En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - October 28, 2010

From: Phoenix, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens
Title: Looking for a summer through winter blooming container plant, for Phoenix.
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I'm in Phoenix. I'm looking for a perennial plant that will be planted in a container in a commercial setting, that is under a shaded pergola. She wants it to bloom in the winter and if carried into the summer, great. Currently has Lantana and they look too viney and has no blooms, doesn't want to use them again.


In the Native Plant Information Database on our website we have a neat feature called Recommended Species. You can use this to find native plants in your area with searchable qualifications to help you find just what you are looking for.

If you choose Arizona off of the map displayed, then narrow you search with Perennial, Part Shade and the bloom times you are seeking, you should see about 52 species.

Here are a couple of good choices from that search for you to consider and we encourage you to play with these searches on your own and take a deeper look at the variety of choices the results give you. Not knowing the size of the container you are talking about makes it tough to know exactly what might suit your needs.

The first plant that might be a good option is Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) This plant is a summer through fall and early winter bloomer. It can get quite big, stays bushy and is literally covered with big bright orange flowers. It does very well in containers and takes little water once established. It can take tough heat but will bloom well with partial shade.

The second choice would be Bouvardia ternifolia (Scarlet bouvardia) Scarlet bouvardia has a more delicate plant shape than the bushy Butterflyweed. The plant has long branches with a clump of bright red tuberous blooms at the end of each stem. This is particulariy nice in a taller container where you can let the branching extend tall and droop over the sides of the container. Again takes little water and blooms summer into late fall and early winter and is happy with partial shade, although it too can take full sun and high heat.

Lastly you might want to take a look at Tecoma stans (Yellow bells) Yellow bells is known for its habit of blooming very late into the season and will sometimes be the only yellow around in early winter. It loves a container as long as it is large. This can be a very large plant, up to 6' when planted in the ground. It has lovely shiny dark green foliage and great big yellow tubular flowers. Its shape is shrub-like and looks best unpruned until you need to cut it back which would be after it has finished blooming for the season.

One thing you might want to consider is using a combination of plants that might fit together in the container. If you plan it out, you can have a variety of species planted together to have color or at least interesting foliage year round. With one species you will always have a couple of months without blooms and many without any foliage at all. If this is an issue and suspecting that it would be, as this is for commercial application, make sure to think about whether or not you need the plant or plants to be evergreen all year round as the examples we have given you are not. Combinations of blooming plants and some evergreen foliage might be just the solution you are looking for.


Asclepias tuberosa

Bouvardia ternifolia

Tecoma stans




More Container Gardens Questions

Plants for hanging flower boxes from Austin
July 27, 2013 - I have two long flower boxes 17" x 15" x 25 feet long one on the north side of the apt and one on the south made of metal suspended about four feet from the ground. One will get the morning sun and ...
view the full question and answer

Ants in outdoor plants in Austin
July 30, 2011 - Live in Austin. The problem is THIS. Ants have invaded our outside potted plants- mandevilla, begonia , lemon tree and violas. The colonies are devouring the roots it appears. Please give suggestions ...
view the full question and answer

Native small tree or shrub for container in San Angelo, Texas
July 01, 2010 - We live in San Angelo TX and are looking for some type of a bush/tree that will grow in a pot in a shaded area..we would like something that would grow to be about 5-6 feel tall and be rather narrow.....
view the full question and answer

Hanging container for west-facing house in Austin TX
March 03, 2014 - I'd like to put a hanging container in front of my house. The front of my house faces west and gets very hot in the summer time, with full sun in the afternoon/evening. What native Texan plants could...
view the full question and answer

Failure of Gerbera daisies in hanging basket
July 08, 2008 - I had perennial Gerbera daisies in a hanging basket, the flowers died,I was not sure whether to remove just the flower or to go from the flower to the stem at the plants main stem? There is nothing re...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center