)
    • Deer Resistant: Yes