Contain Your Garden

For a break from maintaining your plants in the ground, and an opportunity to add interest to your landscape, try container gardening. Growing plants in containers gives gardeners many of the challenges and rewards associated with landscape gardening.

Container gardening projects often begin by identifying a spot for a focal point. This might be next to the front door, in the corner of a balcony or patio, at the end of a garden vista, or any of several other locations.

Other projects begin with an attractive container, possibly one already in the gardener’s collection, found online or in a garden center or even discovered in an antique shop. Choose from glazed ceramic, cast iron, cast stone, terra cotta, or even molded plastic; actually, any object that holds planting mix and drains water will do. Get creative!

Certainly, a container project could begin with one or more plants that inspire the vision for a pleasing display.

Container gardening novices need practical experience to generate confidence and stimulate ideas. For a good first step toward that experience, plant one plant in a twelve-inch wide container of your choice.

For the next step, plant three plants in a larger container, up to eighteen to twenty-four inches across. This project adds a flurry of variables, but a popular strategy uses one each of three kinds of plants:

  • Thriller: catches the eye with a big, bold and beautiful centerpiece.
  • Filler: grows lower and complements or contrasts with the thriller.
  • Spiller: sprawls over the side of the container, and softens the composition.

In this approach, plenty of options remain. Spend time at the garden center to consider possible combinations of color, texture and size. Feel free to assemble plants to see how they look together (put back those you don’t buy!).

When ready for an advanced project, select a large container, up to thirty-six inches across, place it at its ultimate destination, add planting mix, and add your selection of plants.

Basic guidelines for all these steps of container gardening: (a) use fast-draining planting mix, not garden soil; (b) include several plants, for a lush appearance, (c) keep the container watered, especially in hot weather, and (d) some displays are better than others, but there are no mistakes.

Enjoy your container gardens!


Explore the Internet to learn more about any aspect of container gardening. Here is a selection of useful websites to start with:

The Container Garden Picture Gallery provides photos of dozens of examples of container gardens, including several in unconventional containers. Most examples identify the plants that were used, but this site offers ideas, not “how-to” advice.

Home and Garden Television (HGTV) provides 307 articles (really, not a typo!) on all aspects of container gardening. The answers to your questions must be available somewhere among the HGTV articles on Container Gardening!

HGTV video clips on Container Gardening is a collection of brief video recordings showing skilled gardener’s techniques. Some of us learn better by watching demonstrations than by reading articles. (In fact, the absolutely best way to learn gardening methods is by doing them yourself!)

If you are feeling “crafty” try your hand a making your own unique, rustic-looking Hypertufa planter. Here are the step-by-step instructions for creating a container with a mixture of peat moss, perlite and cement called hypertufa.