Container Garden Ideas


Container gardens are great for beginning gardeners, people who have limited space, or anyone who wants to dress up their porch or patio. They can be planted with a single plant or a combination of plants depending on the look you are trying to achieve. Popular plants for containers include flowers, herbs, veggies, grasses and succulents. Many gardeners switch out the plants they grow seasonally to ensure nonstop color throughout the year.

When selecting planters for a container garden you’ll want to pick something that suits your taste, allows for proper drainage and is an appropriate size and weight for where you plan to place it. Garden pots come in a wide variety of materials and styles, so you’ll definitely find something you like. Check out the following articles for tips and ideas for creating your own container garden.

On this page:

  • POPULAR CONTAINER ARTICLES
  • CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTAINER
  • CHOOSING PLANTS FOR YOUR CONTAINERS
  • HOW TO PLANT YOUR CONTAINERS
  • CONTAINER CARE & MAINTENANCE
  • CONTAINER DESIGN & DISPLAY IDEAS
  • TIPS FROM OUR READERS
  • VIDEO: INSTALLING DRIP IRRIGATION IN CONTAINERS

POPULAR CONTAINER ARTICLES

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTAINER

Use these tips to help you select the right container:

  • It's possible to plant directly into any container so long as you create drainage holes. Drilling through wood, plastic or fiberglass is relatively easy. You can make a drain hole in a clay pot by using an electric drill with a masonry bit, but work carefully.
  • If you are investing in large containers, buy the best you can afford as they will be around for some time. For the same reason, go for classic shapes and styles that will fit in with any garden. Brightly colored pots will restrict your planting choices, and you may soon tire of a one-off fashion statement.
  • When choosing containers, use the materials and architectural details of your house as a starting point. Match warm brick walls with terra-cotta pots or a white colonial-style frontage with classic lead (or faux-lead finish) planters. For a rustic timber house, seek out beaten copper tubs or weathered wooden troughs.
  • A tall, narrow pot is less stable than a squat, low one. Use tall pots for trailing plants, which are not usually top heavy, and let them cascade over. Shallow containers, such as alpine pans, work best at the front of a group to anchor it.
  • Avoid planting into a narrow-necked pot (with a body larger than the neck), as it is difficult to get a plant out once its roots have spread. That's why flowerpots are always wider at the top than the bottom.
  • Don't worry about having a decorative pot for every plant. Keep most of your container plants in regular black plastic pots. If you keep the decorative pots to the front of the display, black plastic ones just recede into the background.

CHOOSING PLANTS FOR YOUR CONTAINERS

'Violet Eclipse' container recipe: Supertunia® Sharon, Supertunia® Royal Velvet®, and Supertunia® Magenta® petunias; Angelface® Blue angelonia. Photo: Proven Winners

Environment:

The #1 key to a successful container planting is to make sure that all of the plants require similar sun or shade conditions as well as water requirements. Get suggestions for some of the best plants for pots in sun or shade.

Flowers vs. Foliage:

Don’t rely on flowers alone. Long-lasting container combos tend to partner plants chosen for extended bloom time (usually annuals) with plants that add attractive foliage colors, shapes, and textures to the mix (often tender perennials). If one plant goes into a slump, another will pick up the slack. Keep it simple by limiting your selection to three types of plants.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller:

Don't choose plants that are all the same height, shape, or texture: One may be tall and upright (thriller); another, medium-high and mounding (filler); and the last, low and spreading (spiller), to soften the container’s edge. Besides giving you aesthetic contrast, this arrangement avoids competition for light and space.

Color:

Combining colors harmoniously is a subjective enterprise, and in practice you’ll probably limit your palette to what’s available at your local garden centers. But here are a few guiding principles for spinning the flower color wheel:

  • Pinks, blues, and purples are nearly always compatible.
  • Hot yellows and oranges work well with reds that verge on purple or brown.
  • White and silver go with everything, as do very pale yellow and amazingly versatile chartreuse.

Change your mind?

It’s easy to add and subtract plants, even in midseason. Using a long knife, cut a circle around the root mass of the plant you want to remove, pull out the cylinder of roots and potting mix (toss this on the compost pile), and plug in your newfound beauty. In a week or so, the replacement will look as if it had been in your container from the start.

PLANTING YOUR CONTAINER

Planting mix:

Start with a commercial, peat-based, soil-less mix, which holds a lot more water than garden soil, and add in a slow-release fertilizer. When filling the pot with the mix, leave room for water—an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot. (See more: Potting Soil 101)

Plant placement:

If the container is going to stand against a wall or fence, put tall plants in the back where they won’t block light and air from shorter neighbors. If the container will be out in the open, place the tallest plants in the center.

Top dressing:

If you don't like the look of bare soil in pots, top dress around plant stems with gravel, crushed shells, attractive pebbles or some other quick-draining layer. This looks more "finished" and also helps retain moisture.

CONTAINER CARE & MAINTENANCE

Water:

Remember that annuals and other plants will require more water in containers than in flower beds. The soil in containers dries out much faster, simply due to lower soil volume and less insulation, which allows the soil to heat up and moisture to evaporate quicker. A soil meter can help you keep a close eye on the moisture level of the soil. Also, use a watering can with a long spout or watering wand to deliver water straight to the pot and avoid wetting the foliage.

Fertilizer:

Nutrients are quickly washed out from the potting mix with all the watering that containers require. Plants do best with a steady supply of a small amount of fertilizer, so supplementing them weekly is much better than a once-a-month schedule that produces feast, then famine.

Deadheading:

Regularly snip off spent flower stalks and errant branches to keep your containers looking clean and healthy.

See more about how to care for containers: 6 Tips for Successful Container Plants

CONTAINER DESIGN & DISPLAY

'Summit Ridge' container recipe: Proven Accents® Illusion® Garnet Lace, Graceful Grasses® Fiber Optic Grass, Graceful Grasses® Vertigo®, Supertunia® Latte™, and Supertunia® White. Photo: Proven Winners

Follow these tips to help you display your containers perfectly:

  • Small pots dotted about the wider garden tend to look lost, so, as a general rule, keep these close to the house in places where you have a chance to stop and admire small plants. Large containers work well anywhere.
  • Use small pots (less than 12 inches in diameter) to create changing displays of small plants such as bulbs, herbs, sempervivum and alpines. Single pots allow you to mix and match your display easily, according to what's in bloom.
  • Different levels are the key to good group displays. Buy an inexpensive florist's stand (tiered shelves that stand in a corner or against a wall) to lift pots closer to eye level and create a composition of varying colors, textures and shapes. Or, turn empty pots on end and use them as stands or hide bricks or wooden blocks behind other pots.
  • The repetition trick is popular with interior designers, but it works in the garden, too. Put an identical plant in identical pots-an agave in a terra-cotta pot, for example-and use them evenly spaced to emphasize a linear feature, such as a low wall, a flight of steps or the edge of a pool.
  • Think of large container plants as design features that can reinforce the permanent structure of your garden. Use a pair of clipped boxwood or bay to flank a doorway or entrance; delineate a seating area with a living wall of laurel in troughs; place pots of lavender on wide steps where you can catch the scent as you walk past.
  • Use containers as a low-key way of directing visitors around the garden, for example, to edge a worn patch of lawn where you don't want people to cut through or to direct the eye to seating or pathways.
  • Use terra-cotta saucers under pots where possible to prevent staining floor surfaces. Large saucers can be a feature in themselves-place a layer of attractive pebbles in the saucer and stand the plant on these. This way, collected water won't rot roots and will raise humidity levels around the plant.

TIPS FROM OUR READERS

"Think not just of color, but also texture and leaf sizes." — Susan Nock, SN Garden Design

"Add more plants than you think you’re going to need." — JJ De Sousa, Digs Portland

"Create, mix and match. Don’t be scared!" — Katherine Cain, Vivero Growers

"Have fun with what you’re selecting for the container—mix edibles & annuals, go for texture! A container is that chance to experiment. Experiment with the container itself, too." — Cris Blackstone, Make Scents

"If your planter is deep & wide, be sure to use a foundation type of plant (eg. boxwood), which will remain as your permanent base plant all year. Then play around seasonally with annuals, color & texture as filler & spiller. You can even add more height around the foundation plant as thriller. You’ll be amazed how many artistic & unique styles you can create to enjoy the same pot all year long." — Maryam Yaghoubi Farzaneh, Hortus Life

"Containers are great to place plants right next to seating so you can enjoy plants, and even fragrance, right next to you. They also can bring plants up closer to eye level. Containers are also great to ‘contain’ those beautiful but ‘bully-like’ plants that would otherwise take over the garden in-ground." — Jennifer Nitzky, Landscape Architect

"Adding a layer of rock to the bottom does not help with drainage. Studies have found this actually has the opposite effect. Just cover the hole with a piece of screen before filling the pot." — Janet Sluis, Horticulturist

"For a beautiful summer screen, try curly willow, ginger or bamboo in a trough." — Daniel Ward, Longshadow Planters.

Featured Video

Using Drip Irrigation to Water Your Container Plants

Learn how to set up a drip irrigation system for your containers.


Vegetable Container Gardening for Beginners

Growing your own food can bring you both joy and bounty. There's a simple pleasure in biting into a tomato still warm from the sun—picked and eaten on the spot. You can grow just about any vegetable in a container, a practice that can save you lots of money buying produce at the grocery store. However, vegetable container gardening can be a frustrating endeavor if your plants don't thrive and produce. The following tips apply to most vegetables and can help you and your plants get off to a good start.


10 Best Plants for Container Gardening

These gorgeous plants shine all season long in containers.

Container gardening is a super-easy way to dress up your front porch, add a splash of color to shady areas, or cope with poor soil in your yard. "Many plants thrive in containers. The most important thing is good drainage," says Barbara Wise, author of Container Gardening for All Seasons. "Make sure there's a hole in the bottom of your pot so plants don't drown, and read the tag or talk to the nursery to learn which plants do well in your specific conditions, such as full sun or shade." While petunias and marigolds are reliable old standbys in pots, consider these other colorful plants and newer varieties that offer long-lasting beauty in any container:.


Before you begin, learn the growing requirements for the herbs you've selected. We've chosen plants that can be placed relatively close together for this small herb garden. Species that will grow tall can be placed in the back of the container. Also, decide where you'll place the container — most herbs grow well in full sun to partial shade.

Materials for Herb Container Garden

Before you begin, learn the growing requirements for the herbs you've selected. We've chosen plants that can be placed relatively close together for this small herb garden. Species that will grow tall can be placed in the back of the container. Also, decide where you'll place the container — most herbs grow well in full sun to partial shade.


3. Edible container garden ideas

Many edible plants have gorgeous and colorful foliage, plus delicious tastes!

Plant list 3: Red Swiss Chard, Helleborus ‘Sunmarble’, Heuchera, Fern (Source: Le Jardinet )


Creative Ideas for Plant Containers

I love unique garden ideas where old items are given a new life as a one-of-a-kind focal point amongst the plants and trees.

The key is to success with recycled items made from metal, wood, glass, or stone is ensuring they can withstand year-round weather conditions in your garden.

Metal and stone obviously last longer than wood, but even wood items like old kitchen chairs can have a good long second life if protected with the right exterior paint and sealant.

If rust or a rustic patina is your thing, that’s even easier.

Have a look at these photos from home garden tours. I’m hoping you will find inspiration to adapt things you have on hand and create unique plantings of your own.

1 Broken Yellow Kitchen Chair

The legs may be long gone but this old chair is standing strong. With the seat adapted into a planter box, it is mounted on the fence wall and planted with annuals.

2 Antique Birdcage Succulent Planter

I think you can’t go wrong with a birdcage like this one. It’s a piece of art. Artist Susan StLouis of Goderich, Ontario, Canada created this wonderful planter packed with succulents and an emerging calla lily. Her entire garden is a creative gem.

3 Blue and White Dish Planter

I got started with garden art as a way to fill in my garden when it was small and new. Here I used some blue and white plates and old medicine bottles to add a burst of color and whimsy to my lobelia planter. Once the plants start taking off, I remove the plates and bottles.

4 Chair Succulent Planter

This old wooden kitchen chair is painted white and sets the stage for the gorgeous succulents planted on the seat.

To keep it simple, start with a preformed container the size of the seat. Here they used chicken wire and coir lining to hold the potting mix in place.

5 Old Kettle Flower Pot

When items are no longer used in the kitchen but have lots of life left in them, off to the garden they go. Here the white flowers are lovely with the metal patina.

6 Hanging Picture Frame Flowers

This is another one from my garden. The frame is an old window frame I found in our shed. I suspended it from a tree branch and attached a basket of fuchsias.

The way it’s attached, the flower basket and frame both turn in the wind, creating an interesting effect.

7 Ferns in Metal Buckets

If you have a surplus of certain plants, use them in planters for the season. Here ferns grow readily and they look wonderful in these buckets along the back of the house. The pink and blue annuals add good bursts of color.

Container Gardening Complete

This has everything you want to know about growing plants in containers: flowers, herbs, veggies, and more.

It’s packed with useful information, creative container projects, and lots of beautiful photos.

8 Black Kettle Flower Pot

Instead of placing soil or potting mix right in a container, insert a flower pot. This way the plant has the drainage it needs and it’s much easier to put everything away at the end of the season.

9 Blue Door Plant Stand

Not wanting to attach anything to the walls of our house, I instead use surrogates like this old farmhouse doors. I can attach lots of garden art and a hayrack planter and switch things around each year without causing any permanent damage to our house walls.

10 Floating Pond Planter

Great idea for adding a pop of color to your garden pond. You can buy ready-made pond planters or make your own using this floating pond planter tutorial.

11 Outdoor Plant Table

I’ve been seeing this a lot lately—outdoor plant tables—and I love them. An assortment of potted plants is displayed along with various trinkets and treasures like garden art, rocks, and shells.

I love having potted plants grouped together for easy watering and something like this can be easily updated throughout the growing season.

12 Face Planter

This funny ceramic planter is the star of the show. Sitting on an old gold painted foot stool with hair of lavender, the colors look perfect together.

Grab ideas from home gardens to make your outdoor space creative and one-of-a-kind.

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13 Concrete Urn

This is an idea you will see over and over again here: many planters look better when raised up off the ground. Here the urn is on top of a matching pedestal, giving it a stronger presence next to the shed door.

Plant Ideas: Purple petunias, Creeping Jenny* (bright green spilling over sides), Campfire Fireburst (Bidens, a flower in the asters family) – red, yellow, orange flowers, plus ,more variegated foliage for contrasting pops of color.

*Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is considered invasive in some areas of North America.

14 Hypertufa Heart Planter

What a collection of succulents! Love the bold colors and how they suit this heart-shaped planter. There are instructions here to make your own hypertufa planters.

15 Clay Tipsy Pots

These were the first tipsy pots, also called topsy turvy pots, I created in my garden many years ago with a bunch of clay pots.

Whatever containers you use need holes in the bottoms to thread the support rod through.

16 Boot Planter

This old black boot is planted with succulents and has a rip by the toes, which is good for drainage.

17 Teapot, Cups, and Saucer Planters

An Empress of Dirt Facebook friend shared this from her garden. If you have a nook in the garden that is sheltered from wind and rain, this is a sweet way to dress it up.

18 Garden Ladder Flower Stand

Ladders are one of my top favorite items for the garden, but they have to be old and wooden. I have a photo gallery of garden ladders here.

19 Maple Syrup Collection Buckets

These metal buckets are not used for maple syrup tree tapping anymore, so you can sometimes find them at auctions or thrift shops. They already have holes near the tops so they are easy to hang.

Kitchen Propagation Handbook

Learn how to grow houseplants from avocado, oranges, lemons, ginger, and more using leftover pits, seeds, and roots.

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20 Stacked Teacup Planter

I’m not sure if these were made for gardening or not. When choosing ceramics as planters, the ability to provide drainage is key. I find I can drill through some (using a diamond hole saw drill bit like this one), and others will not budge.

If you can’t create drainage holes, insert plastic flower pots that you can remove after watering to pour out excess water in the reservoir.

21 Car Tire Planters

This photo came from a friend on Facebook who created this colorful set of tire planters for her garden. I love the creativity but I’m not entirely convinced it’s safe or beneficial to have tires in the garden. You will want to research what is known about run-off and leaching of chemicals to make your own decision.

22 Row of Walkway Containers

One good tip for an arrangement like this is to have a theme that repeats to unify the appearance of the planters. I find it works when either the containers or plant choices are related—or both.

23 Pansies in Pretty Pot

There are so many choices! This planter is a good example of how one color scheme can make a powerful statement. The bits of yellow pansies emphasis the blues and purples.

24 Delightful Dish of Succulents

This one is for plant lovers. An array of succulents come together in this cone-shaped planter. Up on a plant stand, it shows of the contrasting colors and textures of the plants.

25 Big Bird House with Flower Roof

This is another one from my garden. As the flowers grow, they cover the entire roof area. You can see the tutorial here for making a planter like this using shoe organizers.

26 Succulents and Starfish

Another lovely tabletop display in a large ceramic planter with succulents, critters, and a starfish.

27 Tube Pipe Plant Stands

These are fun: check your Habitat ReStore or other store that sells used building materials and look for metal duct pipes like these ones. Two are used as plant stands, and one has a fountain on top. It makes a nice display with the varying heights.

28 Bucket of Flowers on Fence

Old metal buckets have so many uses in the garden as art and plant containers. here the purple petunias and clematis really stand out.

29 Narrow Side Deck with Planters

Put your flowers where you’ll enjoy them most. Here the planters are gathered by sunroom to be enjoyed from inside the house.

30 Mini Bench Planter

If you have one of these decorative wood garden benches, turn it into a plant stand by cutting out the seat in the shape of a small window box.

31 Tree Stump Plant Stand

For many years in this area there was an assumption that when a tree is removed, the stump must go too. But, if the tree died and the roots are not a hazard, a tree stump is a great plant stand. Plus, the decaying wood provides food and habitat for countless insects and birds.

32 Lunch Box Pansy Planter

I wasn’t intending to use this old lunch box as a planter, but as soon as I saw the pansies in it, I had to keep them together.

33 Big Bold Urn

This entire garden was a fantastic riot of plants. Here the purples and yellows demand your attention. The urn itself is a very pleasing piece of garden art.


Read and Save the Plant Tag

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

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Plant tags are critical. They will tell you how big your plant will get, how much light, water, and food it needs and how much care it will need. The tag will also tell you if your plant is annual or perennial and if it's a perennial, what zones it will survive in.

The tag will also tell you about your plant's "habit," which means its shape and how it will grow. This is important when considering your container design and how to arrange your plant combinations. For example, if you have a large pot you might want some plants with "upright habits," to give your design height and then some plants with a "mounding habits" for filling in your design. To finish your pot, you might choose plants with "trailing habits," to drape over the sides of your pot.


The Container Kitchen

The formula: Mediterranean perennials + basil + mint + parsley
The container: A standing-height raised bed makes it a cinch to snip a bundle of herbs for dinner. Our pick: VegTrug Herb Garden Raised Bed ($150 williams-sonoma.com).

Herbs are generally easygoing growers. In a large container (at least 10 inches deep), Mediterranean herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme, can live happily together, especially if you regularly harvest the leaves to keep them from growing into each other. They like fast-draining soil, lots of sun, and not too much water. Basil, mint, and parsley, on the other hand, like damper conditions, so it’s best to put them in their own pots. Basil is an annual that is notorious for going to flower, or “bolting,” at which point its leaves are less tasty. Snip off flowers as the weather heats up and use the leaves liberally, or replace the plant a few times during the summer. (A four-inch starter typically costs about as much as a large bunch of the herb at the grocery store.) Keep in mind that mint has a reputation for running rampant through the garden—even in a pot, its roots can escape through the drainage hole.

Plant picks: Sun (mostly)

  • Greek Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Mint (part shade)
  • Flat-Leaf Parsley

Illustrations by Lesley Buckingham


Watch the video: 85 Fresh and Easy Summer Container Garden Flowers Ideas. diy garden


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