By Charlie Nardozzi

The popularity of container gardening continues to grow. I’ve seen people grow plants just about anywhere—from bathtubs to old barbeque grills.

According to the National Gardening Survey, almost 30 million people participated in container gardening in 2005. Plant breeders have responded to this interest by creating dwarf varieties of plants with season-long color that can be grown in containers.

With new plants, new containers and new technologies, container gardening is easier than ever. Now, the biggest challenge for many gardeners is deciding what to plant. Look for these striking container plants in garden centers this spring.

“My Monet” Weigela

Here’s a common landscape shrub that just got a makeover. Weigela is a hardy, adaptable, spring-flowering shrub that produces tube-shaped flowers in a range of colors from white to red. However, weigelas are huge shrubs, and after blooming, their green foliage is nondescript for the rest of the summer.

Now a new dwarf variety with variegated leaves gives this old standard a boost. “My Monet” grows only 12 to 18 inches tall, making it an excellent container plant. The new spring foliage is bright pink and blends well with the rosy pink flowers. The leaves mature to green edged in white in summer.

“Mocca Mix” Nonstop Tuberous Begonias

Tuberous begonias are no longer just your grandma’s flowers. They have become more popular partly due to the introduction of a continuous flowering line called the “nonstop hybrids.” Unlike traditional varieties, nonstop tuberous begonias bloom from early summer until frost without skipping a beat, and they tolerate the heat well. For fun you can even eat the flower petals! The new “Mocca Mix” features five different flower colors on plants with coffee-brown foliage. If you want to overwinter the plants, dig the tubers in fall and store them in a cool, dark basement.

Black and Gold Cannas

Tropical plants have been popular for a number of years—none more so than canna lilies. The new twist with cannas is colorful foliage. Tropicanna Black and Tropicanna Gold feature unusual colored leaves and bright flowers. Tropicanna Black has purple-black leaves and vivid red flowers. Tropicanna Gold has golden yellow flowers and green- and yellow-striped leaves.

These cannas grow 4 to 6 feet tall in containers, but because they’re tropical, the bulbs need to be dug and stored in fall in areas where the ground freezes in winter.

“Inca Sun” Brugmansia 

Gardeners know of angel’s trumpet or Brugmansia as a tropical tree that produces large, fragrant, pendulous flowers in summer. Although not hardy in most of the country, they look great planted as annuals in large containers on decks and patios. However, most Brugmansias go through alternating periods of vegetative growth and flowering, which reduces the floral show in summer.

Brugmansia “Inca Sun” solves some of these problems. This new dwarf plant begins flowering when it’s only 2 feet tall and only grows to an ultimate height of 4 to 6 feet tall. It features fragrant, yellow-peach flowers that bloom continuously all summer.

Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker, and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn. All materials courtesy of the National Gardening Association.