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The 8 Best Trailing Plants for Container Gardens

trailing verbena and creeping jenny ted lare design & build

One of the best but often underrated elements for containers are trailing plants. Whether it’s hanging baskets or large patio pots, there’s always a little thrill in seeing plants tumbling over the edge, like they’re sneaking off to find even more places in your yard to grow. 

Trailing plants can really elevate style for pots and containers. Generally, most of the trailing plants people use for pots or containers are considered annual plants in our hardiness zone in Iowa. While all of these would be annuals if they were left in containers outside through the winter, most of them are technically tender perennials, so they could be brought indoors as houseplants for the winter if you wanted. 

We’ve picked eight beautiful and reliable trailing plants to grow in your container garden this summer. 

Flowering Trailing Plants

Trailing plants that also produce flowers work twice as hard as other plants. They bloom profusely while also cascading down the sides of planters or spreading to cover a lot of ground.

1. Calibrachoa, or Million Bells, is one of the hardest working trailing flowering plants that exist. Calibrachoa comes in what must be nearly a million different colors. It flowers all summer profusely, doesn’t require deadheading, and makes a beautiful cascade over the sides of pots and planters. It doesn’t trail down a long way, but if you have several plants in one hanging basket, they usually fill out enough to hide the basket itself. Calibrachoa is technically a tender perennial.

calibrachoa and lobelia annuals ted lare design & build

2. Trailing lobelia is another tough and long-lasting flowering trailing plant with a more delicate texture. It comes in shades of pink, white, purple, and blue, and the small flowers bloom along fine dark green stems and leaves. It will trail quite a ways down the outside of a pot, up to 12-14 inches, and if you have enough plants in the pot, it will create quite a dense curtain. Lobelia is technically a tender perennial. 

3. Trailing verbena is another flowering option that is also quite drought tolerant. They feature clusters of pretty flowers in reds, pinks, whites, and purples. Trailing verbena doesn’t hang down quite as far as others, but it does create a beautiful mound that tumbles over the edges of the pot it’s grown in. Trailing verbena is also a tender perennial.          

verbena and petunia ted lare design & build

4. Wave petunia is the queen of hanging baskets and flowering trailing plants. Their large blooms are just stunning, and they produce them profusely all summer long. They’re the plants that most cities use in their vast hanging baskets on the street because they will essentially create what looks like a giant ball of flowers. They’ll be so dense you usually can’t even see the pot. They do need frequent fertilizer to keep blooming. Wave petunias are a tender perennial.

Non-Flowering Trailing Plants

1. Sweet potato vine is a favorite foliage trailing plant because of its large leaves and vibrant colors. Sweet potato vine is usually a super dark purple, almost black, or vibrant chartreuse green. There are palmate-shaped leaves or heart-shaped leaves. This stunning vine will trail quite a long way over the edge of a planter. Sweet potato vine is a tender perennial. If your sweet potato vine is an edible variety, it may also produce a sweet potato by the end of the season!

potato vine and dichondra ted lare design & build

2. Silver falls dichondra is on the opposite side of the spectrum with tiny little leaves. It’s a pale silvery green, and the leaves have a soft texture. They’ll trail down a long way from a container, up to 48 inches. Silver Falls is a tender perennial.

3. Vinca vine, or common periwinkle, is another excellent foliage vine. They do flower, but not very profusely, so they’re usually used for foliage. Variegated varieties are very common, with pretty heart-shaped leaves that have medium green centers and white edges. The vines may trail down as long as 18 inches. Vinca vine is a tender perennial.

lysmachia ted lare design & build

4. Creeping Jenny also has smaller texture leaves, but not as small as Silver Falls. Creeping Jenny leaves are round and vibrant chartreuse green. The vines may grow as long as 18 inches. This plant is a perennial, hardy to zone 3, but only if it gets planted in the ground. Some cultivars can be invasive if planted in the ground, so be sure you use a non-invasive variety for that. It will also grow fine in a pot in the house for the winter. 

Add some whimsy and excitement to your outdoor planters and containers this year with any of these great trailing plants. Stop by the garden center to check out what’s in stock right now.


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