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Gardening Encyclopedia
Container Gardening

Containing your Garden

Plant in containers and planting possibilities are endless. You don’t need a yard to have a garden; just look around for different spots for planting on non-yard surfaces—a brick patio, a wooden deck, window boxes, along a walkway, on a terrace, at entryway steps or on a balcony.


Container Gardening sparks the imagination

Flowers can bloom in everything from the traditional clay pot to unique handmade pottery, wheelbarrows, large cast iron kettles and wooden wine casks cut in half. 

Be on the lookout for unused objects around the house or found objects at garage sales or flea markets.  Old cracked crocks, colorful graniteware with a few holes on the bottom, a wooden apple crate, a chair without a seat, stone watering troughs or something as simple as a hollowed out tree trunk will make great containers.  You can always buy containers at your garden center where there are so many styles--country, rustic, Old World, formal and contemporary are a few.   Also, you will have a myriad of choices when it comes to selecting container materials.  Terra cotta, glazed pottery, molded plastic (lightweight and durable), concrete, fiberglass or treated wood are popular selections.  An ideal container has drainage, will not rot and should be able to hold at least a gallon of planter mix.

Container Gardening Plants

Your container garden can be ornamental, edible or a combination of both.  Flowering annuals and perennials, bulbs, vines, cacti, shrubs and trees are ornamentals.  Edibles are vegetables, fruit trees, culinary and fragrant herbs and berries.

Planting a mix of ornamental with edible plants makes an attractive and interesting container garden.   Some suggestions:  Try mixing purple sage with yellow lemon dwarf marigolds and pink wax begonias.  Blue salvia and white and pink petunias are colorful accents teamed with tiny-leafed and citrus scented lemon thyme.  Plant onion flavored chives, with tall spikes and purple flower heads, two kinds of parsley, curly and flat-leafed, and low growing pink and white sweet alyssum. 

The best vegetables for container gardening are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, carrots, broccoli, radishes, cucumbers and scallions.  Again, mix ornamentals with your vegetables—yellow and orange marigolds with green or red peppers or tomatoes.  Combine white and pink impatiens with a medley of greens—spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, scallions and kale.  Plant red and white geraniums with sweet green peppers.

In the fall, chrysanthemums come in various colors and flower forms.   They are ideal for container planting.  Ornamental cabbages and kale are colorful additions to a container in your fall garden or at an entryway.

Ornamental planting with shrubs or trees should be carefully thought out, since expense can enter into the purchase.  The uniqueness of a tree or shrub planted in a container should play a part in its selection for the garden.  So plant a not-so-ordinary tree or shrub where you will see it every day.

Considerations for Container Planting

LIGHT—Most flowers are sun-lovers.  Impatiens, begonias, coleus, fuchsia and herbs like French sorrel, curly gold marjoram, curled parsley and Corsican mint can take some dappled shade.   Check plant care tags, and buy plants with your location in mind.

HEIGHT—Place tall plants in the center of containers viewed from all sides, or place them in the rear of containers viewed from one side only.  Put shorter plants in the middle, and plant low or trailing varieties at the edge of the container.

DISTANCE—For a dramatic impact from far away, plant a monochromatic color scheme with one variety of plants.  Try for an interesting close-up and plant combination plantings of several different varieties.

SOIL—A commercial potting soil is best.  It is free of insects and disease.

WATERING NEEDS—Check for watering daily.  Containers dry out faster than a garden bed.  Clay pots, hanging baskets and plants in full sun will dry out quickly. 

GROWING HABITS—Since plants grow toward the light, turn containers for symmetrical growth.  Giving plants an occasional turn will ensure the sunny side will not outgrow the shady side.

FERTILIZING—Frequent feeding, but lightly, is the key to fertilizing.  Fertilize with a water-soluble plant food, and be sure it is well diluted so plants are not burned.

Container gardening is perfect for not containing yourself to the mundane.  Express yourself, experiment and enjoy another side of gardening