Container Gardening

Gardening in containers will add near-instant color and structure to any garden, whether by adding more growing area and depth to a small garden or by setting off a certain pathway or design feature in a large space. Types of containers vary greatly, from wooden tubs, to terra cotta and colorful earthenware pots, to wrought iron urns and cast concrete.

Choosing a Container

Choose the right size and material for your container. Smaller pots and containers made out of terra cotta dry out more easily, so consider using these in shady garden areas. Choose glazed, wrought iron or large wooden containers for full sun areas, as they tend to retain more water. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes present in whatever container you chose. Soil additives are also available to aid in watering.

Choosing Plants

Container gardening can be as simple as choosing one type of plant per pot or a combination of plants with different leaf textures and flower colors. An assortment of plants can be used, from trees and shrubs, to annuals, perennials and herbs.

The most important thing to consider when selecting your plants is the light and care requirements of each plant you choose in relation to the location and the size of your pot or container. Choose plants that share similar characteristics for best results.


To begin planting, cover the drainage holes of your chosen container with potshards or a double thickness of newspaper to prevent soil loss, then add an appropriate amount of pre-moistened potting mix for the size of the container and number of plants being used. An ideal mix would be a 3:1 ratio of a quality soil-less potting mix and a good compost or composted manure. Keep in mind that you want about 1" of space from the top of the soil to the top of the pot to make watering easier.

Add your plants, making sure to loosen the roots to allow them to spread. Place your plants in the desired arrangement before filling and firming soil around them. This allows you to adjust or remove plants more easily if necessary. Back fill the container with soil, firm in gently, add a time-release fertilizer and water until it runs out from the bottom of the pot. If working with trees, shrubs or any plant that the soil around it will be exposed, allow enough room at the end of planting to allow a covering of stones or mulch for decorative purposes.

Placing Your Container

Place the pot in its final location. Make sure to protect wooden decks and walkways by elevating the container about 1" above the surface with pot feet, scrap wood or other means.

Plant Aftercare

Depending on the plants chosen, and whether or not the addition of a time-release fertilizer was used in planting, fertilize your containers every two weeks with a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Watering containers can vary widely depending on the weather, the type of plants chosen, the location of the pot, and how many different plants are in each pot. It's fairly safe to say that containers and pots will require more water in dry hot weather and open windy areas than in wet weather and cool shaded areas.