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7 Container Gardening Mistakes

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7 Container Gardening Mistakes

Do you ever look at images of someone else’s container garden, then look at your own and think, “Whomp, whomp”? Yeah, we hear you. Chances are, you’re making one or two basic mistakes, but the good news is that they are very easy to correct. Let’s run down the list of common container gardening mistakes and see if we can’t get you back on track! We know we can.

7 Container Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

  1. No drainage hole. This one is a biggie, you guys! Unless you’re growing water plants, your container must have a drainage hole. Not up for debate. If you’re buying a container from the garden center, look at the bottom of the pot to ensure it has a hole for water to drain through. If it doesn’t, ask the garden center if they will drill one for you (many do!) or skip it and find a more appropriate vessel.

  2. Using the wrong soil. Well, okay, this one is another biggie. Usually you can use a good general potting soil, but sometimes you need a specific soil for that plant (succulents, cacti, and azaleas are good examples). Buy the right type for the plants you are growing, and for heaven’s sake, never use soil directly from the ground to put into your containers. That will never do. And last year’s potting soil? Add it to the compost pile and start new every year with fresh soil. Simply “topping off” old soil with new will never get you the results you want.

  3. Watering incorrectly. Plants in containers dry out more quickly because they are exposed to drying elements like wind and sun. Glazed containers will hold moisture a bit longer, while containers like terracotta tend to  soak up water more quickly. So, knowing all of this, you’ll need to experiment to see how much water your container garden needs. It might be once a week, it might be every other day, or it may be daily.

  4. Not fertilizing. Plants in containers depend solely on you to get what they need—they don’t have the luxury of sending their little roots out into the surrounding garden soil in search of water or nutrients. So, you’re it. Flowering plants in particular like to receive regular fertilizing in order to keep blooming, but do a little research to know what your particular plants need, and then give it to them. Just get on a schedule and stick to it, and you’ll be good to go.

  5. Container isn’t getting the proper amount of sun. This is the same as with any plant in the garden—it needs the right amount of sunlight in order to grow/bloom/thrive. Impatiens in the blazing sun (unless they’re Sunpatiens) are not likely to do well, and petunias in deep shade will simply croak. Read the plant tag and adjust your container placement as necessary.

  6. Using plants that don’t like to be in containers. In theory, anything you can plant in the ground can also be planted in a container, but some plants squeal a little more loudly. These are plants that may be more sensitive to drainage issues, for example—like rosemary.

  7. Planting plants that don’t go together. Now, this is beyond plants that just don’t look great together—no, we are talking about putting a sun worshipping plant in a container with a shade lover. Or a bog plant in with a low-water plant. Their growing requirements are simply incompatible, and, because of that, they will never thrive. One will do well, and the other will struggle or die. So, use plants that are known to play nice together and go from there.

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  • Jenny Peterson