Getting started with (urban) container gardening

Philadelphia, PA

I am about to start a container garden on my patio in Philadelphia (zone 7b). My patio is on the east side of the house, with three-story buildings blocking the early morning sun. I'd consider the spot part-shade, but there is so much concrete around that the neighborhood can get unnaturally hot in the summer. Does anyone have any experience with spots like this? What plants do you recommend for part-sun, but potentially hot, spaces?

I'm mostly interested in perennials that I can leave out over the winter, so I'm looking at plants that are hardy to 5a or lower. Because of the heat, I'm also trying to look for species that are comfortable up to zone 9. In your experience, are these good rules of thumb?

Any suggestions (particularly for trees or tall shrubs) are much appreciated.


Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

Michael, if you live in zone 7b, that's the plant zone you need to buy plants for. Zone 9 plants will not live in your zone 7b, unless you bring them into warm conditions. Do a google search for zone 7/8 plants and choose from those. Blueberries come to mind and do well in your area, as do strawberries. Research will save you time and money.

Philadelphia, PA

Thank you, Kay. I might try some blueberries.

I read on another blog ( that zone 7 plants in containers will actually die if left outside in zone 7 winters, since they are not planted in the ground, so I need to get things that are actually hardier than 7b. I've done some research and found some species that are hardy for zones 3-9, 4-9, etc. Should I not worry about adding zones to account for heat? (I realize the hardiness zones are based on frost dates, so maybe they're irrelevant when thinking about summer sun?)

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

My son container-gardens in Virginia, and yes - his plants go dormant in the fall, but return with gusto in the spring. I wouldn't worry about the heat factor, as long as you can provide adequate water. Any plant will die, in short order, without enough water.

My son grows beautiful roses, Blueberries, Strawberries and I can't think what else, in full sun until 2 p.m., on a balcony, which gets very hot. Talk to your local nursery (not box store people) and see what they recommend. Since they cannot afford to drag plants in every winter, they would know what will live in your winters. You can also buy blankets from the thrift store and throw them over your plants to keep them from freezing, but don't forget - WATER is a must!

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

I do a lot of container gardening in zone 7a. Sometimes plants in pots will freeze in this zone but not often if the plants are suited to the zone. I have a wonderful dwarf blueberry that I grow in pots and highly recommend:

Roses are great in containers. They are generally as tough as nails. I have several that due to circumstances beyond my control sat for a year in small 4 inch nursery pots waiting for transplanting. This included going through a winter with temps occasionally down into the teens.

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