What can you plant in a container? The better question might be, what can’t you? Vegetables, flowers, herbs—almost any plant can thrive in a container as long as it has the proper soil and care. Whether you lack enough land, live in an urban area, or just don’t have the time or energy to tend an outdoor plot, container gardening provides a viable alternative for you to grow your own food and a beautiful garden.
Select the Right Container
Containers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and composition, from sturdy terra-cotta cauldrons and eye-catching ceramic pots to half-barrels crafted from wood. Select the style that suits you best, but make sure the container has at least one hole in the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Also pay attention to your priorities when you’re considering container size—large containers allow you to grow a greater variety of plants, while smaller ones promote portability.
Use Enriched Potting Soil
Plants in containers need soil that allows roots to grow easily—it should be fast-draining yet moisture-retentive. Quick drainage helps ensure plant roots won’t rot in too-soggy soil, while good moisture retention decreases the amount of time you’ll spend watering in the first place. Organic potting soil mixed with a healthy amount of compost is ideal; the compost will add nutrients your plants need to flourish.
Monitor Soil Moisture
Striking the right balance between moisture and drainage is key for plants in pots. Because they have a fixed amount of soil from which to draw moisture, container-grown plants require more frequent watering than those grown in the ground. But over-watering can also pose a danger to potted plants. What’s a good rule of thumb for assessing if your plants are thirsty? If the top inch or two of soil feels dry, give them a drink. (Remember, plants in indirect light or shade retain water longer than plants located in full sun.)
Don’t Forget the Sunlight
Just like plants in the ground, plants in containers need sunlight in order to thrive. Unlike plants in the ground, it’s easier to address those sunlight needs because potted plants are portable. If your plants aren’t getting adequate light, just move them to an area that offers them the sun they need.
Container gardens aren’t all about growing your own food, though that’s certainly a big benefit. Placed strategically, plants can add visual pizzazz to a patio, porch, deck, or even an indoor spot (sunlight permitting). Mix plant colors, textures, and heights to achieve optimal beauty in your pots—just make sure your containers are big enough to hold what you’re planting. To keep flowering plants looking good, pinch off spent blooms.
Plants for Container Gardens
Interested in starting (or perhaps expanding) your container garden? Try these open-pollinated varieties from Seed Savers Exchange that do well (and look great) in pots. And don't miss our Container Garden Collection—a curated selection of varieties, perfect for container gardening, all in one package!