Patios / Planting

Plant ideas for your patio

By The Secret Gardener

The patio is often the central garden feature, but it doesn't just have to be functional for dining and barbecuing. It can also be a haven for plants.

Grow plants in pots or create planting pockets in the patio itself by removing paving stones. This will softens the harshness of the stone and hard landscaping and make your patio lush and green.

Here are some of the top plants which are ideal for growing in containers and embellishing your patio.


It's great to get some height in the garden and on the patio. Smaller trees provide height and privacy without growing too large.

One of my favourites is the kilmarnock willow (salix caprea pendula). It's a beautiful weeping willow that's ideal for growing in containers. It doesn't grow too big and obtrusive and its arching branches bear lovely green leaves. Plus, during late winter silver catkins appear along the branches that then turn a striking yellow colour.

Another favourite is a cherry tree and there are two types for patios. First, the weeping cherry (prunus pendula rosea) which has spectacular pink blossom. And the second is the pencil or flagpole cherry (prunus serrula erecta) which grows into a thin, upright shape. It works well in containers or in a gap in the paving.

Other great trees for containers include acers or Japanese maples, which have intricate leaves and turn beautiful fiery colours in autumn. Or try bay trees, which come trained into lots of different shapes: think pyramids and lollipops. Use them in pairs for structure by placing one at either side of the back door or at the start of the garden path.



Climbing plants are perfect for growing around the patio area. Many patios are up against a wall, perhaps the house, shed or garage, and you can transform these bare stone areas with colourful climbing plants.

Honeysuckle is a popular choice because it's semi-evergreen, making it ideal for year-round colour. It also has delicate flowers and berries, but its most popular feature is the intoxicating fragrance. Look for the variety called Halliana, which has white or lemon-yellow flowers and a strong scent.

Another great garden climber is jasmine (jasminum officinale). It has stunning white flowers and a myrrh scent. Or try pineapple broom (cytisus battandieri) which has lovely tubular clusters of yellow flowers and smells of fresh pineapple.

You can plant climbers up against a wall by taking out a few slabs. Make sure there is plenty of soil for the roots to grow. Climbers are better in the ground than in containers, because they quickly outgrow pots.


Shrubs are great for containers or planted in the ground, perhaps around the edge of the patio or in planting pockets where you have taken slabs out. Try growing hardy shrubs that will keep their structure over winter.

One of my favourites is Japanese azaleas. They have quite tight roots which makes them ideal for containers and they need ericaceous (acidic) compost. They are evergreen for colour all year round, but they look especially show-stopping in spring with vibrant flowers in white, pink, red or purple.

Box plants are also great for containers. Many people like trimming these into topiary shapes such as balls, pyramids and spirals. Hebes are also great choices. Hebe Midsummer has long purple flower spires with white tips, and Hebe elliptica variegata has purple flowers and spectacular evergreen foliage in gold and green.

All of these plants are ideal to add a touch of colour to the patio.


Meet the author

The Secret Gardener

The Secret Gardener is an award-winning landscaper, specialising in bringing colour and ambience to any space.

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