Container Gardening


three blue pots of different sizes filled with a variety of yellow flowers

I thought I would spend some time talking about a favorite subject of mine, the container garden.  This was a special request from my sister, Carrice, who lives in a condo and has limited gardening space.

There are three important steps; the container, the soil and the plants.  Lets start with the container.  Anything that  can have holes drilled in it can be a container.  Use your imagination!  I have used tool boxes, wheelbarrows, beds, wash tubs and much more.  You can also go to your local nursery and buy some pots, too!  I think groupings look best if you use an odd number of pots, (think throw pillows on the couch or bed) usually 3 or 5.  They can be different sizes and colors as long as they compliment each other.  Make sure there are drain holes.  This is VERY important as you don’t want your plants to rot.  You may need to drill some holes or just use a screw driver and bang on it with a hammer.  OK, now we have our containers, lets put some pebbles, broken clay or marbles on the bottom to help with drainage and then move on to our potting soil.

Select a high-quality potting soil that contains additional ingredients like peat, vermiculite or perlite.  If you are a composter (my next blog) add about a third of your own rich soil.  Compost is full of beneficial soil microorganisms that can help prevent disease causing spores and bacteria.  Most potting soils now come with a slow release fertilizer added to the mix – even better.  You should also consider using a water-absorbing polymer.  These little beads can hold up to 10 times their original size.  I soak mine in a bowl before I mix them in with the soil.  You only need about a tablespoon per pot – a little goes a long way.

Now lets talk about the fun part – selecting the plants!  Decide if your containers are going to be in the sun or shade, you will want to buy your plants based on this information.  I could give you a bunch of suggestions but each zone is different.  I would suggest you go to your local nursery and ask the helpful staff to recommend some appropriate plants for your location.  I don’t follow any plant color rules.  I pick what pleases me and makes me happy.  Sometimes I’ll do a pink and purple container, sometimes it might be yellow and red.  My wheelbarrow has every color under the sun.  Now, lets put our selections in our containers.

I call this The Thriller, The Filler and The Spiller.  The Thriller is the star of the show.  It should be the tallest, boldest or most interesting.  (think center piece)  This could be a foliage plant such as an elephant ear or ornamental grass or it could be a rose bush or small tree.  Plant the Thriller in the center of the container or towards the back.  Next comes the Filler, this is going to be the burst of color surrounding the Thriller.  I tend to use annuals that come in the 4″ pots so I can crowd them in and they give the longest color for the season.  (you can also trade them out for the next season)  The last plant is the Spiller.  These are the plants that are going to spill over the pot and soften the edges.  It gives the container the finished look.  Lantana, purslane, verbena, ivy or sweet potato vine are a few plants that are perfect for this job.

Now lets put a slow release fertilizer on top of the soil and add a top dressing to your containers.  You can use mulch, (they have some great designer colors now)  or pebbles.  This will help keep the moisture in and the weeds out.

Keeping your containers moist is very important.  During the summer months some containers may need to be watered twice a day depending on your zone and their location.  Water pots, let it soak in, water again, let it soak in, water one more time.  Now you have a beautiful instant garden!  The fact that they are containers makes it easy to move them around and change locations if you want.

I hope you found this helpful.  Please feel free to give me your comments and any recommendations for a future blog you would like me cover.


5 responses »

  1. I recently read in one if my garden magazines to use crushed plastic bottles in the bottom of your pots instead of rocks. They serve the same purpose but are much lighter & a green choice. 🙂 I’ve since started doing this myself and really like it, it makes the container much lighter and easier to move and it saves you money as rocks are kinda expensive!

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