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7 Tips for Successful Container Gardening

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7 Tips for Successful Container Gardening

All you have to do to know that container gardening is a thing and will always be a thing is 1) check out bookstore shelves and Amazon searches and 2) drool over Instagram posts. Container gardening is here to stay, and we’re going to show you why and — most importantly — how you can grow your own Instagram-worthy potted garden. (Oh, and tag us @easytogrowbulbsca so we can drool with everyone else, please).

Why grow in containers?

Sometimes there are only 2-3 reasons to try something new in the garden — and if those reasons are strong, that’s good enough for most people. But container gardening? There are almost endless reasons why it’s so popular:

  • It’s easy and fun
  • Containers are movable and, therefore, flexible
  • Containers are easy to cover in the event of a sudden cold snap
  • Containers are convenient ways of growing plants that you want closeby
  • Container gardening is ideal for those with no ground to plant in (apartment/condo/townhome dwellers)
  • Container plants add form and height to any garden or space
  • Container plants can be added indoors or outside
  • And did we mention it’s fun?

What plants grow well in containers?

Literally any plant that can grow in the ground can also grow in a container. The trick, as you may guess, is in giving it exactly what it needs to thrive (more on that in the next section). These types of plants are known to grow successfully in containers:

 Evergreens Trees & Shrubs (smaller are better)
Bulbs Tropicals
Perennials Ornamental Grasses
Annual Flowers Vines
Edible Plants Cacti & Succulents

 

The only plants we wouldn’t recommend for container gardening are the obvious ones: Very large trees, plants with deep tap roots, and groundcovers. Why not groundcovers? Well, you can certainly add them in as an accent, but on their own in a container, they don’t make much sense.

7 Tips for Container Gardening 

Think about it this way: Plants grown in containers rely on you to give them what they need; they can’t spread their roots into the surrounding garden to seek anything out in terms of light, water, and nutrients. They’re literally a contained ecosystem. So you’re it for them, but we know you’re up to the challenge.

  1. Container size: Plan to use a container that is adequate for the size of the plant in order to accommodate its root system. You’ll also need to monitor growth regularly and have a plan to transplant larger/permanent plants like evergreens and smaller trees/shrubs up to larger pots as they grow. And don’t forget to choose containers with drainage holes in the bottom! It’s crucial for plant health.
  2. Soil: Always use the right kind of soil for the plants you are using, and never use regular soil from the ground. For most plants, all-purpose potting soil is just fine, but some plants may need more drainage or different texture (cacti, succulents, and some houseplants), so be sure you research the type of potting soil your desired plants need ahead of time. And don’t plan on re-using old, crusty potting soil year after year — it loses its nutrients and will not benefit your plants at all.
  3. Watering: This one’s a biggie. Container plants dry out much more quickly than those in the ground, as they have no way of spreading roots to seek out available water in the soil. So you’ll need to water more often, but be sure you’re not overwatering. Let the plants dry out a bit in between watering, and pay attention to any signs (hello, wilting and brown leaves) that the plant needs more water.
  4. Fertilizing: Just as with watering, your container plants rely on you to feed them. They can’t do it themselves. Start with a high quality enriched soil, and have a variety of fertilizers on hand to keep your container plants happy. The most commonly-used type of fertilizer is a water-soluble type, other plants like trees and evergreens may benefit from a slow-release food. Do your research for each type of plant beforehand.
  5. Light: One of the cool things about container gardening is the ability to easily and conveniently move the pot. That means if you plant something that needs a little more shade than anticipated, you can move it around your garden to accommodate that need. No digging up and transplanting necessary!
  6. Plant compatible plants together: We know you know this, but it bears repeating. Because plants in a container are watered and fertilized all together, they need to have the same needs for sunlight, water, and food. That means don’t plant thirsty impatiens with your cactus. One will ultimately be unhappy with what they’re getting/not getting, and your planting will not flourish the way you envisioned. Make it easy on yourself (and your plants!) by only planting like-minded folks together. 
  7. Start out with larger annuals: Because annuals are only alive for a few months, we always recommend starting them out at the largest size you can find when you’re planting them. And don’t be afraid to pack them pretty tightly into the container; you don’t have a year for them to “fill in” and look great!

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  • Jenny Peterson