Growing Plants in Containers

annuals in containerannuals in container

Most annual flowers, perennials, herbs, and vegetables grow well in containers, as long as you choose the right pot and care for the plants properly. We'll guide you in how to choose containers, choose soil for your containers, proper planting techniques, and how to care for your container plants. 

There are many benefits to growing in containers:

  • You can grow plants wherever you want, as long as the light conditions match the plants' needs.
  • You can use your creativity in mixing and matching containers and plants.
  • You can grow plants that aren't hardy in your region, because you can move pots to a sheltered location during cold weather.
  • You can provide the optimal soil type for your plants. If your garden soil is heavy clay, you can grow plants that prefer well-drained soil, like lavender and rosemary, in pots filled with a fast-draining potting mix.
  • You can enjoy the beauty and fragrance of herbs and flowers close up, and harvest fresh produce right from your doorstep.
 

Choosing Containers

Drainage. First and foremost, make sure your container has drainage holes. If you'll be placing the container on a solid surface, make sure the drainage holes aren't blocked. If they are, try placing the planter on "pot feet," casters or on a tray of pebbles. The number one rule of container growing: Water must be able to drain freely.

Material.Water evaporates through the walls of porous containers, like those made from unglazed terra cotta and wood. That usually means you'll need to water more often than plants in nonporous pots. But the porosity can be a good thing for plants that prefer soil on the dry side, like most succulents. Nonporous pots, like those made from plastic, resin and glazed terra cotta, hold in moisture better.

Self-Watering. Self-watering pots contain a water reservoir and wicking system so water is delivered to the plants as they need it. This not only reduces the frequency with which you'll need to add water, it also provides a better growing environment for plants by providing consistent moisture.

Size. In general, small pots dry out more quickly that large pots. Those little unglazed terra cotta pots look lovely but may need watering multiple times on a hot, sunny day. Placing a nonporous plastic pot within a porous pot helps retain moisture. Very large containers, on the other hand, can retain too much water for small plants or those that prefer relatively dry soil. You'll need to check soil moisture before watering so you don't overdo it.

Choosing Soil for Your Containers

Use a high-quality potting soil in your containers. Don't use garden soil, which often drains poorly and may contain disease organisms. Remember that the plants' roots are confined to a relatively limited space so you want to give them everything they need for optimum growth.

Planting Techniques

Don't overcrowd vegetables, herbs and perennials in the containers. Consider their mature size and choose the pots accordingly. Overcrowded containers lead to root-bound plants and the poor air circulation around crowded plants can lead to diseases problems.

Set plants in the container at the same height as they were in their nursery pots. Don't leave roots exposed, and don't bury stems. Plant seeds at the recommended garden depth.

Care and Feeding

The biggest difference between plants growing in containers and those growing in the ground is that container plants will need more frequent watering and fertilizing, because the roots are confined and have limited soil from which to take up water and nutrients.

As with all garden plants, you'll need to keep an eye out for pest and disease problems, but container plants are often less prone to infestation and infection. Sitting on a deck or patio, they're isolated from garden plants, and they aren't exposed to the soil-borne pests in the garden.

Container Happy Plants

  1. Blue Phlox Blue Flame, Phlox paniculata, Garden Phlox

    ‚Blue Flame‚ Phlox delivers gorgeous blue blooms on bushy, compact plants. Very fragrant, each colorful bud starts out a deep shade of indigo and slowly opens to reveal p...

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    Blue Flame Phlox Blue Flame® Garden Phlox (Patent Pending) Phlox paniculata Blue Flame® (Patent Pending)
    $9.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Blue Flame' Phlox delivers gorgeous blue blooms on bushy, compact plants. Very fragrant, each colorful bud starts out a deep shade of indigo and slowly opens to reveal petals of barely-there blue surrouding violet centers. A dwarf variety, 'Blue Flame' is very resistant to powdery mildew and makes a fine choice for containers and small spaces. (Phlox paniculata)
  2. Nepeta Junior Walker, Catmint Plant

    Nepeta Junior Walker™ blooms profusely all summer, painting the garden with spikes of lavender-blue blossoms that butterflies find irresistible. Fragrant, gray-green foliage and st...

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    Junior Walker Nepeta Junior Walker Catmint PP#23074 Nepeta faassenii Junior Walker PP#23074
    $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Nepeta Junior Walker™ blooms profusely all summer, painting the garden with spikes of lavender-blue blossoms that butterflies find irresistible. Fragrant, gray-green foliage and sturdy stems form a low mound perfect for the front of borders and along walkways. Junior Walker™ is a sterile, compact form of Walker’s Low catmint. Deer resistant. (Nepeta x faassenii 'Novanepjun')
  3. Lavender Blue Cushion PP9,119, Lavandula angustifolia Blue Cushion

    ‚Blue Cushion‚ Lavender is a compact shrub with a perfect ‚cushion‚ form of gray-green foliage. Continuous blooms of deep purple-blue flowers arrive throughou...

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    Blue Cushion English Lavender Blue Cushion English Lavender PP#9119 Lavandula angustifolia Blue Cushion PP#9119
    $9.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Blue Cushion' Lavender is a compact shrub with a perfect 'cushion' form of gray-green foliage. Continuous blooms of deep purple-blue flowers arrive throughout the season, fading to pale lavender with age. In the herb garden, perennial border, or planted in containers, this English Lavender keeps you in scent and color all season long with its repeated blooms. Water thrifty and easy to grow, 'Blue Cushion' is also a pollinator favorite. (Lavandula angustifolia)
  4. Delphina™ Light Blue White Bee Delphinium, Delphinium elatum Delphina™  Light Blue White Bee

    When it comes to romantic flowers, ‚Delphina™ Light Blue White Bee‚ Delphinium is a star. It blooms from early to mid-summer on sturdy stalks densely packed with sky bl...

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    Delphina™ Light Blue White Bee Delphinium DELPHINA™ Light Blue White Bee Larkspur Delphinium elatum Delphina™ Light Blue White Bee
    As low as $9.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    When it comes to romantic flowers, 'Delphina™ Light Blue White Bee' Delphinium is a star. It blooms from early to mid-summer on sturdy stalks densely packed with sky blue flowers flecked with white. Mounds of deeply serrated green foliage add interest all season. With its compact form, this perennial creates a special addition to cottage gardens, small spaces, or container plantings, and looks wonderful when planted in clusters. (Delphinium elatum)
  5. Red Bee Balm Fireball, Monarda, Bee Balm

    This shorter variety of Bee Balm bursts with deep, scarlet blooms in summer. Fireball is a hummingbird magnet and is perfect for a border garden or containers. (Monarda)...

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    Fireball Bee Balm Fireball Dwarf Bee Balm, PP#14235, Bergamot, Oswego Tea Monarda x intermedia Fireball PP#14235
    $9.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    This shorter variety of Bee Balm bursts with deep, scarlet blooms in summer. Fireball is a hummingbird magnet and is perfect for a border garden or containers. (Monarda)
  6. Summer Berries Yarrow, Achillea millefolium Summer Berries

    Summer Berries Yarrow brings a colorful surprise to your garden with blooms of either gold, pink or red. A hardy perennial known for its ability to attract butterflies, bees, and bi...

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    Summer Berries Yarrow Summer Berries Yarrow Achillea millefolium Summer Berries
    $6.65
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Summer Berries Yarrow brings a colorful surprise to your garden with blooms of either gold, pink or red. A hardy perennial known for its ability to attract butterflies, bees, and birds is a must-have for every sunny, dry garden. Bursts of tightly packed flowerheads float above fern-like foliage and add unique texture to fresh and dried bouquets. We suggest planting in odd-numbered groups of 3 or 5 to achieve a bright blend of color. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Achillea millefolium)
  7. White Flame Dwarf Garden Phlox in container garden, Phlox paniculata White Flame

    White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox offers all of the flower power of its bigger cousins, but in a compact, manageable size. In mid-to-late summer, pure white panicles of star-shaped bl...

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    White Flame® Phlox White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox PP#16,259 Phlox paniculata White Flame®
    $9.32
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox offers all of the flower power of its bigger cousins, but in a compact, manageable size. In mid-to-late summer, pure white panicles of star-shaped blossoms top the strong 12-18” stems, attracting butterflies, bees, and moths. The deep green lanceolate foliage of White Flame® provides a backdrop for this native stunner, and shows strong mildew resistance. Pure white flowers on tall stems make beautiful cut flowers, and deadheading will encourage more blooming. An excellent option for small gardens and tight spaces, or anywhere you’d like to add a bright spot in a sunny garden! (Phlox paniculata)
  8. Coral Dwarf Matrix Asiatic Lily Bulbs, Dwarf Asiatic Lily

    ‚Matrix‚ Asiatic Lily is a vibrant dwarf variety that grows to 16-20” and is a perfect addition to small spaces, containers, and the front border of beds. Stunning ...

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    Matrix® Asiatic Lily Bulbs Matrix® Dwarf Asiatic Lily Lilium asiaticum Matrix®
    $7.99
    Per Bag of 3
    'Matrix' Asiatic Lily is a vibrant dwarf variety that grows to 16-20” and is a perfect addition to small spaces, containers, and the front border of beds. Stunning magenta-coral blooms open to reveal orange centers, bringing oodles of color and personality to the garden. Blooming in early summer, 'Matrix' is extremely easy to grow and makes an excellent cutting flower. (Lilium)
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