Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia): This exotic tropical show-off is long-lived, but it absolutely must be wintered in an above-freezing, sheltered place. Zone 11
Phormium tenax, all forms: These tough plants are design exclamation marks in the garden. In coastal gardens they will winter outdoors, but inland, move into a cool greenhouse in early fall. Zone 9
Mandevilla (Dipladenia): This family of climbing vines offers a spectacle of flowers, generally in shades of deep pink or white. The shiny leaves are evergreen. It likes full sun, grows vigorously and needs something to climb on. I winter mine in my cool greenhouse. Zone 11
Coleus varieties (Solenostemon scutellaroides): Water them regularly for summer-long beauty. I particularly like ‘The Line’ (chartreuse leaves with a dark-purple centre stripe), ‘Sunset’ (deep salmon-orange) and ‘Magenta Frill’ (big, tall, in-your-face, glowing magenta with an extremely serrated edge marked with light green and ivory splashes). Take cuttings for next year.
Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’: This densely lanceolate-leaved, fast-growing trailer snuggles up to coleus and strobilanthes beautifully, picking up these plants’ purple or violet hues. Easy to propagate, cuttings will root in a glass of water. With its small pink blooms, it looks great shaped into a fluffy indoor plant, or as a cascading filler in hanging containers.
Elephant’s ear (Alocasia) or Colocasia esculenta: Depending on variety, the lush, gigantic, heart-shaped leaves of these plants will quickly grow so large a child standing under them can make-believe he is in a tropical jungle. Pure drama. In winter, move it to a place that stays above freezing. Zone 9-11
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’ and ‘Margarita’): These two vines have striking purplish-black and chartreuse foliage respectively. They make great filler plants, performing well in full sun and partial or full shade. Treat as annuals or dig and store tubers as you would for dahlias.
Zone 9 Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides): This vigorous green twiner can grow two to three metres in a season. In moss baskets it will climb up, then cascade downward. The potato vine produces clusters of starry, white, fragrant flowers (which look like potato flowers) all summer. This, however, is not an edible plant. If the container is kept in a reasonably warm place, the plant will winter well on the Coast. S. jasminoides ‘Variegatum’ has highly ornamental gold and green foliage. Zone 10
Hydrangeas: Small plants make good container plants. ‘Mme. Emile Mouillère’ is a beautiful white hydrangea that will bring many compliments as its inflorescences slowly fade to dusty rose. Hydrangeas do better in containers kept out of the hot afternoon sun and well watered. Zone 6
Roses: ‘Pink Dream’ or ‘Flower Carpet Apple Blossom’ make reliable, showy container plants. ‘The Fairy’ also makes a long-flowering container rose, and ‘Fame’ blooms all summer, despite mistreatment. Remember, roses need plenty of water, fertilizer, bug-checking and deadheading. Zone 6-11