The beauty of container gardening is its versatility. It allows the gardener to experiment, to be eclectic, and even to be a bit non-committal. If you can’t decide on what your gardening style is, try a container!
If you live in an apartment or a condo with only a balcony, plant a container garden that fits within your small space. If you’re not sure how much time you want to commit to a garden, but still want something beautiful to look at, place a collection of planters by your front door that you can enjoy (and water) on the way out each day.
You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to creating a beautiful and bountiful container garden, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
How to Create a Thriving, Gorgeous Container Garden
- Choose your containers | Almost anything works as long as it is big enough to hold the plants and allows room for growth. Drainage holes are also important, so plants don’t get waterlogged. If your container doesn’t have a drainage hole, use a drill to make one.
- Choose your soil | High quality potting soil is essential to successful plant growth. Most nursery centers have a good selection of potting soils to fit your plants’ needs; i.e.: organic soil for vegetables. Blueberries and azaleas prefer acidic soils (often called Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron soil). Fast draining cactus soil is perfect for succulents and cacti, and it’s often recommended for citrus and palm trees too.
- Choose your supplements | Many general-purpose potting soils come formulated with fertilizer. There are fertilizers formulated for flowers, vegetables, acid loving plants, fruiting vines, citrus, etc. Remember to follow the directions carefully.
- Choose your plants | Those little sticks that come in the 6-pack of flowers or the label attached to the nursery pot contain a wealth of information regarding the light, water, and food needs of the plant as well as how high and wide a plant will get. Take a little time to get to know your space. It is in full sun or part shade? Does it get windy? Will a grouping of larger plants block the view? Maybe you want to block the view. Remember that plants will grow, so don’t pack your containers so full that your plants crowd each other. Check out our 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow from Seed for some ideas!
- Choose your watering method | Plants in containers will dry out more quickly, especially in warm or windy climates, so make sure you are watering adequately. Consider adding a drip irrigation system on a timer if you have large groupings of planters. Remember, some plants, like succulents, don’t need a lot of water. If you are not sure whether or not a plant is thirsty, look for telltale leaf drooping or do the ‘finger test’. Stick your finger an inch or two into the potting soil. If it feels dry, give the pot a good watering. Putting saucers under the pots is a good idea if you want to protect the surface on which they are placed.
Use your container garden to experiment with new plants and plant combinations. Your garden, no matter how small, should be a place of wonder, discovery, fun, and inspiration.
Get Creative with Planters
Besides traditional terra cotta or glazed ceramic pots, try:
- Vintage tool boxes and wood crates
- Fabric planters like Wooly Pockets or Grow Bags
- Tea pots
- Old boots
- Cedar or redwood boxes
Container Gardening Design Tips
- For round or square planters, plant a taller plant in the middle with lower growing plants around it.
- Add plants that trail over the sides of the planter
- Group different sizes of planters using a cohesive theme like vintage containers or pastel colors.
- Choose plant / flower colors that either coordinate or contrast with the color of the planter.
- Add accessories, colorful stones or glass, or even solar powered lighting to containers.
What to Plant in Containers
- Masses of annual flowers are always beautiful. Plant some in hanging baskets or a window box container.
- Try a dwarf citrus or stone fruit tree. Many fruiting trees come in dwarf varieties that grow to a maximum of 5-7’. Imagine having fresh lemons or peaches on your patio.
- Veggies do great in containers! Add a trellis and grow beans. Tuck lettuce and herbs in a container of pansies. Try a ‘patio’ variety of tomato this summer. You don’t need to have a large plot of land to grow your own food.
- Make the plant the star by adding a single plant that adds an architectural element like topiary trimmed rosemary bush or a single Agave.